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A collective stretching from the early days of the hip-hop label Sugar Hill into the industrial music of the 1990s, Tackhead produced at least half-a-dozen albums under a variety of nominal heads -- Keith LeBlanc, Gary Clail, and finally Tackhead. The group came together in the early '80s as the Sugar Hill house band, with guitarist Skip McDonald, bassist Doug Wimbish, and drummer Keith LeBlanc. (The trio had performed on the three best early hip-hop tunes, the Sugarhill Gang's "The Rapper" and Grandmaster Flash's tracks "The Message" and "White Lines.") When McDonald, Wimbish, and LeBlanc met British dub producer Adrian Sherwood (of the On-U Sound System), they moved to England and in 1986 recorded Major Malfunction, a street-wise funk-rock LP with doses of Sherwood's studio trickery informing the whole. Since LeBlanc had a bit of name recognition due to his 1983 dance hit "No Sell Out," the album was released under his name. Another Brit, vocalist Gary Clail, had joined the Tackhead conglomeration by that time, and it was his name -- or rather Gary Clail's Tackhead Sound System -- that graced the cover of the 1987 album Tackhead Tape Time, on Nettwerk Records. After another collective recording on Keith LeBlanc's 1989 album Stranger Than Fiction, the Tackhead team finally coalesced as a stable group on Friendly as a Hand Grenade. The album, also released in 1989, was the first recorded as Tackhead, and the addition of a standard vocalist (Bernard Fowler) made the group that much more stable, in image if not in sound. Strange Things followed in 1990, with contributions from Melle Mel and Mick Jagger. The album appeared to be a conscious attempt at mainstream rock success (not unlike that of Living Colour), and failed. LeBlanc, Wimbish, and McDonald continued to play for On-U Sound System projects, such as Gary Clail's 1991 album The Emotional Hooligan. Between 1994 and 1997, the group issued three releases containing rare tracks, B-sides, and live material through Blanc Records, titled Power, Inc. After a long hiatus, the group briefly reunited for European and American tours in 2004. In 2006, On-U released the double disc compilation Tackhead Sound Crash: Slash & Mix Adrian Sherwood, providing a thorough introduction and reappraisal of their sound.
In 2013, the band again reunited to record For the Love of Money, a collection of soul and funk covers and a redo of their own single, "Stealing." The set was issued by Dude Records in January the following year. Robo Bass Hifi (German producer Markus Kammann) remixed a series of Tackhead and Fats Comet tracks. Entitled The Message, it was credited to all three acts and released as a limited-edition offering in mid-2016. ~ John Bush
- New York, NY
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