NRP: The Hot Dogs – Say What You Mean

The bases on reissues are regularly covered here in the Re-released into the Wild column, though I’ve found that while the steady stream of reissues picks up a lot of the great bits from the past (some I’ve been waiting for and some I’ve discovered through labels I love) there still remain a lot of records that are consigned to the purgatory of out of print status. This is especially frustrating given that the pressing plants are all too often packed out with garbage reissues of dollar bin titles looking to cash in on a nostalgia trip. So, with Necessary Repress I’m going to look at a few records I think absolutely deserve to work their way back to the stacks. Now, I know that the complex web of licenses, rights, and royalties are often what holds up a new issue, so I’m not holding my breath, just making my case.

Gonna start this off with a record that’s not wholly inaccessible, a good dive through Discogs turns up a copy of The Hot Dogs’ 1973 debut at a fair price, but the argument to be made here is that a proper reissue could throw some light on this record which has all too often been sidelined by circumstance and has only grown more endearing with the passage of time. Say What You Mean, for those unfamiliar, was released on the Ardent label in 1973, the year between labelmates Big Star’s debut and Radio City. Like both of those records, the album trades in a brand of power pop that has become synonymous with Memphis – rooted in the Beatles side of the spectrum but injecting a strand of soul and classic rock holdover that certainly appealed to a larger audience than they ended up courting in their prime.

Now, as with Big Star, this certainly has something to do with Ardent’s distribution troubles at the time. The same hangups and mismatch with Stax’ base plagued the release of Say What You Mean, despite boasting two sides of songs that were rife with radio ready rock appeal. Spearheaded largely by producer Terry Manning along with Stax session players Bill Rennie and Greg Reding, the record touches on similar terrain to Big Star’s 1st, though it’s pulling from some more ‘classic’ territory in hindsight. For all the swooning harmonies, jangled riffs and George Harrison melodies, the record also pushes straight on into Grand Funk territory (“Lowdown”), finds heavier moments of The Faces and The Pretty Things (“Let Me Look At The Sun”) and cozies up to Todd Rundgren / Raspberries territory (pretty much everywhere else).

It’s the kind of album that seems obvious for a new crowd of fans and posthumous adulation, you know, ripe for reissue territory. This seems especially true given that Manning himself has been the subject of reissue campaigns, his solo album Home Sweet Home got the 4 Men with Beards treatment in 2012. Manning also collaborated with fellow 4 Men subject and Big Star alum Chris Bell on his revered solo work. I’m not sure what’s holding this one back, but I’m submitting it as a prime cut and a necessary record in any power pop collector’s haul, ripe for the repress in a field too often glutted with the clutter of AM gold and Greatest Hits packages that should have long been consigned to Goodwill.

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