Steve Wynn’s Rhino Albums Redux

Steve Wynn’s first two solo albums, recorded and originally released in the early 1990s by Rhino Records’ short-lived R.N.A. division, are being reissued in expanded editions on April 27th, courtesy of the discerning musicologists at Omnivore Recordings.

1990’s Kerosene Man firmly established Wynn as a solo artist more than able to equal and expand beyond his work with The Dream Syndicate. With that band still associated with the Paisley Underground scene of the early ‘80s, the cross-section of friends on board for Kerosene Man – Johnette Napolitano (Concrete Blonde), Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), DJ Bonebrake (X), Julie Christensen (Divine Horsemen), Stephen McCarthy (Long Ryders) and Mark Walton (The Dream Syndicate) representin’ L.A., with Howe Gelb (Giant Sand) and Chris Cacavas (Green on Red, Giant Sand) visiting from Tucson – helped Wynn successfully showcase a wider range of his abilities and interests. As he writes in the reissue’s liner notes, “I just wanted to try something different. I wanted to play different kinds of music, make new sounds, play with new people.” This re-mastered edition skips the demo recordings included on Prima Records’ UK reissue from way back, but adds six live tracks recorded at Washington, DC’s 9:30 Club, previously only available on a Rhino promotional EP; a cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar” is among them.

Though less heralded, there are many days when I consider 1992’s Dazzling Display the stronger of Wynn’s two Rhino albums. It’s simultaneously more confident, focused and rougher around the edges, and it beat Luna at resurrecting Serge Gainsbourg’s “Bonnie and Clyde” by three years. “As is often the case,” Wynn says of the album, “time has brought its merits into focus. Here’s the bottom line. It’s a really fun record.” Like its predecessor, Dazzling Display boasts an all-star cast of backing musicians: Napolitano and Cacavas are among those returning, joined by Peter Buck (R.E.M.), John Wesley Harding, Russ Tolman (True West), Kirk Swan (Dumptruck), Vicki Peterson (The Bangles), Susan Cowsill, Louis Gutierrez (The Three O’Clock) and freakin’ Flo & Eddie (The Turtles). As there weren’t any B-sides or promotional live recordings associated with the original release of Dazzling Display, this re-release tacks on live-in-the-studio recordings from international radio sessions, some originally available on a CD “maxi-single” for “Kerosene Man” from the previous album, including Sonic Youth and Paul Simon covers.

It’d be cool to see Wynn do a few shows rocking this material back to life, but I’ve yet to see any indication that’s going to happen. But he always seems open to stuff, so who knows…

Photo by Greg Allen.