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Spinal Tap roars "Back From the Dead"

 Spinal Tap are joined by Metallica on stage at the Live Earth concert at Wembley Stadium in London, July 7, 2007. REUTERS/Stephen Hird - Reuters
Spinal Tap are joined by Metallica on stage at the Live Earth concert at Wembley Stadium in London, July 7, 2007. REUTERS/Stephen Hird
— image credit: Reuters

By Gary Graff

DETROIT (Billboard) - The inspiration for the new Spinal Tap album -- the heavy metal mockumentary band's first in 17 years -- varies, depending on who you ask.

Harry Shearer -- who created Tap with partners Christopher Guest and Michael McKean and director Rob Reiner -- tells Billboard.com that the 25th anniversary of the hit documentary parody "This Is Spinal Tap" led the trio to conclude that "we should probably do it again. There were still a lot of Spinal Tap songs that had never been recorded."

But Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls contends that "Back From the Dead," which is due out June 16 -- and whose title track is streaming at Billboard.com -- has more to do with technological advancements than the commemoration of a film that "made us out to be a laughing stock."

"Basically," says Smalls (Shearer's Tap alter ego), "it was possible to put out a record that was louder than any we've ever had before, and that was a selling point right there. We could have the loudest Spinal Tap record there's ever been, and we thought, 'Well, yeah, why not?'"

Loud or proud, "Back From the Dead" is the first Tap album since 1992's "Break Like the Wind." The 19-song set includes studio recordings of songs such as "Hell Hole" and "Big Bottom" (which were played live in "This Is Spinal Tap"), a three-part version of "Jazz Odyssey," a "reggae-style" rendition of "(Listen to the) Flower People" and more recent songs such as "Warmer Than Hell," "Celtic Blues" and "Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare." Guests include Def Leppard's Phil Collen, John Mayer, Steve Vai on the guitar opus "Short and Sweet" (which, in true Tap fashion, is not), and keyboardist Keith Emerson.

A deluxe version of the package includes a one-hour DVD and a pop-up diorama with three 12-inch action figures of Smalls, David St. Hubbins (McKean) and Nigel Tufnel (Guest).

"When people hear this, they'll think, 'This sounds like a band that probably found its way to the stage most of the time,' unlike the illusion that's created by that film," Smalls says. "You'll say, 'Hold on, this doesn't sound like a band that lost its way every night.' So it's worth it, just for that."

Another new song -- "Saucy Jack," from the unfinished St. Hubbins musical about Jack the Ripper -- is available at SpinalTap.com, and Shearer says there are also "about four or five (other) new songs that weren't completed in time to make this record, so we'll do something digital with them on the download side or something like that."

Spinal Tap will play a "one-night world tour" on June 30 at Wembley Arena in London. There are no plans for more dates amidst the trio's other projects. Shearer, Guest and McKean are currently on the road -- as themselves -- with their Unwigged & Unplugged Tour, playing songs by Spinal Tap and the Folksmen, who they portrayed in the film "A Mighty Wind." The tour wraps May 31 in Milwaukee.

(Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters)

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