Garage Tapes: Exile releases
long-lost demo treasures
30-track double album launched
By Preshias Harris for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show
Not many bands can claim a history
going back fifty-five years with five original members from the 1980s
still touring today. One of those rare bands is Exile who have
scored chart hits in both the pop and country genres.
On Saturday, July 13, I spent the
afternoon underground with Exile. The band was celebrating the
release of their new album, The
in The Caverns in Pelham, Tennessee. It was sweltering hot and humid
outside but refreshingly cool as Exile took the stage inside the
Caverns to answer questions during the sound check prior to the show.
The Garage Tapes is a 30-track
double album consisting of tracks that have remained largely unheard
since they were recorded between 1979 and 1982.
In answer to my question, Exile’s J.P. Pennington said the tracks
were originally just demos (demonstration recordings) of songs that
were recorded at LEMCO Studios in Lexington, KY.
Jones, the owner of LEMCO was a big fan of ours,” said J.P. “So
that’s how it sort of came about. In exchange for us working as
session musicians, he’d give us studio time. We’d go in there
almost every night for weeks, months.”
“Yeah, after hours,” added Exile’s
bass player Sonny LeMaire. “Sometimes until daylight.”
Demos of both pop and country songs are
on The Garage Tapes, many of them written by Pennington and LeMaire.
Some went on to be commercially recorded, others remained simply as
demos. Now the original recordings can be heard for the first time.
The process wasn’t easy. The tracks
had been recorded on audio tape that can degenerate over the years.
Pennington noted that capturing the songs from the original source
required a process known as ‘baking.’ The process requires a
skilled audio engineer to apply heat to the tape to lower the
humidity. After the tape is ‘baked’ and cooled, the audio can be
transferred to another tape or a digital format, because baking is
only a temporary fix. It is also risky, because the tape can be
permanently damaged if the baking procedure is not carried out
successfully. Fortunately, the process worked, and the long-lost
recordings now sound as good as new.
The one exception was “Take Me Down.”
They were unable to recover the song in its entirety so they have
included a rehearsal version of the song, recorded on a boom-box in
1980, prior to recording the album Don’t Leave Me This Way.
Exile have already had an amazing
career that is continuing today with a packed tour schedule. They
kicked off the 55th Anniversary of their ‘No Limits
Tour’ in Nashville in 2018 and the tour continues through 2019.
international fame with the album Mixed Emotions and the hit
single “Kiss You All Over” that was a No. 1 for four weeks on
Billboard’s Top 40 in 1978. (“Kiss You All Over” has found new
fans over the years. The song was featured in the 1996 Adam Sandler
movie “Happy Gilmore” and in the 2006 movie “Employee of the
Moving to Nashville in the early 1980s,
they developed more of a ‘country’ sound, racking up eleven
Number One hits on the Country charts, including “I Don’t Want To
Be A Memory” and “Give Me One More Chance.” Exile has scored
three Gold albums and more than 8 million records sold. The group
was inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame in 2013.
“We have been asked many times in
interviews to define what kind of band we were. We can honestly and
proudly say that we are a garage band. No pretense, no frills, just
hard-working musicians, learning and honing our craft in a building
meant for cars, tools and junk. And now you are listening to those
garage tape songs… very fitting.” – J.P. Pennington, quoted in
the liner notes for The Garage Tapes.
Photo credit: Bev Moser