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Paradise of Bachelors presents the first-ever reissue of the previously obscure 1983 LP by the Red Rippers. Written and recorded by Navy pilot Ed Bankston, the album’s nine battle-scarred country-boogie/psych dispatches chronicle the experiences of Bankston and his fellow vets during the Vietnam War and back home. Produced in collaboration with the artist, the package includes extensive liner notes, archival photos, and (with the vinyl) a digital download coupon.
Scarce and seemingly inscrutable, the sole recording credited to the Red Rippers has long captivated and mystified record collectors. When we first encountered Over There … and Over Here, we were fascinated by the prescient, genre-dredging synthesis of Waylonesque honky-stomp with early ’80s new wave production values and eerie, out-of-time psychedelic guitar leads weirdly reminiscent of the Blue Öyster Cult, Dire Straits, and the Meat Puppets at their most desert-drunk. We were intrigued by the record’s ambiguous provenance (Oracle Records?) and moved by its complex, apparently deeply personal articulation of an enlisted man’s efforts to break on through his fear, anger, and disillusionment during and after the Vietnam War.
Once we finally tracked down songwriter, singer, and guitarist Edwin Dale Bankston in Phoenix, Arizona, he told us that he wrote these nine potent blues during the decade following his return in 1972 from serving on the Navy aircraft carrier USS Kittyhawk in Vietnam. He recorded them while stationed in Pensacola, Florida and sold the resulting 1983 album through an advertisement in Soldier of Fortune magazine, largely to other veterans. The songs concern his own and other vets’ harrowing experiences both in country and back home, and are utterly unlike most popular music commentaries on the Vietnam War. You’ve heard the strident protest songs blasted forth from that myth-shrouded era; many retain a visceral power and poetic outrage, but few, beyond a professed empathy for flimsy, victimized stock characters, accurately represent the actual lived experience and agency of soldiers.
Assuming the role of folklorist or documentarian, Bankston composed up to forty songs based on real-life wartime stories recounted by fellow vets who attended his concerts, many of whom were united by their marginalization and alienation from both the military and the antiwar movement alike. They felt disgust for warmongers as well as wartime atrocities, for the popular as well as the underground press. Ed’s evocative, ambivalent lyrics are at once highly critical of the U.S. government’s engagement in Southeast Asia and thoroughly patriotic. The album reflects this sense of dislocation, describing scenes of chaos, death, disembodiment and absolute burnout. It feels as relevant as ever given our ongoing foreign military engagements and the daunting challenges our veterans continue to face.
In accordance with Ed’s wishes, we’re donating a share of the proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project. The record releases a week after Inauguration Day.
+ First-ever reissue of this rare collector’s item, featuring fully remastered audio and restored artwork
+ Licensed from, and produced in collaboration with, songwriter and head Ripper Ed Bankston
+ A share of the proceeds will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project
+ Available on virgin vinyl in a limited edition of 1500, as well as on CD and digital formats
+ Vinyl edition housed in a thick 24 pt matte jacket, including a download coupon; CD housed in a matte gatefold wallet
+ Package includes never before seen photos of Bankston and his family, a reproduction of the 1983 Soldier of Fortune ad for the album, and extensive notes, featuring an introductory essay, a 4500-word oral history with Bankston, and complete transcribed lyrics (lyrics available in vinyl edition only)
"Many 'lost' and 'collector's' recordings never live up to the hype, but this nine-song collection is the real deal... These are not run-of-the-mill protest songs. These are songs by an outsider who sees all sides. A meld of raw '70s boogie, outlaw country-rock, psychedelic guitar, and excellent D.I.Y. production, they poetically yet directly offer a view of the returning soldier's mind from the inside. 'Vietnam Blues' is the only blues song you ever need to hear about that war. Bankston's songs move far past the limits of Vietnam in reflecting the combat veteran's experience. As thousands of servicemen and women return from battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, these songs offer an unmatched musical empathy. Over There ... and Over Here is a singular document, a rock & roll protest record born from actual spilled blood, sweat, tears, and alienation but which refuses to surrender."
- Thom Jurek, Allmusic
The Paradise of Bachelors imprint has turned up an absolutely fascinating record here, a 1983 D.I.Y. concept album that across its nine songs charts the experience of former Navy fighter pilot Ed Bankston and his fellow comrades in Vietnam ten years earlier... I must say it's a truly singular and compelling listening experience, never shying away from describing the vagaries of war... It's hard to emphasize how viscerally and unflinchingly he puts across his impressions and stories from a decade earlier. Strange to think that an album that comes on like some strange amalgamation of Waylon Jennings and the Meat Puppets could so successfully impart such a multi-sided impression of the physical and psychological impact of the war experience, and yet it does. Over There... and Over Here, I don't think there has ever been another record quite like this -- and in all honestly I hope there never will be.
- Michael Klausman, Other Music
"Now something of a mythological collectors item, the ever-diligent Paradise of Bachelors have restored the Red Rippers LP as an essential Vietnam War statement from those who fought it, then got spat out by their country… This is worlds apart from righteous anti-war chest-beating but, chillingly, still sounds relevant."
- Kris Needs, Record Collector Magazine
"Over There ... and Over Here is a fascinating piece of folklore... [The songs] give glimpses into everyday life and death in the major conflict of the Cold War era."
- The Times of London