Craig Leon knows a thing or two about vintage Blondie. And by vintage, we’re talking about the guileless, Bowery-bred, pre-“Call Me” punk the then underground troupe was spitting out twenty-four years ago. Leon was the first producer to work with Blondie — and also the most recent.
Last February, Leon traveled from his England digs to a New York studio to work again with founding Blondie members Deborah Harry, Chris Stein, Jimmy Destri and Clem Burke on their first studio album in almost sixteen years. No Exit, due out next month on Beyond Records, includes eleven original songs and a previously attempted-but-never-before-recorded version of the Shangri-Las’ “Out in the Streets.” “They never got it right [back then],” Leon says, “but they did get it right this time around.
“It’s really eclectic,” says Leon, referring to the sonic feel of the album. “There’s a million different influences and sounds going on in each song. It’s very typical of what they’ve always done. It’s not like anything else. It’s just like them.” On the title track, Coolio adds what Leon calls a “heavy gothic rap thing” to the mix. Some may remember it was Blondie that first introduced white-bread America to the world of rap with the 1981 hit “Rapture.
“Written and recorded from February to July (not including “Double Take,” which was recorded in October), No Exit, according to Leon, includes “rock-oriented and machine stuff … but for the most part [is] live and very Nineties sounding. It’s not quite as manufactured as some of their mid-career records.”
BLAIR R. FISCHER
(Jan. 9, 1999)