Title - Hot Rise of an Ice Cream Phoenix
Artist - Divine Horsemen
For those unaware, Divine Horsemen, the fiery, eclectic ’80s group that rode the unique vocal chemistry of Chris Desjardins (a.k.a. Chris D.) and Julie Christensen, return to the musical stage with Hot Rise of an Ice Cream Phoenix, a collection of all-new recordings, on In the Red Records on August 27th, 2021.
Co-produced by Desjardins and Craig Parker Adams (who engineered I Used to Be Pretty, the 2019 release by Chris D.’s groundbreaking ’70s punk band the Flesh Eaters), the new 13-track album comprises the first new music by the Horsemen in 33 years.
1. Mystery Writers
2. Falling Forward
3. Ice Cream Phoenix
4. Mind Fever Soul Fire
5. Handful of Sand
6. Any Day Now
7. 25th Floor
8. Can’t You See Me?
9. No Evil Star
11. Barefoot In The Streets
12. Stoney Path
13. Love Cannot Die
This highly eclectic, ’70s psych-imbued album opens on the gentle rocker Mystery Writers and the free flowing hipsway of Falling Forward and then backs those up seamlessly with the title track rock of Ice Cream Phoenix, the psych stance of Mind Fever Soul Fire, the alt-punk NYC-imbed Handful of Sand, and then we are given the low down and dirty Any Day Now and then the upbeat 25th Floor.
Next up is the sing-along vibe of Can’t You See Me? and the Renaissance-tainted ode No Evil Star, which are in turn followed by the twanging balladry of Strangers, the yearningly lonesome Barefoot In The Streets, with the album rounding out on the fervent Stoney Path, closing on the rhythmic rock of Love Cannot Die.
The release of Hot Rise of an Ice Cream Phoenix was prefaced in late 2020 by Feeding Tube Records’ package of unreleased vintage recordings Divine Horsemen Live 1985-1987 and two Bandcamp singles, Mystery Writers, a new composition by Desjardins and Andrus, and Mind Fever Soul Fire, a song that originally appeared on Love Cannot Die, a 1995 Chris D. solo album issued by Sympathy for the Record Industry.
A new rendition of that set’s title song is also heard as the concluding track on the new album; a high-intensity re-recording of Handful of Sand, the 1988 EP’s title number, is also featured.
Furthermore, the new material on the album reflects a diversity of sources.
I wanted to mash up some European folk material, Desjardins says of No Evil Star, a madrigal-like composition. There are a whole bunch of sites on the internet that have public domain folk songs from Europe, specifically England, Scotland, and Ireland. These are all from the 1700s and 1800s.
The music for the verse is from one folk song I found on a Celtic folk site. The words are all original. But the chorus music is not Celtic, it’s more Latin — they also had a few Spanish folk songs on there.
Peter joked when we were working up that tune that it was our Jethro Tull song.
Founded after the dissolution of the Flesh Eaters and launched with the 1984 Enigma Records album Time Stands Still, billed as Chris D./Divine Horseman, the band released three albums and an EP on SST Records, all of which featured the searing harmonies of Desjardins and Christensen, who were married at the time.
The couple split professionally and personally just prior to the release of their January 1988 EP A Handful of Sand.
However, the two musicians remained in touch over the years, and Christensen contributed vocals to five tracks on I Used to Be Pretty, which reunited the 1980 all-star edition of the Flesh Eaters heard on the Ruby/Slash classic A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die.
By then, the idea of reviving Divine Horsemen was already percolating.
Julie had asked me about six or seven years ago about doing Divine Horsemen again, Desjardins says. I told her I wasn’t quite ready yet, though I did want to do it eventually. Then in 2015 the Flesh Eaters started doing reunion shows.
In 2018 we did it some more, and we recorded the album, released it in early 2019, and we went out on tour and supported it. Since the beginning of 2018, Julie and I had been talking about Divine Horsemen again.
Christensen — who had moved on to work with Leonard Cohen in the 1990s and release seven albums of her own work — adds, We recorded I Used to Be Pretty in April of 2018. Previous to that we had started plans for a Divine Horsemen tour in the fall, playing older stuff.
Chris had song ideas and cover ideas for a studio album — it was just kind of forming in his head. I started looking for covers, too. I did some of the Flesh Eaters live gigs the first three months of 2019, and found out that we were getting along really well.
The singers’ plans called for reuniting with such onetime Divine Horsemen as guitarist Peter Andrus, who had appeared on A Handful of Sand and the 1987 album Snake Handler, and bassist Robyn Jameson, who had worked with Desjardins on the majority of his recordings between 1982 and 2004.
However, Jameson tragically died in 2018 following a street assault; Bobby Permanent, Andrus’ longtime musical collaborator, was recruited to take the late musician’s slot on the new recordings.
Andrus is also a veteran of bands Crowbar Salvation and Detroit’s the Volebeats. Permanent (under the name Robert Pollard) has also contributed to various movie soundtracks, most notably John Cassavetes’ final film, Love Streams.
The 2021 Divine Horsemen lineup is completed by drummer DJ Bonebrake of the incomparable L.A. band X; he also was a member of the 2018 recording and 2019 touring editions of the Flesh Eaters (which also included X’s John Doe, Dave Alvin and Bill Bateman of the Blasters, and Steve Berlin of Los Lobos).
Keyboardist Doug Lacy, another veteran of the Snake Handler sessions, returns to the fold; he and Christensen both later sang backup for the duo of Gaby Moreno and Van Dyke Parks, and Lacy has appeared on several of Parks’ other projects.
Divine Horsemen - Handful of Sand [Official Music Video]
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