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Exile releases long-lost demo treasures - By Preshias Harris for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

Garage Tapes: Exile releases long-lost demo treasures

30-track double album launched ‘underground’

By Preshias Harris for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

Not many bands can claim a history going back fifty-five years with five original members from the 1980s still touring today. One of those rare bands is Exile who have scored chart hits in both the pop and country genres.

On Saturday, July 13, I spent the afternoon underground with Exile. The band was celebrating the release of their new album, The Garage Tapes, in The Caverns in Pelham, Tennessee. It was sweltering hot and humid outside but refreshingly cool as Exile took the stage inside the Caverns to answer questions during the sound check prior to the show.

The Garage Tapes is a 30-track double album consisting of tracks that have remained largely unheard since they were recorded between 1979 and 1982. In answer to my question, Exile’s J.P. Pennington said the tracks were originally just demos (demonstration recordings) of songs that were recorded at LEMCO Studios in Lexington, KY.

Cecil Jones, the owner of LEMCO was a big fan of ours,” said J.P. “So that’s how it sort of came about. In exchange for us working as session musicians, he’d give us studio time. We’d go in there almost every night for weeks, months.”

“Yeah, after hours,” added Exile’s bass player Sonny LeMaire. “Sometimes until daylight.”

Demos of both pop and country songs are on The Garage Tapes, many of them written by Pennington and LeMaire. Some went on to be commercially recorded, others remained simply as demos. Now the original recordings can be heard for the first time.

The process wasn’t easy. The tracks had been recorded on audio tape that can degenerate over the years. Pennington noted that capturing the songs from the original source required a process known as ‘baking.’ The process requires a skilled audio engineer to apply heat to the tape to lower the humidity. After the tape is ‘baked’ and cooled, the audio can be transferred to another tape or a digital format, because baking is only a temporary fix. It is also risky, because the tape can be permanently damaged if the baking procedure is not carried out successfully. Fortunately, the process worked, and the long-lost recordings now sound as good as new.

The one exception was “Take Me Down.” They were unable to recover the song in its entirety so they have included a rehearsal version of the song, recorded on a boom-box in 1980, prior to recording the album Don’t Leave Me This Way.

Exile have already had an amazing career that is continuing today with a packed tour schedule. They kicked off the 55th Anniversary of their ‘No Limits Tour’ in Nashville in 2018 and the tour continues through 2019.

They achieved international fame with the album Mixed Emotions and the hit single “Kiss You All Over” that was a No. 1 for four weeks on Billboard’s Top 40 in 1978. (“Kiss You All Over” has found new fans over the years. The song was featured in the 1996 Adam Sandler movie “Happy Gilmore” and in the 2006 movie “Employee of the Month.”)

Moving to Nashville in the early 1980s, they developed more of a ‘country’ sound, racking up eleven Number One hits on the Country charts, including “I Don’t Want To Be A Memory” and “Give Me One More Chance.” Exile has scored three Gold albums and more than 8 million records sold. The group was inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame in 2013.

“We have been asked many times in interviews to define what kind of band we were. We can honestly and proudly say that we are a garage band. No pretense, no frills, just hard-working musicians, learning and honing our craft in a building meant for cars, tools and junk. And now you are listening to those garage tape songs… very fitting.” – J.P. Pennington, quoted in the liner notes for The Garage Tapes.

More info on Exile at their website https://www.exile.biz/ and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ExileOfficial/

Photo credit: Bev Moser

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