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RED ROCKERS (Buy CDs by this artist)
Condition Red (415) 1981
Good as Gold (415/Columbia) 1983
Schizophrenic Circus (415/Columbia) 1984

New Orleans' Red Rockers not only sound a bit like early Clash on their debut album, they match political conviction word for word, through songs like "Guns of Revolution," "White Law" and "Dead Heroes." But the Rockers lack the Clash's wit, and that humorlessness makes the record more preachy than passionate.

Thus armed with no great expectations, Good as Gold came as something of a surprise, starting with the first track. Gone was the raging rhetoric, replaced by a startlingly pretty pop song, "China," filled with articulate, ringing guitars and John Griffith's newly smoothed-up vocals. With ex-Stiff Little Fingers drummer Jim Reilly in the lineup, Red Rockers switched to melodic pop-rock, much like 415 labelmates Translator but with more emphasis on electric drive and generally less-exceptional songwriting.

Good as Gold is consistently good and "China" deservedly became a hit single, but the band failed to really catch on commercially, and returned with an equally bewildering follow-up, Schizophrenic Circus. Seemingly an attempt to become America's Alarm, the LP — produced by Rick Chertoff — goes nouveau-country and encompasses both the anthemic, folky "Blood From a Stone" (covering the Hooters) and a totally unnecessary remake of "Eve of Destruction." Danger sign: too little original material of any significant quality.

[Ira Robbins]