The spotlight shone brightest on the Athens music scene in the 1980s, when REM, Pylon and the B-52s were on the rise. Since then, it’s been a fickle light, a bit stingy with its love for a still vibrant and creative community.
The Glands’ moment was brief and unsustainable in the long run. They were probably an odd fit for the spotlight, anyway, but the band seems custom built for rediscovery and cult-like devotion. And they still sound remarkably fresh and contemporary.
It’s a shame that Atlanta-born leading light, vocalist and songwriter Ross Shapiro didn’t live long enough to see his band’s entire recorded output — and quite a bit that was never released — unleashed on a world that might just be ready for them this time around. The three albums and a deluxe vinyl box set will be in record stores and at digital outlets on Nov. 9.
Drummer Joe Rowe, however, is tending to his band’s legacy while looking forward. He’s quick to point out that the band never really went away.
“We never officially broke up and would play sporadically,” Rowe says. “We were working more than most people are aware of. Ross was extremely prolific. When we did get together and play we were intense and hardcore.”
That means there was plenty of unreleased music being created and preserved following the 2000 release of the band’s second album, “The Glands.” That album brought critical acclaim and, for a brief moment, what looked like a breakthrough. It wasn’t to be.
It didn’t help the band’s fortunes that it was issued by Capricorn Records, once a dominant force in Southern rock but in 2000 on the verge of folding for good. By December of that year, the label had been sold. Distribution had reportedly suffered even before the end.
»»RELATED: The AJC’s 2000 interview with the Glands
After the end of Capricorn, label founder Phil Walden launched a new label, Velocette, with a roster that included the Glands (along with fellow Athenians Jucifer, San Francisco’s Beulah and Nashville’s Honeyrods), but there was never another Glands release.
In 2016, Shapiro died. It was private. It was quiet. After all, this is the guy who once told Athens’ Flagpole magazine that “…I'm kind of a hermit, so I don't interact with people that much.”
The music remains, though, and much of it has never been heard. Until now.
David Barbe, a performer and producer who could conceivably be called the hardest working man in Athens music, called Rowe and asked about finding a way to re-release the first two records.
“I was much more interested in releasing new stuff,” says Rowe, who provides the beat for Pylon Reenactment Society these days (catch them at 529 in East Atlanta on Nov. 3). “That’s when the two-year process started. David was really instrumental in getting in touch with record labels.”
Now, we’re getting both new music and re-issued upgrades of the band’s first two albums, “Double Thriller” and “The Glands.” The new music comes under the name “Double Coda,” and everything will be packaged together in a deluxe vinyl set called “I Can See My House From Here.” You can get each album separately on vinyl or CD, but the box set is vinyl only.
“We always wanted to be able to release new stuff that we were working on,” Rowe says. “It’s been frustrating over the years for all of the Glands members to not have the music that we were writing and recording and that we loved so much, not to have any of that stuff released. I’m super excited about these new songs that people haven’t heard yet.”
There won’t be any live performances, but the subject did come up.
“I was never real keen on the idea,” Rowe says. “I played with Ross for 23 years and we played those songs a lot. Without Ross, I don’t really feel like playing those songs anymore. I’m interested in looking forward.”
It’s a dream fulfilled, and while the fans will be thrilled, the world gets one more chance to fall in love with the Glands.
The Glands “I Can See My House From Here” box set release and “Double Coda” album listening party. 5:30 p.m. Nov. 9, 2018. The event is free, but attendees should RSVP at http://bit.ly/TheGlandsAlbumReleaseParty. Georgia Theatre, 215 N. Lumpkin St., Athens. www.facebook.com/TheRealGlands
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