Traces of Neil Young At Tom Verlaine Show

The New York Times, June 7, 1982

by Stephen Holden

Tom Verlaine has matured into one of rock music's very finest guitarists by steering a course that is only distantly related to the virtuosic blues oriented tradition of the rock mainstream. Mr. Verlaine's surreal dream songs, with their hypnotic, repetitive phrases usually set in minor keys, are essentially rock tone poems, in which the implications of his stark surreal lyrics are elaborated in majestic, exquisitely colored guitar solos.

This stark solitary lyricism is not likely ever to earn a mass audience, and it's power has never fully been captured on record, because Mr. Verlaine's albums emphasize the raw strangulated singing voice that is his weakest quality.

But at the opening night of a two-night stand at the Ritz on Friday, Mr, Verlaine and his excellent quartet, which includes Jimmy Ripp from Kid Creole and the Coconuts, the bassist Fred Smith , and the drummer Jay Dee Daugherty, demonstrated a stunning emotional and technical synchrony.

The group's chunky, visceral arrangements, with their martial rhythms and passionate guitar tanglings between Mr. Verlaine and Mr. Ripp, reminded one at times of Neil Young and Crazy Horse, but the arrangements had a grander sense of structure and a more precise articulation. Mr. Verlaine and his band may very well be the most accomplished guitar-oriented rock quartet in America today.