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An Interview with Bill Alton, Starlight Drifters
Last month I reviewed the knock out CD, Thirteen To Go by the Starlight Drifters. It was their third release and the first for the Rollin' Rock label. The interview that follows was conducted via e-mail with the bands versatile singer Bill Alton.
Where and when were you born?
I was born in Taylor, Michigan, which is a suburb of Detroit on July 27th 1970, which is also my dads birthday so I was proudly named after him.
Was music always a part of your life?
Music was big early on in my life I remember when I was about 7 or 8 hearing Red Sovines' "Phantom 309" and Johnny Cash singing "One Piece At A Time". That really grabbed me!!
Can you remember how you got interested in rockabilly/rock'n'roll?
For years in Detroit there was a radio station on the AM band called Honey Radio (WHND) and it focused on the first 10 years of Rock & Roll. And that's when I got to hear all facets of Americana from Doo-Wop, Rhythm & Blues and Rockabilly. It was all the same to me because it was all exciting AND Romantic!!!!
During the early 80s there were a few rockabilly acts, like the Stray Cats, the Jets, the Polecats, Matchbox and Shakin' Stevens, getting into the European pop charts which brought an influx of new young fans. Would you say that the Stray Cats had a big influence on the current rockabilly scene in the States as well?
It's pretty hard to deny that the Stray Cats didn't change things back then, no matter what people think of Brian Setzer today. Lets face it, those guys practically started the Roots revival in the States single handed. I find it amazing that those who just bad mouth that band and Setzer were ALWAYS at the Stray Cats shows in the 80's. And if that isn't enough, next time you're at a Rockabilly weekender look and see how many Stray Cat tattoos you see on the fellas arms, and on the chicks wherever! I must admit I have one as well, but then again, I still enjoy throwing "Rant & Rave" on the turntable every now and then.
You and Chris Casello came together through mutual friends, did you hit it off straight away? Did you both have the same feelings about the sound you wanted and the goals for the band?
Chris and I were brought together by friend and former founding member Kenny Bruce, who went on to join the Big Barn Combo. We clicked pretty fast because we both liked the same music and we both really dug The Kaisers!!! We have very similar ideas to how we want the band to sound and look. It has been a great ride so far. How did the band get the name?
How we arrived at the name Starlight Drifters is kinda fuzzy to me. We went back and forth with several names and I think one of the former members Chris Neel actually came up with the name.
You've backed Jack Scott among others. Is there anyone out there that you'd love to back above all others?
Backing Jack Scott is something I never would have imagined. I didn't even think I'd ever meet him. Everyone in Detroit knew Jack was around, but was a very private citizen and he liked it that way. So you can imagine my amazement when he introduced himself to us at one of our shows and started coming to see us quite regularly. That led to us being his back up band for over a year. It was a great experience that I miss and hope to repeat someday. Other than Jack I think it would be thrilling to back Johnny Cash, so keep yer fingers crossed!!
How did the two Dyna albums come about?
The 2 Dyna Electro releases were self produced mainly by Casello and they sound fantastic. Dyna Electro is the creation of Casello as well, he plans to have other bands join the label and produce them which I think is a win win situation for any band up and coming.
How did you come into contact with Ronnie Weiser and his Rollin' Rock label?
I think Ronnie had gotten a hold of our debut CD thru Hepcat or something like that and he liked me as a vocalist. I think the song "Deanna" grabbed him because of the emotion of the singing and the arrangement of the song which was helped A LOT with assistance from Casello.
What's it like working in the studio with Ronnie?
It was pretty wild working with Ron. Anyone who's recorded with him knows he's a no nonsense "Lets get to it and GO GO GO" producer. I think its also safe to say this man is genuinely insane about Mid 20th century Rock & Roll which is why I think he really brought out some viciousness in our recordings. He couldn't help but get up and flat out BOP while we were recording. It was wild, it was like the spirit of true Rock & Roll grabbed him and he was up howlin like a wolfman... it was beautiful.
Are there any plans for a follow up album?
I know Ron is ready for another platter release and we have some songs in the can. I think with the release of "13 To Go" just a few weeks old we will spend the summer and fall focusing on promoting it.
What do you think of the current state of the rockin' scene? Do you think it will ever hit the charts again? I think the scence overall stateside here is strong. It was pretty evident to me at the last VLV weekender that we still love our Roots Rock & Roll, and its really great to see everyone put their lifestyle policies of whats cool or not aside and come together to enjoy what its actually all about.. THE MUSIC.
It's difficult to think that rockabilly as a genre would return to the charts of "popular" music. I also think the general consensus of the scene would prefer it not to be on the charts for fear of trend setting a vital way of life for many of us. Every now and then though a song will pop through to the mainstream airwaves though, with rockabilly influence though, so never say never.
Are there any plans for the band to come over to Europe?
Chris and I have reached many of our goals with the Starlight Drifters. One of the big ones we are stuck on however is Europe. Mainly, getting there! We are hoping with influence from Ron Weiser And the Rollin Rock label we will be fortunate enough to share our love for this music with our friends across the pond.
If any promoters out there are reading this, why do you think they should book you instead of any of the other acts.
We work really hard on developing our showmanship from dressing top notch for ALL shows and having tight backing 3 part harmonies to add another dimension in our show. Making sure we enjoy our audience as much as they enjoy us. And lastly, this band can flat out play!!!! And I can personally guarantee Chris Casellos wizardry on the guitar which ranks amongst the GREATEST of players past and present. This isn't a hobby for us, we are here to make a mark and have some fun and make some friends along the way.
What are your favourite bands on the scene today?
Geez Louise there are so many bands out there that I like, so I'll mention some that are on the circuit today. I love good pickin', so I will start off with one of the best, Deke Dickerson and his Eccofonics. Big Sandy is a consummate pro and a big influence for me. Flat out the smoothest, most beautiful voice today. Mack Stevens is crazy, dark and really brings out the Serial killer in us all!!!!! I'm really diggin' a band from Maryland called Rockin Bones, great vocals. Ok here's some more by name only - Raging Teens, Twistin' Tarantulas, George Bedard & the King Pins.
Give me your 10 Desert Island Discs.
Here's the top ten Artists I'd want to have albums of. No particular albums. Just the songs I like best from them in no particular order. 1.Faron Young
2.Elvis Presley (pre 68)
10. Johnny Horton (and I sneak in Marty Robins when no ones looking!!)
Any final message?
"One day my hair will bring world peace and align the planets."
Keep combing it Bill, and keep taking them tablets! Anyone interested in booking the band or finding out more about them, take a visit to www.starlightdrifters.com A review of their brilliant new CD appears elsewhere on this page.
DARREL HIGHAM & the ENFORCERS
BROUGHTON WINGS SPORTS & SOCIAL CLUB, Nr Chester
Saturday 28th April 2001
This was my first visit to the rock'n'roll club at Broughton, just outside Chester and very impressive it is too, well run and seemingly well attended. I've seen Darrel Higham and the Enforcers four times before and they've always been brilliant. Tonight was no exception with a fine mix of a few originals and covers of both classics and lessor known gems.
The Enforcers lay down a no nonsense rockabilly beat with no histrionics. They're rock solid and allow Darrel plenty of room to solo. With his Cochranish good looks, deep voice, guitar picking and fine selection of leopard skin shirts, he certainly looks the part and is better positioned than anyone I can think of to put rockabilly back in the charts. The way today's music is though, I can't see it happening, but if it does it'll be no more than this band deserve.
With his brilliant Rockstar CD, The Cochran Connection and his book Don't Forget Me to his name, Darrel has long proved his expertise and dedication where Eddie is concerned. Tonight he kept the flame burning with great covers of C'Mon Everybody and a growling Somethin' Else, but the best of the lot was Teenage Cutie. Close your eyes and it could have been Eddie on stage. Equally fine were the covers of Carl Perkins' Sweethearts Or Strangers and Alvis Waynes' Sleep Rock-A-Roll. There were also a few tracks from the eagerly awaited tribute to the Burnettes, which is due in a couple of months, again on the Rockstar label. One Of These Mornings was a nice choice with Rockabilly Boogie being more obvious but just as pleasing. I really enjoyed Conway Twittys' Is A Blue Bird Blue and Connie Lou really rocked.
I've never heard him do so many Elvis songs, and with my mate Jeff being a big EP fan, the timing was immaculate. That's All Right was stonking and I Beg Of You was great. The guitar was brilliant on I Need Your Love Tonight and Guitar Man is tailor made. The real surprises were two '70s covers which were given the rockabilly treatment. Burning Love was fabulous but the version of Way Down was unbelievable. It was stunning version and with the boys laying down tracks for a forthcoming live album, they should seriously consider taping this. For an encore someone requested Marie Marie and Darrel and the Enforcers duly obliged with a great driving version, which was a great way to finish the evening.
Darrel Higham and the Enforcers are a brilliant band who you should go out of your way to see. For details of where they're appearing and for updates on their latest releases visit www.darrelhigham.co.uk
LET'S ROCK TONITE!
Rollin' Rock CD-111
This sees the much anticipated third CD on Rollin' Rock for rockin' looney, Mack Stevens. For this latest offering he has a new band in support, Bobby Marlar of High Plains Drifters on guitar, Andy Lopez of Dragstrip 77 on bass and Derek Duggar of the Poison Okies on drums. As with all the Rollin' Rock albums, the rhythm section is on the dial throughout, laying down a sharp beat and giving Stevens and Marlar plenty of room to shine. Of the fourteen tracks on offer, all but two are original co-writes.
The opener is a rip snorting romp through Jimmy Grubbs' Let's Rock To-Night, with two lightning guitar solos from Marlar. It's a pulsating start to the album and one of Mack Stevens' best moments on record.
All Alone is in the throbbing westernbilly style that he seems to have made his own. I'm sure Lopez must have been riding a horse when he played bass on this. I'm No Good With Words finds him in an unusually pensive mood - is the wildman going soft? High Plains Drifter is high charged rockabilly with more great work from Lopez and two short powerful stabs from Marlar.
I Can't Stop is a fine split tempo rocker and I Grab It Out Of Habit is a great mid tempo number with an unusual solo. Manic vocals and menacing, grumbling guitar add to the chaos of the splendid My Messed Up World. I'll Never Get Home is flat our rockabilly with drums to the fore and another glorious solo from Marlar. What Did I Do is as close as he gets to country but the bass work keeps him safely on the rockabilly side of the fence.
Chupa! Chupa! Chupa! Is Wild! Wild! Wild! Just Like A Glove fits him like the title, it's another of those hypnotic western lopers that he can do in his sleep. The CD closes with a wild take on Bunker Hill's, The Girl Can't Dance. Well, if she can't dance to this you're better off without her. It' s a rasping way to close out another top notch album. If his Hemsby stage-show next month has half of this albums exuberance then we're in for a treat.
Proud Of My Rockabilly Roots
Rollin' Rock CD-110
With Easter just around the corner, it's seems appropriate that the resurrection of Alvis Wayne takes another new step. Following last years excellent Rockabilly Daddy CD for Rollin' Rock, Alvis returns with another rockin' treat for Ronnie Weiser's prolific desert label. Using the pick of the Rollin' Rock talent stable for the backing, the new album again mixes new songs with well-chosen covers.
The CD kicks off with a brilliant rockabilly reading of Texan honky-tonk legend Ernest Tubb's, Thanks A Lot, which sounds tailor made for this up-tempo pace. At the opposite end of the disc, is the biographical That First Guitar Of Mine, from the pen of Cy Coben. The backing is great and Alvis's ageing voice echoes the sentiments of the lyric, it sounds more real than a youngster reminiscing. Rollin' Rock mad man Mack Stevens provides the split tempo You Better Take My Life which typifies the new sound of the label.
Alvis provides Touch Me, which reminds me of the stuff the label was cutting in the 70s, I can just picture this being cut in the living room with Ray Campi overdubbing all the instruments! Another self-write is the mid-tempo One More Teardrop, a sort of torchabilly with Disonante's guitar adding perfectly to the mood. Anything the old man can do, the wife can do better - normally that means ironing and cooking, but with the Wayne's it's songwriting! Mrs Wayne this time provides the rockin' Proud Of My Rockabilly Roots which comes complete with backing chants and pounding drums.
The three song tribute to Johnny Horton is again intelligently chosen without the obvious choices, instead plumping for Hooray For The Difference, Sugar Coated Love and I'm Ready If You're Willing. They all benefit from sterling backing, in particular Disonante doing his best Grady Martin. The acoustic cowboy beat of Billy Walker's Cross The Border At Waco is hypnotic and the rich vocals are as strong as the cowboys coffee. It's a cracker of a performance and one of the highlights of the album.
The highlight for me, is Watcha Doin' After School, a scorching rocker with Disonante playing some pumping piano ala Jerry Lee and Alvis letting out a couple of excited screams, ala Charlie Feathers. Jimmy Reed's Shame Shame Shame is given some uncompromising, driving treatment with some relentless picking and drumming.
Everyone involved with the career and new album of Alvis Wayne can be justifiably proud of their rockabilly daddy, whose roots are not only showing, they're sprouting again.
The Starlight Drifters
Thirteen To Go
Rollin' Rock CD-112
I hadn't really heard much about this group before this CD came through the post, but I'm well and truly hooked now. It hit me behind the knees and my legs are still buckled. This ranks alongside Darrel Higham and Jack Baymoore as the very best in modern sounds. This isn't just a rockabilly album though, it incorporates various aspects of fifties rock 'n' roll, and is a joy throughout. The variety on offer make it Rollin' Rocks most complete album to date, and Ronnie Weiser will no doubt waste little time in getting the boys back to Vegas.
Despite their relative newness, this is their third release, with two previous outings on Dyna Records, Presenting and Every Note A Pearl They' ve also played shows with the likes of Sleepy LaBeef, BR5-49, Jason D. Williams, Robert Gordon, Link Wray, Wayne Hancock and were even selected by Jack Scott to back him. The band consists of Billy Mack Cowen on drums, Dave Roof on bass, Bill Alton on vocals and the multi talented Chris Casello on guitar and steel. Only five of the thirteen tracks are covers, with the eight originals coming from within the band.
The CD kicks off with a blistering Cold Fish, a dynamic rockabilly mover with a manic steel solo and some fun vocal work from the band. They also provide some fine Jordanairing on Telephone Call, a mid tempo commercial rocker with Alton proving himself a great singer and the lead guitar and steel licks blast out amid the oohs and aahs.
Two Bottles An Hour is a western swing mover in the Hank Thompson mould with trumpet and steel to the fore. They sound like BR5-49 at their best when they all croon the chorus and Alton again emphasises how much variety he has in them impressive tonsils - superb. The cover of Conway's Long Black Train is another fine mix of superb Alton vocals (even out hiccupping Charlie Feathers at the end!) and some glorious Memphis guitar from Casello. The rhythm section of Billy Mack and Roof are really tight throughout, and raise holy hell on this stormer.
The excellent We Can Make It sounds like a moody Shakin' Stevens hit record and is so different from most of the rockin' stuff being cut today. The same is true of their own Pretty Little Ring, which sounds like a cross between a Joe Meeks number and the Mavericks. There's more than a hint of Billy Fury in there and I'm sure Ral Donner's ghost was hovering around the studio that day. Confused - go buy the album and see what I mean!
Wolverton Mountain is taken as a piano led rocker which works well as does Jack Scott's I Never Felt Like This which follows the original closely. They pay tribute to the Sideburned Swiveller From Tupelo with a cracking version of I Want You, I Need You, I Love You.
Long Goner is a flat out, piano stomper with a Mickey Gee-like guitar solo and Six Pack To Go pays perfect homage the songs daddy, Hank Thompson. The band switch easily through the styles, and avoid the usual pitfalls such variety can often bring.
The last track, End Of The Road, starts off with Bill Alton sounding like Rodney Crowell, before building to a climax with a rousing gospel sound, jumping slap-bass galloping the CD to a close. It's track 13, which is unlucky, for all of us. If we were luckier we'd have another three or four songs to listen to. Buy it! This CD really is the ducks nuts and will hopefully do well for the boys and the label.
THE TOWN HALL PARTY TV SHOWS 1959
starring EDDIE COCHRAN
ROCKSTAR VIDEO RSRV 2001
Remastered digitally from original 16mm kinescope film first broadcast on Feb 7th 1959
This review is based on the UK VHS PAL system
(it will be also be available in US format)
It has been the sheer preservance of Tony Barrat and the Rockstar team that has brought us this unique glimpse of Eddie Cochran performing live on the famed Los Angeles Town Hall Party Tv show. It has been an uphill struggle clearing rights to this film and our considerable thanks should go to them. Like us they are fans, not some wealthy multimedia conglomerate. This absolutely wonderful 30 minute video is devoted totally to Eddie and his backing band The Swingers. The video tape engineer has worked miracles so that we can enjoy this evocative black and white footage time and time again. Footage quality is sure fine looking, man its somethin' else.
Add this feast to the meagre but oh so influential minutes we've had from his 3 50s movie appearances and the lip synced footage from the Dick Clark shows first seen on the BBC Arena documentary back in the early 1980s. Rockstar's ongoing cd series, EMI's box set, Darrel and Julie's book (and Darrel's Eddie covers)and Bill Beard's magazine The Cochran Connection have kept Eddie's legacy and profile rightfully high in the new millenium.
We see Eddie, four days after the death of his friend Buddy Holly, on February 7th 1959. Introduction to the spot is by mc Jay Stewart and Dick D'Agostin & the Swingers zip through an instumental before Dick introduces Eddie. The Swingers look sharp, but when Eddie appears in a dark suit, light shirt and immaculately knotted tie he looks absolutely the boss cat. Every hair is greased to perfection in that striking quiff of his. There it is, that wonderful Gretsch guitar and the sound that inspired countless legions throughout the subsequent decades.
A quick look and then the boys storm through C'Mon Everybody with Connie Guybo Smith's bass well to the fore, Dick's piano adds a new dimension to the song. Can't get over how tall and gangly Guybo is, his fender bass looks like a toothpick. Catering to the country audience Eddie performs a heartfelt Have I Told You Lately That I Love You featuring the band on backing vocals, Eddie's husky sensual performance draws good applause at the end.
Interesting to compare these performances with Eddie's UK TV shows from a year later. ( The On Air lp). The backing is more sympathetic and the bonus of no Vernon Girls screeching in the background! Rockstar have again confirmed that Eddie was a great fan of New Orleans r&b, by previously giving us his version of Chris Kenner's great Sick 'n Tired (recorded by Eddie before Fats' cover) and here with Eddie's romp through Fat's Don't Blame It On Me. Great growly vocal on this mover with plenty of piano and hard riffing guitar. Paul Coffman takes a good brief sax solo too. A real find this one. Eddie obviously loved this Imperial 2 sider from 1956 featuring Bo Weevil on t'other side.
Back on January 17th 1959 Eddie had recorded Teenage Heaven for the then titled Johnny Melody movie (Go Johnny Go on release), I Remember (cut from the movie), the classic macho My Way and R n R Blues, but he opted here for some driving r&b from Fats in front of this country crowd. A change from the product placement every modern act seems to indulge in now.To me this is the highlight of the whole show, but that's personal taste.
Finishing up his first spot Eddie closes with the now anthemic Summertime Blues, Guybo's bass and the boss' Gretsch in fine unison, Dick providing the deep asides. Enthusiastic applause brings that part to a close. How long have I dreamt of footage of my all time favourite song, I'll probably have to buy a second video as this bit will be on permanent rewind.
Part two of the original show starts with an interview of Eddie by Johnny Bond, where they talk about the Cochran Brothers previous appearances on the show. Rockstar are already looking for those shows from April 27 and 28th 1956, which also featured Lefty Frizzel! Some of the band are also interviewed with Eddie singing their praises. A fine articulate and sympathetic interview not at all like Marty Wilde's embarrasing ramblings on the Uk shows.This interview delves as far back as Jimmie Rodgers bluesier sides and lasts around 7 minutes. Mind you ole JB's a tad patronising and gets in a few plugs for his stuff the old chancer, he's gigantic standing next to our pocket sized hero. Eddie is suffering from a sore throat/ heavy cold and coughs and apologises (his mam would have been so proud!!)a few times. He seems a mix of being assured and slightly subdued at the same time, at ease on camera but answering precisley and carefullu. I reckon he's still on a downer from Buddy, JP and Ritchie's deaths. I find it amazing, considering the impact it had over the pond, that JB doesn't mention it at all! The adult JB and JS were now the old wave, that pesky new upstart called rock n roll (will it last indeed!)changed the bench marks for ever, hallelujah!
Part two continues with Jay Stewart introducing Dick & the Swingers on the instrumental Night Walk with fine rasping sax and atmospheric guitar lick. Jay seems to fiddle with the mike on his exit and this now explains why Eddie's vocals are very muffled on the first part of Chuck's classic Schoolday. Its a cracking version with fine guitar and piano, more uptempo and tighter than Berry's original, apart from the sound glitch early on the rest is clear and rocks along. Pity Eddie never did a Berry song in the studio. I've always loved his take on Sweet Little 16 on the UK tv shows a year or so later. Then a sincere spoken intro by Eddie leads into Gene Autry's Be Honest With Me. Good sax solo here too and Eddie turns in a typical classy ballad vocal. This goes down really well with the older audience embers after all that frantic rocking boogie thingy. God he looks sharp, no wonder he's such an icon for us all.
With a doff of the hat to Elvis, the Drifters Money Honey is next, though Eddie's rasping version is far bluesier than both the other cuts, just when the moms n pops thought it was safe. Interesting that he covers no contemporary r&b songs but goes back to the stuff he dug in the early days. Eddie closes in fine style with his then current chart hit C'Mon Everybody, down to 51 in Billboard that week (11 weeks in the charts then). A driving rendition which leaves the kids wanting more.There's a wonderful naivety amateurness about the whole Town Hall party set up that adds to the overall charm.
Alas, 14 brief months later it all ended on an English roadway in the early hours of that dark day, but thanks to Rockstar's team we can lift the curtain one more time and glimpse Eddie's talents once more. A marvellous 30 minutes I'd never ever thought I'd get to see, Eddie on top form, appearing nightly on my video/tv, teenage heaven indeed. Inside the cover there's pics of the Rockstar cd catalogue including their 9 excellent Eddie cds, add this most definitely to your want list. This outstanding release deserves all our support and a curse on the bootleggers if they steal this.
Messres Barrett and Glenister and all involved in this worthy project deserve a place in rock n roll Valhalla for this essential glimpse of the all too brief shining moment that was Eddie Cochran's musical career. You have my eternal thanks for starters.
Available from Rod Pyke's London shop and all dealers with good taste!
or Rockstar can be contacted by mail at
PO Box 22
The Gene Vincent shows from the same source will be released soon, who needs a lottery win to be happy huh?
BMG 74321 754082
Here's a twenty track compilation on the budget Camden arm of the massive BMG label which can be picked up for just over a fiver. The tracks range from '55 to '79 and as well as his solo records there's some duets with the likes of Les Paul, Jerry Reed and Merle Travis.
Both sides of RCA 47-7684, released on 28 December 1959 are included, the groovy, exotic Teensville, which has a strong commercial sound together with his relaxed take on One Mint Julep which despite a tasty sax break suffers from an annoying girlie chorus. Boo Boo Stick Beat from the pens of John D.Loudermilk and drummer Buddy Harman is probably the best song here.
There are a couple of Elvis covers, a fine Heartbreak Hotel and a swampy duet with Jerry Reed on Mystery Train, which is a bit funky for me. Others that left me cold include a workmanlike version of The Entertainer and a awful, contrived late fifties number, Blackjack, again supplied by Loudermilk. Hot Toddy is a very average jazzy number, where Chet trades licks with fellow guitar virtuoso Les Paul.
The duet with Merle Travis, I'll See You In My Dreams is another matter though, it's full of exquisite picking, with both stylists complimenting one another. The earliest song on the album is a neat version of Mr Sandman, which is a perfect example of Chet's unique style. It was originally released (RCA 5956) in early "55 as by Chet Atkins and his Gallopin" Guitar and made number 13 in the country charts. There's a fun western swing sound to Fiddlin' Around, helped by the upbeat presence of Johnny Gimble. Do I Ever Cross Your Mind is an early seventies bluegrass duet which finds Dolly Parton in fine form, singing well with her mouth full(!) - if the rumours are correct!! Susie Q sounds a bit too saccharine after the dirty work James Burton gave us on the Dale Hawkins original.
There's a quartet of tracks that are nice without being earth shattering, Tennessee Stud (again with Jerry Reed), Take Five, Trambone (I prefer Duane's cover) and Sleepwalk which although is played prettily, lacks all the atmosphere of Santo and Johnny's original.
Basically, at mid price it"s worth your money, but don't expect it to spend months at a time in your CD player. The sound quality is fine and the tracks all enjoy a crisp sound with backing that's as tight as the proverbial mallards buttocks courtesy, in the main, from Nashville's A-team; Bob Moore, Buddy Harman, Boots Randolph etc, etc.
THE VERY BEST OF LIGHTNIN' HOPKINS
Tradition TCD 1074
Although it"s not apparent from the misleading sleeevenotes, this set comes from a mixture of studio and live cuts from 1959 to 1965. To me it"s not primetime Lightnin" (for that dig out the early stuff like Jake Head Boogie or Lightnin"s Boogie) but it certainly has its moments.
After fairly intensive recording from 1946 to 1955, Sam Lightnin" Hopkins had been a stranger to the inside of a recording studio for most of the mid-to-late fifties until Sam Charters unearthed him in Houston in "59 and began a second career. The new folk crowd were the happy recipients and although the venues changed from the rough and tumble black juke joints to the plusher folk clubs, the down home Hopkins style remained pretty much unscathed. The "59 Houston tracks are okay with only Backwater Blues and Baby! Showing any real signs of passion, the later featuring responses from Luke "Long Gone" Miles which harked back to the field hand days of Lightnins " youth. Mama And Papa Hopkins is an unusual tale where the boy puts his parents straight, telling them it"s pointless for them to fight as their time ain"t long anyhow.
The live set from the Ash Grove folk club in Los Angeles was captured on July 6th 1960 and features fellow blues legends Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee and Big Joe Williams. The self-mocking humour is lapped up by the patrons but I get the feeling that the show is in complete contrast to what the Ninth Ward boppers were getting in deepest Houston. Here it"s a well behaved crowd, no doubt sipping coffee and taking notes, studying each verse, looking for a hidden meaning - real deep man. The duet with McGhee, Blues For Gamblers is the live sets highlight with some beautiful harmonica from Terry dipping in and out.
The last five cuts come from October "65 sessions in LA where he"s backed by Jimmy Bond on bass and drum maestro Earl Palmer. For two of them, John "Streamlime" Ewing adds his trombone to the mix which gives Shaggy Dad as nice twist but grates a bit on Mr Dillard"s Store. The best from this period and also the star of this set is Cotton, where Lightnins" powerful, soulful vocal and ringing guitar delivery add credence to the stark lyrics.
Not vintage Lightnin" but at about £5 it"s well worth picking out.
STRAY CAT STRUT
Runaway Boys; Gonna Ball; Lonely Summer Nights; How Long You Wanna Live Anyway; Rock This Town; (She'll Stay Just) One More Day; My One Desire; Stray Cat Strut; Something's Wrong With My Radio; 18 Miles To Memphis; Wicked Whiskey; Look At That Cadillac; Rev It Up And Go; Wasn't That Good; Hot Rod Gang; Crawl Up And Die; Cryin' Shame; Wild Saxophone; Crazy Mixed Up Kid; Baby Blue Eyes
This month marks twenty years since the Stray Cats hit the UK charts for the first time with their debut single, Runaway Boys. It is therefore with impeccable timing that this latest in a long line of "Greatest Hits" packages hits the shelves.
With so many available what does this new one offer? The sound quality is first rate and the choice of songs isn't as obvious as most compilations have been, the twenty tracks coming from the first three albums and including lessor known items like the blistering instrumental, Wicked Whiskey. The packaging is fine with an enjoyable sleeve note from Michael Heatley and the cover shot is an absolute stunner.
As you would expect, most of the hits are included, from the monumental Runaway Boys to Rock This Town to Stray Cat Strut but surprisingly She's Sexy & 17 and You Don't Believe Me are missing. Some that you don't see to often include Rev It Up And Go, How Long You Wanna Live Anyway and the wild Crazy Mixed Up Kid. They're all fired up rockabilly blasters with no subtlety but plenty of attitude. These were the type of songs that enhanced their bad boy reputation and still sound fresh and exciting two decades later.
Just to prove that they weren't all thrash and bang, the beautiful Lonely Summer Nights is included, an atmospheric ballad complete with some of Brian 's finest vocals and a cool saxophone.
All told, it's a worthwhile addition to your Stray Cats collection, and Armoury are to be congratulated. Perhaps they're saving Sexy & 17 for volume 2 which could include the Bast Off and Rock therapy albums.
TOMORROW'S SOUNDS TODAY
Reprise 9 47827-2
After too many years of mediocre albums and a struggling career as an actor, Dwight Yoakam returns with his purist album for a decade. Eleven of the fourteen tracks are self-written and for the most part they feature lashings of steel guitar and a healthy helping of fiddle. The country stations wonÕt be impressed when they hear all those embarrassing hillbilly instruments. ItÕs no surprise therefore that Reprise have chosen the radio friendly What Do You Know About Love as the lead-off single. It's a catchy rockabilly number that really moves, driven along some twangy guitar from longtime Dwightster Pete Anderson.
Free To Go shuffles along nicely with Anderson and steelie Gary Morse sharing a well constructed break although the lyrics are a bit clumsy. A Place To Cry is a bit heavier and is not unlike some of the stuff he did during his less distinctive years, an excusable low point of the album.
A Promise You Can't Keep is a top notch ballad which would have been at home on a country station thirty years ago, as is The Sad Side Of Town, a weeper which Buck Owens helped write and joins in on harmony (!) vocals. Another high point would have been the mid tempo For Love's Sake, with some neat vocals and fiddle but spoilt by a tambourine break, dig that hippie shit man. The upbeat shuffle of A World Of Blue contrasts with itÕs sorrowful lyrics, and again with some engaging vocals and more great steel and fiddle work, it's another single contender.
Sounding like something from his great This Time album, The Heartaches Are Free is a number 1 waiting to happen. The vocals are sooo country, at times like Sonny Curtis, and the way he drawls "fre-ee", together with the Floyd Cramer-like piano make this a classic performance and one that confirms his position as one of country musicÕs last originals. Garth, Reba and the Dixie Chicks couldn't dream of being this good!
The CD finishes off with two Buck Owen duets, I Was There, a three minute tale of all love's aspects and the lively Tex-Mex Alright, IÕm Wrong, both of which feature Flaco Jimenez on accordian.
This is an impressive CD and one I hope he comes to the UK to promote. Make no mistake, Dwight is back, country music has a future again.
HONKY TONK HARDWOOD FLOOR
Bear Family BCD 16256 AH
Bear Family BCD 16193 AH
Another couple of gems in Bear Family's delve through the '50's hillbilly roster of the Capitol label. Both artists achieved no chart success at the time and have remain fairly unknown in the intervening years.
For me, the pick of the two is the Jess Willard. Although not everything is included here, it covers the seven sessions he cut for Capitol from June 14th 1950 to September 29th 1952, together with both sides of his only Ekko single (Ekko 1018) from 1955.
The June and October sessions of 1950 have some nice moments in Slippin' Around With Jole Blon and his cover of If You've Got The Money. It's not until the May 3rd 1951 session which included Speedy West and Cliffie Stone, where he really shines with the original version of the rockabilly cult record, Honky Tonk Hardwood Floor, Hang On To The Ball And Chain and the marvellous Java Junction.
For the main part the sound is up-tempo hillbilly with passionate vocals and more than a hint of humour in the lyrics. My Mail Order Mama, Turn That Gun Around and Oil The Hinges On The Door benefit from fun lines without being gimmicky. Honky Tonkin' All The Time is due a cover version and Drinkin' At The Bar is a strong song with a western swing feel. The last song for the label was Buy Me A Bottle Of Beer written by the great Jerry Irby under the name of his wife Loyce.
After a two year spell playing for the troops in Koreo Willard returned to the studio in 1955, again with Stone on bass but this time with a young duo Hank and Eddie Cochran on guitars. Don't Hold Her So Close is a slow plodder with plenty of steel guitar, whereas the livelier Every Dog Has Its Day gives Eddie Cochran the opportunity to impress with a fine extended solo.
It's amazing that for someone who enjoyed over a dozen releases on a major label, there are so few details and photos available. The sound quality is fine throughout and Kevin Coffey provides his usual top-notch sleeve notes. Running at just under 70 minutes, this must surely be the hillbilly release of the year.
Even more obscure than Willard is Rod Morris who avoided publicity like Garth Brooks attracts it, despite the fact that he wrote the Jim Reeves smash, Bimbo. There's two versions included here, a real Hank sounding take from '63 and a more commercial sounding effort from the following year.
The sound is a gentler form of country than Willard's but he does have an engaging voice. When he tackles the up-tempo numbers like catchy Nobody Knows Grandpa Like Grandma he is almost infectious. His songwriting that was a real strength - he wrote all thirty of the CD's tracks. As well as the Capitol tracks there's a bunch from his later Ludwig period. The two standouts from Ludwig (his own label) are the hillbilly bopper Ghost Of Casey Jones and the a stomping Alabama Jailhouse which sounds like nothing else he recorded. I Lived With The Angels and Bony Blue Eyes are another couple of gems which on which he sounds like Marty Robbins.
This one runs at a very generous 74 minutes and can also be bought with confidence. Bear Family are to be commended on their commitment to this important musical form.
AMERICAN III: SOLITARY MAN
AMERICAN 500986 2
I Won't Back Down: Solitary Man: That Lucky Old Dun (Just Rolls Around Heaven All Day): One: Nobody: I See A Darkness: The Mercy Seat: Would You Lay With Me (In A Field Of Stone): Field Of Diamonds: Before My Time: Country Trash: Mary Of The Wild Moor: I'm Leavin' Now: Wayfaring Stranger.
The Man In Black is back, and he's back blacker than ever. This is his third album for Rick Rubins' American label, and it continues to maintain the high profile of Johnny Cash, a man reborn and thriving. Musically, Solitary Man sits somewhere between the first two albums, and is possibly the best of the buch. It has all the darkness of the first together with a stark sound on some of the tunes but also has some of the modern rock sounds of the second album.
As well as the five tunes Cash had a hand in, there's covers from such diverse writers as Neil Diamond, David Allan Coe and Nick Cave. The whole mix has a very contemporary feel and the throughout there's great drive from the acoustic guitars.
The album kicks off with a healthy sounding JC covering the Travelling Wilburys', I Won't Back Down complete with tailor made lyrics "Gonna stand my ground, won't be turned around, and I'll keep this world from dragging me down, gonna stand my ground, and I won't back down". This could have been his signature tune through any of his turbulent six decades in the public eye. Tom Petty provides vocal support on this and Diamonds' Solitary Man, more of the same with some stirring acoustic work.
As young as he sounds on the first couple, he sounds like Moses was a school mate on Lucky Old Sun. It's an eerie version and the pain and pleading are as much theatre as music. Definitely one of the CD's real high spots. Another is the down-trodden tale of hardship and bitterness Nobody, a brilliant use of his ageing voice, this song is a century old and Johnny sounds like he was there when it was written. I See A Darkness is a wrist-slitter. Cave's, The Mercy Seat builds powerfully and one can only imagine how Johnny grinned when he first heard it. He's always had a soft spot for criminal tales of wrong doing and mis-justice and he milks the extra religious connotations for all they're worth aided and abetted by some appropriately dramatic piano.
June's career has also been riding high of late and she joins hubbie John and Sheryl Crow for a tender Field Of Diamonds, one of the albums lighter moments, maybe signifying life, where JC's darker moments are only calmed by June's presence. He comes over all proud and defensive on his own Country Trash as conjures up homespun images of Dyess, Arkansas. Good ole boy Merle Haggard joins him for a staunch tale of sod-em-all in the mid tempo, I'm Leavin' Now, again from the Pen Of Cash.
Sheryl Crows' accordion and Laura Cash's fiddle add a haunting feel to the Celtic ballad and album closer, Wayfaring Stranger, another brilliant adaption which now, rightly, becomes Cash's own.
This is a cracking addition to the Johnny Cash catalogue, and with the plethora of re-issue packages of Sun and Columbia stuff, its great to have something new to listen to. Hopefully with his health seeming more stable now than of recent times, he can do a few TV shows to promote it, possibly a small tour, some air play and this album could see him reach new heights, not just recapturing old ones.
The Big River known as The Man In Black keeps rolling on.
BEVERIC RECORDS BRCD001
01. Fool's Paradise - Dale Hawkins & James Burton
03. Gotta Dance
04. Wildcat Tamer
05. More I Get, More I Want
06. Let The Good Times Roll
07. Well .. All Right - Dale Hawkins & The Crickets
08. One Mint Julep
09. Sixty Minute Man
11. Forbidden Love
12. Mona Lisa
13. Lover Please
In 1975 after Bill Millar's lovingly compiled Checker collection Susie Q, Best Of Dale Hawkins Vol 1 for Phonogram Records there were no official European releases by one of my all-time favourite artists until the late 1990's. This excellent mixture of new and old completes many gaps in the Hawkins canon. Superbly put together by Daleophile Tapio Vaisanen on his new Beveric label, it combines intelligent selections with great artwork & notes, rare label photos, cool stills from American Bandstand and session details. It puts many long established labels to shame. Congratulations on a fine looking package.
The acid test for this punter's cash is the sound and musical content. Chronologically we get some fine early r&b, starting with a cracking Caldonia from 1959, both sides of the rare Zonk records 45 from 1961, great to have these on cd at last. These were recorded in Nashville as was the gospel influenced Forbidden Love. The latter has the great Fred Carter Jnr on guitar and Floyd Cramer on 88s.
We jump then to 1986 for cool late night jazz/blues versions of One Mint Julep and Sixty Minute Man, featuring Dale's vocal and Larry Knechel's languid piano, ideal late night listening here. From Jack Clement's studio in 86/87 the Crickets (featuring Jerry, Joe B, Joe Osborne and Ray Fleck) lend a hand on the classic Well.. All Right. Wonder who the unknown piano player from the UK is? A sleuthing job for Mr Firminger and Ingham methinks.
From the Hawk's Nest studio in Arkansas we get 5 cuts from 1989. Featuring amongst others Hargus Pig Robbins on piano, the fittingly named Jim Horn on sax and Joe Osborne on bass. Perhaps these guys had spent to long on the Nashville production line for they seem to be going through the motions on these somewhat bland interpretations of r&b classics like Mona Lisa, Let The Good Times Roll and Lover Please (I've always had a soft spot for this Billy Swan tune). As well as More I Get, More I Want and Willie, which has nice guitar but cringy lyrics mentioning Clapton etc. Looking for airplay I suppose but it would've been nice to hear some of those great Chess blues men instead!!!
Never fear for our hero's absolutely on the money for the last 2 cuts. Tarheel Slim's fab Fury 45 is given a great workout. Recorded in Arkansas in 1997, the version here has guitar and slap bass overdubbed in Helsinki Finland in September 2000. The final track reviewed here is the cd's cracking opening cut. Recorded in Arkansas in 1998 it has completed the circle nicely by "reuniting" Dale with one James Burton who's distinctive and legendary guitar sound has been overdubbed onto Fool's Paradise. Not the Crickets classic but the tune penned by the then Blaster Dave Alvin for the superb Non Fiction LP for Slash records in 1983. A fine, fine interpretation it is too, this one deserves a lot of plays. Perhaps there's a future album there with Dale playing more of the Alvins/John Fogerty/Dave Edmunds etc style material??? I would love to hear an album of say Jimmy Reed, Bo Diddley's lesser known sides produced by now LA resident Dave Edmunds for instance. Billy Lee Riley has cut two great blues cds so there must be some magic left in the Arkansas air!
This is a welcome addition to my collection and if there's anything about Dale you need to know well just check out Tapio's detailed sessionography at
Cd available from
THE EP COLLECTION...PLUS
SEE FOR MILES SEECD 719
30 SUN tracks, 69:12 min playing time
Shelby Singleton bought the golden eggs ie the Sun back catalogue in the late 60s from Sam Phillips. Since then he's licensed those dynamic stark Memphis recordings (that made the young Johnny Cash's name) to everyone of Uncle Tom Cobbley's friends and people who passed him on the street. What then is the purpose of this 30 track cd of those lil' Sun records then? Well, on a recent trip to Memphis and Nashville I saw those wonderful evocative Cash Sun eps (extended play 45s to younger readers!!) in a few record collectors shops at prices ranging from $40 for a rough copy to over $70 for a mint copy. Mint UK copies fetch £20+. As once again the national lottery had failed to sponsor my trip this superbly illustrated cd will do very nicely instead. It also saves wear and tear on those vintage vinyl copies.
Yes we've got the awesome "kitchen sinks and all" Bear family boxes but its useful to have a convenient, almost definitive collection of the songs that made us all fans in the first place. This See For Miles series of eps ranges from the sublime ( Cochran, L Richard, Vincent) to the ridiculous (Fabian, Herman's Hermits, Adam Faith), but they all have one thing in common, they are well annotated and compiled (this one by Peter Lewry of the Man In Black fanzine), with excellent sound and graphics.
It's wonderful to see the original US and UK licensee London covers on this eye catching cover. The use of yellow on the actual cd with a neat black and silver 50s shot of JC is great as is the classic and gorgeous (Was there ever a better looking label?) 45 on the clear inner tray. Top marks all round for presentation. They even tell you inside from which individual eps a particular track is taken, now that's attention to detail. There's even bonus cuts, Christmas is early this year, 2 cuts from a planned but never issued Sun ep and 3 cuts from single tracks that never made it onto an ep!!
The music? 30 prime cuts from Union Avenue and it's the golden trio all the way, Johnny, Luther and Marshall with the music that turned country music on its head. What about those awful overdubbed choruses, drums and piano on the Hank Williams songs the anoraks cry? Another bonus, the 4 tracks used here are the original undubbed cuts, nice one lads. Tip top job and a fine tribute to the Tennessee Two and ole what'isname!
Hopefully the SFM label will be far sighted enough to see that there's a huge market out there for a similar release based on the Columbia era eps, these have never been properly anthologised and this is the team to do it in style. What years? Well there's a 58,59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70 automobile er I mean collection awaiting. Step lively now.
I AM WHAT I AM
EPIC/LEGACY 498177 2
They say you are what you eat. If that's right, George Jones must have lived on a diet of barroom pretzels. His is the voice of the honky tonk, full of torture, truth, grit and whiskey tones, but with enough flashing neon to keep the interest, bringing punters back for more. Not all George's songs are about drinking or broken hearts - just the best ones. When this album was issued in 1980 George was in the middle of decades of mental and physical abuse, and the experience is reenacted through the words of these songs.
This new release as part of The American Milestones Series features the original ten tracks digitally remastered, together with four unreleased cuts from the same period. The sound quality is first class throughout and the clarity of Jones' voice gives it a perfectly apt haunting effect. Honky tonk purists are also given a boost, with producer Billy Sherill staying clear of the usual layer upon layer of strings.
From the first verse of the opener, He Stopped Loving Her Today, its obvious this isn't gonna be a fun loving, party time romp, it's heart-wrenching from here on out. No country song has ever tugged the heartstrings more than this, the melodrama reaches a thunderous outpouring of emotion with George and the string section climaxing as George stretches the final "today" through to tomorrow. It rightly became a massive hit, topping the charts and winning the CMA Single Of The Year award.
There's two more top ten singles, both exquisite ballads, If Drinkin' Don't Kill Me (Her Memory Will) and I'm Not Ready Yet which reached 8 and 2 respectively. He milks Drinkin'.. for all it's worth, you always get the impression George loves the sympathy of being the pathetic loser, it's a useless situation, he's a loser either way and it suits him just fine. Given the choice he'd choice the drinking way of dying - love's great and all that, but drink, that's his first love. After a few beers everyone gets a bit more argumentative and he's at this stubborn stage in I'm Not Ready Yet. There's plenty of his trademark talking in amongst the singing, it emphasizes the point, this Possum just ain't ready yet! At the end when he confirms that he really isn't ready, I'm sure that the steel guitar is crying.
The steel shines again as it beautifully echoes the sad, sentiment of the predicament in I'm The One She Missed Him With Today whilst the harmonica reflects the thrill of the cheat. The harmonica is also the main support player in the clever Bone Dry, a tale of the struggle to stay on the wagon "This is one promise I'm gonna keep, unless I get lucky and die in my sleep" . Every good bar has an happy hour, and here it's Willie and Waylons' Good Hearted Woman, a foot stomping tribute to the type of lady who's made many a bar-fly buzz.
Instead of one for the road we're treated to a quadruple shot of sobering ballads. I'm A Fool For Loving Her is a typically great GJ tale of woe, with vocal dexterities as complex as the situation "I'm a fool for loving her, and you're a fool for loving me". Am I Losing Your Memory Or Mine hurts, it really hurts, the vocals show his range from low growl to high plead and the steel cuts through the skin. The writer is unknown, but whoever it is, he knows how to work a sad country song - this is brilliant honky tonk balladry that should definitely have been on the original album. The same goes for The Ghost Of Another Man, which, courtesy of GJs' killer performance and some haunting steel work is a shouldabeen classic! The last of the new songs is It's All In My Mind, the type of mournful ballad that he could do in his sleep. The addition of Millie Kirkham whispering "I love you" is a great touch and when George adds "Ooohhh" you would swear he was fighting back the tears. This could be corny in the hands of a lessor mortal but such is the mastery of GJ he makes it all so believable. So much so that if I heard him sing Old Shep, I'd probably send flowers for the dogs grave.
So there you have it, fourteen hard country songs, from a time when country didn't sound like pop. Put together the songs of Bobby Braddock, Curly Putman, Tom T. Hall, Doodle Owens, Willie, Waylon and Dennis Linde and the voice of George Jones and you have to have a hit record. Epic did, and they did. Update your vinyl and get the Jack Daniels off the shelf. Live and breath this album, it really is a classic.
BILLY FURY - ACE OF CLUBS
Earlier this year saw the fortieth anniversary of the release of the highly acclaimed, Billy Fury masterpiece, The Sound Of Fury. Considered by virtually everyone who's heard it to be the best, authentic rock'n'roll album to come out of Britain, it has justifiably received all the plaudits when his career has been discussed. For one thing, all the tunes were self-written which was rare for any artist, not just a Brit, and for another it had an American sound and feel, which no other British artist had previously managed to capture.
November 1960 saw Billy's second long player of the year hit the stores, simply named Billy Fury. In it's way it was even more significant to the long-term career of Billy than its predecessor. It was a crossroads album, with the introduction of some American covers and more of an emphasis on the big ballad that would soon become his trademark. The album essentially comprised of earlier singles together with the a-side of his current single, the glorious Wondrous Place which was at the time of release was enjoying a spell in the top 30.
On its release, forty years ago this month, it amazingly failed to dent the charts. When you take a look at the tracks individually, it is hard to explain, especially when you consider that at the time Billy was constantly in the public eye, appearing on TV programmes like Wham! and Boy Meets Girl. After a couple of years of wild stage shows, the public were now being introduced to a milder performer, trying to clean up his act, and the new album was designed to emphasise the point, with seven of the ten songs being ballads.
Maybe Tomorrow - cut at the Decca Studio in London on November 26th 1958, under the watchful eye of musical director Harry Robinson, this was Billy Fury's first session. This self-written gem shows both his vocal prowess and a surprising maturity as a songwriter. After a brief three week chart appearance during the following February, it returned in March for a further six weeks, peaking at number 18. It was an auspicious start to his career and manager Larry Parnes wasted no time in arranging a singing part in the TV show Strictly For Sparrows.
Gonna Type A Letter - Originally attempted at the same November session as Maybe Tomorrow, it was returned to on the last day of '58 and boy did they nail it this time! An exiting, pop rocker with sax, guitar and type-writer drums, it was a catchy, bouncy number which went onto the flip of Maybe... The first single beautifully reflected the Billy Fury of the late fifties, a real deal rocker with the best ballads this side of the Atlantic. The credits show the writers as Fury and Robinson, but the level of Robinson's involvement is not known, but he probably used as much ink as Sam Phillips did on the joint(!) penning of Junior Parkers' Mystery Train.
Margo - By the time this second single came out, Billy had appeared on the likes of Cool For Cats and Saturday Club as well as making a name for himself with some storming performances on the landmark show, Oh Boy. Released on the fifteenth of May 1959, it defied all logic by spending just one week in the charts, reaching 28. It was a pleading ballad with yearning vocals, guitar support and a girlie backing vocals which didn't over intrude. Perhaps the second single should have had the rocker on the top side instead of being tucked away on the back.
Don't Knock Upon My Door - This driving rocker was on the flip of Margo and its probably as savage as Billy got in the studio. Again self-written, it echoed all that had been great about the early days of rock'n'roll but was now starting to be passed by in favour of syrup. Cut at the same April 8th session as Margo, it had everything you could want of a potential hit record except airplay and sales.
Time Has Come - Recorded on 24th August 1959 and issued on 11th September on the wrong side of Angel Face, it is probably the weakest track on the album. Written by Fury, its a sugary ballad with strings creeping into the mix and suffering from annoying backing vocals.
Angel Face - Cut the same day as Time Has Come its another ballad with the strings becoming worryingly upfront, it does have some charming phrasing from our kid. Significantly, it was written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman and was the first sign that the cleansing process was beginning. The press were still attacking him for some of his antics and even Jack Good who often acted as his producer had had a dig in his regular Disc article, lambasting "Billy annoys me. His stagecraft is superb, but he uses it for such horrible effects. I have seldom seen such a revolting sight as Fury rolling in a frenzy on the floor with his microphone. He has a good voice, and writes very good songs. He looks good on stage. Off stage he is charming. I wish he would change his act." The public didn't appear impressed either and when this and a Christmas single both failed to chart, Parnes and Decca began to wonder if Billy's tug boat days were about to recommence.
Colette - When the youth of 1960 flipped their new purchase over, they were treated to another self-written tune. Colette was given an Everly Brothers feel courtesy of one of the Vernon Girls dueting. On a productive day in London with the New Year only six days old, the track features some nice guitar underpinning the faultless vocals. The career was re-ignited and Billy deservedly spent the spring months climbing into the top ten, peaking at the number 9 spot.
Baby How I Cried - This was a marvellous piece of balladry, sounding like some of Elvis's finer, less famous moments like Don't Leave Me Now or Playing For Keeps. It has all the hallmarks that made Ral Donner so good, it has the Elvis feel but doesn't sound like a copy. On top of that, they could both strut their stuff, mixing playfulness with emotion. The bass heavy backing adds a moody touch and his mixture of pleading and snarling show a man totally aware of his ever growing vocal prowess. He knew he was good and he was getting even better.
Last Kiss - This November '59 ballad was again self-written and Billy gives it a sterling, heartfelt performance. The song had great potential for a ballad in the Sound Of Fury vain, but instead is somewhat smothered in strings. Issued a few weeks later, in time for the Christmas market, it amazingly failed to chart despite the topside, My Christmas Prayer, being a brilliant festive offering.
Wondrous Place - To me this is the greatest single to ever come out of Britain. The song, written by newcomers Jeff Lewis and Bill Giant, had been done Stateside by Jimmy Jones, but hadn't charted in spite of Jones' recent successes. Jack Good had been more impressed than the American teens and was keen to get Billy to cover it. On 24th June Billy more than covered it, he adopted it. He would cut it five times during his lifetime but never like this first one. It's enchanting atmosphere is captured the moment the haunting drum begins and when Billy joins in, full of moody swagger, he echoes the smouldering melody with his best exotic vocal. It became a show stopper of his life shows with Dave Berry reminiscing in Now Dig This how Billy did Wondrous Place "using a tight, white spot and holding a cigarette. In the breaks, he tapped the cigarette and the ash fell on the floor. He looked great in that white spotlight". As fabulous a performance as Billy had made, it still only climbed to a disappointing 25th spot in the UK charts during its nine week autumn run in late 1960. An absolute classic and a perfect way to round off the album.
So it was, in late 1960, with Billy Fury still hanging around the lower regions of the charts, getting criticism for his flamboyant live act. He could have been on the verge of disappearing from the public eye and becoming just another footnote in the history of British rocks early days. After all, Decca had only seen fit to issue the album on its' budget label, Ace Of Clubs. As it was, he chose the path of recording mainly covers versions of pop ballads and established himself as the most successful artist of the early sixties. This new path had been hinted at within the ten tracks of BILLY FURY and for that alone, the album's importance cannot be overstated. And besides that, there's so really classy stuff on the wax.
I found a place full of charms.
"The Best Of The Kent Singles 1958 - 1971"
ACE CDCHD 760.
Ace Records continue to fly the Riley "Blues Boy" King flag with this excellent follow up to the equally fine The RPM Hits 1951-57 (CDCHD712). Following on chronologically, it features all but two of the eighteen charted singles released by Kent between November 1958 and March 1971, some nine years after he'd departed for pastures new at ABC. Some of the releases were swamped with added instruments, but Ace have rightly chosen to issue the original mixes when necessary and where possible.
The tracks from the late fifties, early sixties are top notch with some powerful vocals and plenty of biting, blues drenched guitar. Most of the backing has enough brass to be interesting without taking over and some lovely rolling piano peppered throughout. With BB's legendary reputation for playing in excess of 250 shows a year, it was amazing the amount of high quality stuff that was both written and recorded. The live band he carried were used for most of the sessions and as Denis Lewis notes in his entertaining sleeve notes, their sound wasn't just "tight", it was welded. The originals like You've Been An Angel and I've Got A Right To Love My Baby allow plenty of room for King's soaring guitar, and his covers of Sugar Mama and Please Accept My Love stand up to any other versions. His take on Arthur Crudups' Mean Ole Frisco is glorious with a loping shuffle beat and a cracking sax solo from Johnny Board. Its also a rare example where BB doesn't take a solo, he must have been concentrating so hard on his impassioned vocals that he forgot to do one.
By about '62, the time his contract was due for renewal, their was a worrying trend of adding strings to the songs, My Reward being a perfect example. Denis Lewis writes that he can hear shades of ray Charles here, but I sense more of Kent trying to cash in on the Bobby Vee market! Not surprising that he moved on to ABC. Two years later, Kent redeemed themselves with a stomping Rock Me Baby featuring Jimmy McCracklin on piano and a long-time favourite of mine, the brilliant Beautician Blues, "I met a fine beautician, in a very fine condition, she was long and lean, and you know what that means". There's some slow burning blues with Blue Shadows showing the much-loved combination of pleading, mournful singing and passionate, twisted notes from Lucille. Covers are only worth doing if you add your own stamp to them, and BB certainly does on Sonny Boy Williamsons' Eyesight To The Blind and a jazzy take on Little Walter's It's A Mean Old World. Five Long Years actually sounds like Eddie Boyd had written it for King, who treats us to more stinging guitar.
With all the BB King compilations out there at the moment, this one sits high in the top half of the league, with good sound quality, generous play-time (over 76 minutes) and a varied set of a and b-sides, some with plenty of brass and some (the best) with just a quartet backing. I eagerly await the 4CD set Ace are promising for later in the year.
LEGENDS OF THE 20th CENTURY
EMI 7243 5 21715 21
25 tracks, playing time 54:58
Sittin' In The Balcony
Dark Lonely Street
Pink Pegged Slacks
Mean When I'm Mad
Drive In Show
20 Flight Rock
Tell Me Why
Jeannie Jeannie Jeannie
Milk Cow Blues
(Ah) Pretty Girl
Hallelujah I Love Her So
3 Steps To Heaven
Cut Across Shorty
There, 25 reasons why you're reading this. Nicely compiled by Alan Warner who did such sterling work back on UA in the early 70s. Part of a wide ranging millenium celebrating series by EMI featuring artists as diverse as Fats Domino and Peter Sellers. Ideal for a first time buyer or a general rock n roll fan. Also ideal for sending to the Mancunian pratts who did the execrable hatchet job documentary on Eddie on the government's so called BBC Radio 1 recently.
This collection has most of the classics in standard format, Slacks and Jim ala Cherished memories Liberty lp of 62. Be warned that 20 Flight Rock is the US 45 version with backing vocals, off Eddie's debut lp sessions. Creditted to Ned Fairchild only by the way. Nice to hear (Ah) Pretty Girl again, in stereo too methinks. Top sound on all the tracks.
The notes rather carelessly refer to "certain stereo versions " being included, that info would've been more useful than lists of who covered these songs (er Showaddywaddy anyone??). The cd US EMI Legendary Masters had that info and better artwork than this package. Whatever happened to the volume 2 by the way? Ricky had one with alternate takes etc. The other minus point is, lets be kind and assume they were badly editted, the notes by US rock writer Joel Selvin, author of a so-so Ricky biog and a hippy book. Nothing new, recycled tales from previous releases.
Package for the series feature solid book type shell with an inside pocket for the cd. A lot of wasted space on the arty coppery wash pages, just give us more pics of Eddie man. Simple really. Just look at Rockstar for instance.
Which brings me nicely to the main course and pudding of this review, another cracker from our rocking dynamic duo Derek and Tony's Rockstar label. This label is a veritable national treasure and shows the major labels that quality not quantity is what counts. Painstakingly put together by fans for fans, totally deserving our support and even parting with your hard earned crust for the good guys.
EDDIE COCHRAN & GENE VINCENT
ROCKSTAR RSRCD 018
40 (!!!!) tracks, playing time 76:08
Following from the glorious Rockstar Town Hall Party cd we return again to the live radio/tv sound of the brothers in rock.
Two BBC Saturday Club radio shows from 5th and 12th of march 1960, Four ITV Boy Meets Girls January 16th & 23rd, February 20th & 27th 1960. As a bonus 3 back stage tour members inteviews from Mr "Microphone" Monty Lister backstage at the Liverpool Empire theatre March 1960, and a 1995 interview with Monty himself from 1995. Add a brilliant colour NME Poll Winners concert cover, a detailed booklet fine intro by Big jim Sullivan and lotsa rare pics and you're sorted matey. Stop reading this and rush to your nearest record emporium and acquire forthwith.
Ok so you may have the 1981 Rockstar lp with the Saturday Club cuts BUT these are from the BBC master tapes and sound absolutely awesome. Tiptop ticketyboo chaps, jolly well done that boy Duncan Cowell in the sound dept! The quaint Brian Matthews dj bits and the star struck girl fan interviewees all add to the impact when the Americans let rip, coaxing their UK band members to unthought of heights of competancy. Great stuff and fantastic to hear in this high quality depth of sound. C'Mon Everybody wasn't on the original album but its here in all its glory.
The Boy Meets Girl tracks first surfaced on the old much beloved and now very worn On Air UA lp from 1972. Even though they've been on cd previously (EC Box set etc) they sound really crisp hear thanks to Duncan's knob twiddlings. Love the closing announcement on one show where marty Wilde says that Ronnie Hawkins will be on the show next week and OTIS BLACKWELL (what!!!!!) performing as well. Cue voodoo doll intermission for curses to be laid on the blinkered TV executive plonker who gave the go ahead to wipe the film/video of these epic performances way back when.
Just think of film of Eddie ripping up Sweet Little 16 or the lads closing on White Lightning. The aural memories expertly conserved here will suffice. One day though will our intrepid Indiana Jones' Tone n Del achieve mission impossible finding this long lost footage? International finger crossing day starts now. Look what a surprise the Town Hall Party footage turned out to be.
Hard to believe we want more after the long hard effort its taken to put this gem of a cd together. Steve Aynsley and Roger Nunn have annotated a superb telling of the last tour by the tunesome twosome. 10 out of 10 and a gold star ( or even Goldstar) all round. Buy with confidence as they used to say. The last 2 cds and Darrel/Julie's book means that the 40th anniversary year of Eddie's passing has been acknowledged in a most fittting and memorable manner. Yah boo sucks to Radio 1, you deserve the music you play daily. This stuff is immortal.
Now where's them lil' Town hall Party videos boisbach?
ROLLIN' ROCK CD-109
The career of the lovable Texan Alvis Wayne consisted of a couple of excellent releases on the Westport label between 1956 and '58 and a few releases in the early '70s on the Rollin' Rock label, with years of obscurity in between. That's been put right this year, with this last twelve months being possibly his highest profile period to date.
Thanks to some sterling work from a young English devotee John Kennedy, Alvis had a page devoted to him at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame (check it out elsewhere on this site) and then fellow Brit Perry Williamson made the Pink & Black album of earlier recordings available again which he'd originally put out with John Beecher in '94. This was coupled with a short tour of the UK which saw a show in Milton Keynes and one in London which I was lucky enough to attend (see review in archive). The century ended with a spot in the ever more popular Viva Las Vegas show and now a prestigious booking at the next Hemsby festival. As if that's not enough, he's now reunited with Rollin' Rock boss Ronny Weiser and recorded fourteen new songs for his first ever CD release, forty five years after hitting the stage!
The whole thing was cut at the Rollin' Rock Studio in Las Vegas on 14th July 2000, my 10th wedding anniversary (at least Alvis was having a good time). The band includes Billy Disonante from Mack Stevens' band on guitar and Dragstrip 77's Fernando Andres Lopez and David Van Antwerp on bass and drums respectively. They offer fine support throughout, adapting easily to the many styles on offer here. As you would expect there's plenty of first class rockabilly and some sterling country cuts which give Alvis plenty of scope to show off his beautiful rich voice.
The album kicks off with the self-written Rockabilly Daddy which will surely become a dance floor filler both sides of the pond. It's a catchy rocker with strong vocals and some cutting guitar, perhaps the best thing the label has ever done (no mean feat when you consider the competition). Other fine rockabilly performances include Johnny Horton's One Woman Man and the nostalgic Back To The 50s from the pen of Chuck Shelton which has tons of Grady Martin picking. There's a couple of duets with rockabilly rebelette Jessica Rooth, the best of which is a great driving version of You Can Have Her.
The country cuts are very strong with Fall Fallin' and A Life Like Mine being full of emotion and soul, everything that Nashville currently leaves on the cutting room floor. ALLM is particularly stirring, with the acoustic backing reinforcing Alvis' heartfelt performance. What a voice! He's equally at home with the blues and Here I Am (written by his wife Fritzie) and his own I Want You All The Time feature great performances from both singer and guitarist (DS77's Jorge Harada on the latter).
There's plenty more gems with a great galloping version of Rayburn Anthony's Gothenburg and a Johnny Horton sound on Faron Young's Alone With You. Louisianna Dirty Rice and Billy Bayou are fun, swamp-style and A Good Woman's Love is a great western vehicle for more of that deep, rich voice.
Finally, the album closes with Texas Rockabilly Get Together which harks back to the '70s Rollin' Rock sound, it could have been off an old Ray Campi album. Its got the sparce jangly sound and is a great way to round off a superb album. Now what can he do during the next twelve months to keep up the momentum - a spot on the Ed Sullivan Show from the waist up!
For details on how to get this and any other Rollin' Rock records contact Ronny Weiser at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
For the Pink & Black LP contact Perry Williamson at e-mail email@example.com
Johnny Cash At San Quentin
Sony Columbia/Legacy CK56017
Big River*/I Still Miss Someone*/Wreck Of The Old 97/I Walk The Line/Darlin' Companion/ I Don't Know Where I'm Bound*/Starkville City Jail/San Quentin/San Quentin/Wanted Man/ A Boy Named Sue/Peace In The Valley/Folsom Prison Blues*/Ring Of Fire*/ He Turned The Water Into Wine*/Daddy Sang Bass*/The Old Account Was Settled Long Ago*/ Closing Medley Š Folsom Prison Blues, I Walk The Line, Ring Of Fire, The Rebel-Johnny Yuma*
Recorded on February 24th 1969, three days before his 37th birthday, Johnny Cash At San Quentin followed its predecessor At Folsom Prison to the top of the charts and reaffirmed his position as country music's champion of the common man. This new release, over thirty years further down a rocky road gives us another nine previously unreleased tracks together with the nine from the original album. The sound is astounding (not like my scratched vinyl copy) with the band and vocals crystal clear, and Carl Perkins' guitar ringing like a bell. At this period of time, JC was probably at the peak of his powers, in complete control of the crowd, who were soaking up his every word. He doesn't sound like he's performing for them, it's as if he's playing with them, the rapport being just one more instrument in the band. They feel he's one of them, he's a rebel, albeit one that's mostly chosen the right path, and he seems to put their thoughts into song, San Quentin being a more than obvious example.
The CD kicks off with a couple of previously unheard gems, a crisp uptempo Big River and a haunting I Still Miss Someone. Things really pick up with a storming version of the Old 97, the drums and guitars driving it down the track with JC letting off steam with some exuberant train whistles. Darlin' Companion with wife June is great, helped in no small part by some fine country picking from Carl Perkins.
As he'd done the previous year at Folsom, Cash did a song written by an inmate. The lucky author this time being T. Cuttie whose I Don't Know Where I'm Bound rang true for most people in the joint, band included. The middle section of the CD was as the original before the CD closes with another half dozen newwies including sprightly takes on Folsom Prison Blues (love Bob Wootton's solo's) and Ring Of Fire. A heartfelt He Turned The Water Into Wine has the captive audience captured and Carl Perkins' Daddy Sang Bass keeps the homefires burning, the autobiographical lyrics capturing not only Carl and Johnny's upbringing but also the feel of the JC Show. The Old Account is a rousing gospel stomper with some clever, unusual backing vocals courtesy of the Statler Brothers and the Perkins boy even takes a verse.
The show closes with an extended medley during which the whole troupe has a chance to shine, the shiniest of who turns out to be Fluke with some frantic drumming and a rapid fire marching beat.
This CD is highly recommended not just for JC or country fans but anyone who wants to hear a legend in his prime, having the audience eating out of his hand. He comes over like a preacher, but one who doesn't have to convert the congregation, they truly believe. Listen to the part where he thanks the officials and the warden, to which the prisoners boo and hiss, and the way Johnny jokes "Aaaaahhhh, you don't mean that". It's a classic and sums up the magic of the Man In Black. A true communicator, a true original.
Ian Calford & the Brakemen
Strapped For Cash
Vampirella Music - MCG 1020071-2
This solo venture from Railmen front-man Ian Calford is a heartfelt homage to both The Man In Black and Ian's late father, Cal Ford, perhaps Britains best ever Johnny Cash soundalike. Joe Ely tells the story of someone looking into Hank Williams' guitar case in a Texan honky tonk and seeing just a spare stage shirt and a fifth of bourbon, giving a insight into the man. Well, if you wanna know what makes Ian Claford tick, take a look into his case, you see two black and white promo photos, one of Cal and one of Johnny - the two men who inspired him to strap on a guitar and hit the stage, indications that this really is a CD which had to be made. Whether Ian joined the Air Force to be like Ol' Golden Throat is anyone's guess!
The wise choice of material on offer here gives us a mixture of classics together with some lesser known gems and it also covers the full spectrum of JCs immense career. However, what makes this CD such a superb release are the performances. Calford is to be congratulated for cutting the vocals as his own, not trying to imitate and this makes the whole thing worthwhile - why would you need to hear someone trying to sing like Johnny Cash when you could just play Johnny Cash. The backing is another matter, they've gone for the authentic Tennessee Two sound and what a sterling job they do. Marshall Stack keeps the rhythm chugging and Chris Cummings is fantastic on the electric guitar. When Cash picked up his Grammy in '69 he devoted it to Luther Perkins who had just perished in a fire - thirty years later and Luther gets a follow up tribute.
The ten Sun covers are littered with Perkins pickings with Doin' My Time and Mean Eyed Cat being highlights. My favourite has to be New Mexico, with Ian's voice beautifully matching the plaintive western lyrics. Cash never quite finished Jimmie Rodgers' Brakeman's Blues, so Ian & the band do the honours and mouthwatering it is too. A heartfelt Pickin' Time carries a lot of meaning for Calford who often had to go without food until it was coal picking time in the South Wales mines!
The Columbia period is remembered with a handful of exquisite covers. There's no highlights here, they're all brilliant, but if you bent my arm I'd plum for When Papa Played The Dobro, Boss Jack or Frankie's Man Johnny. The acoustic version of Delia's Gone pays homage to Johnnys' recent American recordings.
What the future holds for this fantastic tribute is anyone's guess but I wouldn't rule out Album Of The Year at the British Country Awards (following on from fellow Welsh band the Rimshots recent success with the Hank Williams tribute). If Vampirella really took the bull by his horn (ouch!) they could push Saturday Night At Hickman County on Americana radio. It's a great song, its not well known and its so atmospheric. With more songs in the can, I can't wait for the follow up. I wish both Ian and the Brakemen and Vampirella Records the best of luck with this superb release.
SCREAMIN' JAY HAWKINS
COW FINGERS AND MOSQUITO PIE
Epic/Legacy 498088 2
In a nigh on 50 year career, peppered with goodies from each decade, it's the handful of sessions for the Okeh label in 1956/7 which remain his most vibrant and consistent recordings. And luckily for us, that's what is served up in this timely re-issue, nine years after its initial debut on shiny. Screamin' Jay Hawkins is one of the few original artists of the rock 'n'roll era not to be criminally under-recorded. His rich baritone voice was wrongly overlooked by a public who couldn't see through the madness and perceived gimmicky style. Gimmicks are often used to hide a deficiency but nothing could be farther from the truth with SJH, it simply added another dimension. He invented shock'n'roll while the likes of Alice Cooper was still getting told off by his mummy for not cleaning his teeth properly!!
The first session for Okeh, in New York on 12 September 1956 was an outstanding artistic success with Jay supported by the likes of Panama Francis, Sam "The Man" Taylor and the brilliant Lloyd Trotman on bass. Both sides of Okeh 7072, Little Demon and I Put A Spell On You are obviously included here as is the previously unreleased (why?) You Ain't Foolin' Me. The only track from this session to still be heard is Please Forgive Me which is a damn shame if the other three are anything to go by. Here we are also treated to a more disjointed alternate take of Little Demon complete with a false start where Jay goofs the lyrics - I mean it just wouldn't have made sense otherwise!! The 45 version of Spell is here as well, the toned version without the grunts and groans, but even this was never going to become a regular on Dick Clark's Bandstand turntable and was probably only heard coming out of a Mexican station at two in the morning.
I always imagine that if the Devil has a pet he's something like Screamin' Jay, and this CD does nothing to change my mind. The images he portrays so vividly in Yellow Coat and Leiber and Stollers Alligator Wine are unlike anything of the era and the politically incorrect (to say the least!) Honk Kong is insane. I'd love to see the words on the sheet music for this one. Classic performances like Person To Person and the sublime Frenzy intermingle with lesser known gems like his whacky covers of I Love Paris and Orange Colored Sky and then we get Darling, Please Forgive Me where he sounds like Kitty White doing Crawfish on speed. Unlike Jay's mother, I adore his bouncy take on Gene Autreys' Take Me Back To My Boots And Saddle where the cowboy lyrics are sang straight faced adding a great comic farce like something from Blazing Saddles.
With compact discs facilitating up to 70 minutes of playing time, it's a shame If You Were But A Dream, Deep Purple, Swing Low Sweet Chariot and Ol' Man River from the At Home With SJH album weren't included - man am I never happy. Gene Sculatti sums it all up in the sleevenotes when he says "In many ways, hearing these tracks today is like listening to something from another planet several warp fields away."
The sound is crystal clear, the bass throbs throughout and this amazing CD should be in everybody's collection. It's mid price as well, but that shouldn't matter.
Johnny Cash " The Man In Black"
Issue 23, June 2000, of long established UK quarterly fanzine out now . Devoted to Mr Cash's activities past and present, it will be of interest to most RHOF readers. Normally 24 pages this time its a whopping 28 pages from editor Peter Lewry. A5 size and professionally produced.
Highlights include an interview with long time cash discographer and friend John L Smith, an excellent feature on Cash's UK ep releases, well illustrated, picture quality is excellent all through the mag, DVD and cd reviews inc a look at the brand new 3cd set Love, God, Murder in the CBS Legacy series, review of the new Ian Calford tribute cd Strapped For Cash and the latest news re Johnny (soon to be a dj for the BBC!!!).
All in all a darn good read for anyone who digs Dyess' most famous son.
Subscription details from Peter at firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian Setzer Š The Brian Setzer Collection '81-'88
EMI 7243 5225382 1
Johnny & The Blades Š Let's Make Vegas Tonight
Rollin' Rock CD 106
Jack Baymoore & the Bandits Š Big Boys Rock
Tail Records TRCD 106
These three new releases would all be lumped under the Rock 'n' Roll/Oldies section in your local record store, assuming your local shop has such a section, but in reality they all offer very different styles. The Setzer collection is mainly made up of pop songs, Johnny & The Blades is rockabilly in a modern style and the Jack Baymoore sounds like it was made in 1956.
The Brian Setzer Collection has a striking cover and primo sound quality but for me has too many clever pop songs, well crafted with some blistering guitar, but too far from the rockabilly sounds which made him my idol. It was a period of uncertainty and experimentation for him, trying to remove himself from the stigma of being referred to as the former Stray Cat. We know he's achieved that now with his retro-swing success but back in the late eighties his future was not so assured. This CD kicks off with two classy singles Rock This Town and the single version of (She's) Sexy + 17 which is in glorious quality, the best of any of the many reissues doing the rounds. The only other Cat items are the a cappella I Won't Stand In Your Way and a previously unreleased live version of Runaway Boys from an NBC radio broadcast from the Ritz in New York on 12 September 1982 when the boys were at the peak of their power and shine accordingly. As regards rockin', that's about the end of it, the rest is the pop stuff, some of which like Every Tears That Falls and Bobby's Back is very good whereas some of it sounds fairly dated and very eighties like the dreadful Thing About You which EMI should have left unreleased. I'm also puzzled why Brian tried Cross Of Love so many times through his career, it's a very average song and hopefully won't turn up on a future BSO album. I would have liked to have seen one or two of the rockers from the Live Nude Guitars included, Red Lightnin' Blues or Rebeline would have fitted in this collection nicely, whilst Temper Sure Is Risin' would have been a hell of a way to round it off. For the children of the eighties like me who love the guy, you've got to have it for the booklet alone which has some fabulous photos, but for the rockabilly purists, leave it alone and by one of the following instead.
Let's Make Vegas Tonight is the second career album for Johnny & the Blades but their first for Rollin' Rock Records. The band, Johnny Kellen on vocals and rhythm guitar, Jimmy Kolodziej on doghouse bass, Eli Rinek on drums and Noah "Gitit" Gietka have been together for five years and are based in Taos, New Mexico. Featuring a strong vocalist and a red hot guitarist they play with a very nineties rockabilly sound, helped by the in-yer-face bass sound the production has. It's on the uptempo numbers where the band really excel with both the title track and Big Shot being real standouts. Kolodziej wrote Woody & Skinny Jim and a fun mid paced chugger it is too with some tasty drumming and guitar. Their cover of Drivin Wheel is hypnotic with some outstanding playing from Gitit and a fine performance from Kellen. There's a lot of split tempo arrangements with a psychobilly feel like Break Of Day and the Guana Batz' Rockin' On Creek Road, but I don't think it's an area where they should devote too much time, as when they get their teeth stuff into the faster stuff, their rhythm section keep a solid beat and Gietka can let rip like on 12 Steps and the menacing Ain't Got Fins. My favourite track is probably their version of the Blasters' Help You Dream, with Kellen giving a great performance. Punters who bought and enjoyed one of the Rip Carson CDs can buy this with confidence.
Jack Baymoore & the Bandits have quickly built themselves a reputation as one of the hottest bands around, and this latest release can only enhance it. I first heard them on Mark LaMarrs' BBC Radio 2 show when he played A-V8 Boogie, the only modern song he's played in over forty hours on air. Two things that astound me are Baymoore's vocals which sound like he's from deepest Arkansas not Sweden and the bands sound which has all the hallmarks of Sun Studio circa 1956.All but three are self written and even the lyrics have the feel of the fifties, meaningful topics like love and boogie, not rubbish like the ozone layer or politics. The brilliant vocals are equalled by the authentic guitar sounds of "JJ" Juvonen whose playing has helped distinguish acts like Wildfire Willie & the Ramblers over the years. Highlights are hard to pick as the album is superb from start to finish. A-Bomber Boogie is a dirty bopper with Baymoore growling along and JJ filling in behind before launching into a blinding solo. Peggy Lee is a high-class atmospheric stroller with JB and JJ doing their usual stuff and Clive Osborne adding some mean sax Š it's a quintessential fifties song, but its style is surprisingly underused these days. My Sweet Baby is a perfect example of what Sun Records sounded like 45 years ago, it's stunning, with guest Mikael Ek playing some lovely rolling piano and Baymoore doing his best Hayden Thompson Š there's no need to mention the guitaring, I'm sure you've got the drift by now. Big Boy Rock bops like crazy and both Daisy Rock and Lonesome And Blue are tasty returns to 706 Union. Can't Stop Loving You has a country feel with some steel guitar as does the hillbilly bopper Saturday Jump. Their cover of the Bill Browning classic Sinful Woman sounds like it could have been recorded at a split session with Browning and Jo-Anne is one of the best modern rockabilly records ever made. The whole band cook and even Red Adair couldn't deal with JJ's scorching solo. What a song, what a band, what an album!!
email@example.com or Shaun.Mather@btinternet.com
DON'T FORGET ME -
THE EDDIE COCHRAN STORY
Julie Mundy and Darrel Higham
This book was originally scheduled for release a number of months ago and the ensuing months only heightened the anticipation. Well it's out now and shouldn't leave anyone disappointed. The cover looks very professional and artistic and should pick up more than a few casual buyers. I've heard of Julie Mundy through her work with the Elvis Presley Fan Club and of course Darrel Higham is the modern day Eddie Cochran who toured the States with Eddie's Kelly Four and whose live appearances and CD's are all worth checking out.
As pointed out in the introduction, most of the biggies from the fifties have had books written about them with the most notable exceptions being Eddie and Fats Domino. Thankfully that's now been put right and importantly, it's been done while most of the other characters in the story are still around to share their memories. This is one of the books real pluses, the reminisces of the likes of Hank Cochran, Chuck Foreman, Bob Denton, Glen Glenn, Duane Eddy, Sonny Curtis, Sharon Sheeley or Stan Ross. Si Waronker was a very influential player in the Cochran career and his frankness and eagerness to talk gives us more insight than ever before.
The early days of the Cochran Brothers and the California scene are fascinating, all the young country musicians playing in one another's band, before coming to terms with the new rock 'n' roll sounds. Eddie's guitar style was also changing around this time and not surprisingly with Darrel involved, we learn how Eddie moved on from copying Merle Travis, Chet Atkins and Joe Maphis to develop his own unique style. Throughout the book, Eddie' s love for playing the guitar is apparent and also the fact that he wanted to play more than be a star and all the trappings that came with it. The love and respect he had from his peers/friends is obvious and one of these that I really enjoyed was the interview with DJ John Rook who befriended Eddie and did some promotional work for him.
It's shocking to learn that even by late '59, after three film appearances and hit records, he still had to go halves with his father to buy a house for the family. Neither the authors or any of the comrades try to explain why so few of his records were big hits - I suppose some things are just inexplicable.
The last forty-odd pages deal with the fateful 1960 UK tour with Gene Vincent. This has been well documented in the past and it always amazes me how enthusiastic the Brit rockers are when retelling the story time and again. They were all totally blown away by the two Americans and the musicians couldn't believe how great a guitarist Eddie was. This part of the book is excellently written and was impossible to put down, and it was to the authors credit that they didn't try to make their own decision about who outshone who, some fans seemed to prefer Eddie, some loved Gene. The crash and the police account of it are written in detail and would have been a revelation had it not been for Phil Davies' article in Eddie Cochran Connection recently.
There's more than a few "what ifs" that come to mind when reading the book; what if he'd cut Glen Glenn's Everybody's Movin' as planned; what if Ray Anthony hadn't walked on his wife Mamie Van Doren who was getting stuck into our Eddie!; what if Eddie had done an instrumental album with Duane Eddy and what if Eddie would've played a session with Johnny Cash and played the lead breaks instead of Luther Perkins. It was the type of thing he loved doing and throughout his career he appears on others records, which makes the lack of a discography the books only flaw. The old EMI box set is out of date now with Rockstar constantly unearthing new stuff.
This is a great read and is thoroughly recommended. File it alongside the box set, the Rockstar CD's and the precious old vinyl in your own Cochran shrines.
Rip Carson & The Twilight Trio
Rollin' Rock CD 105
I was a bit worried when this arrived that it was too soon from their last CD and that not enough quality songs could have been written between times. Well I needn't have worried, of the fourteen tracks here, twelve are written by Carson and guitarist Danny Angulo and they are even better than their debut release. Reece Linley still slaps the bass for the Trio but there's a new drummer in the guise of Santos DeLeon, and a fine job he does throughout.
Opening track Little Red Hen was on the Charly CD Unissued Sun Masters a couple of years ago as by "Unknown Artist" and the cover here is a glorious rocker which they've now made their own - well, who can complain! It starts with a frantic rooster call which was music to the ears of a sad ol' country boy like me. As with the debut, most of the songs are up tempo rockabilly with slap bass and hot picking to the fore. Angulo's injects Scotty Moore riffs to the likes of Heart Attack, Rock Me Right and After School Rock.
My favourite is the bouncy mid-paced Saw Ya Walkin' with some neat country boogie guitar patterns. Not far behind in style and quality is Stay For Me with the band on top form and Carson giving one of his best vocal performances. Another Bridge To Burn sees the band take the foot off the gas and develop a neat rockaballad. La La Love Me Baby is no doubt a great live number as would be the pure rockabilly mover Stand Back! which again sees Angulo take off on two wild solos.
A Rollin' Rock isn't complete with at least one moment of madness, a bit of danger and here it comes at the end of Holler Little Baby where he whoops his babe with a baseball bat for not doing him some food or knitting a sweater. When you think about it, I suppose he had a point, what was the bitch doing!
Go get it and play Saw Ya Walkin' loud.
Rollin' Rock CD-104
Mack Stevens further enhances his considerable reputation with this his third offering for the Rollin' Rock label, following hot on the heels of last years riotous Hardcore Texas Cat Music. Again cut at El Rancho Ronnie in the glitter-city of Vegas, the backing band are the Hardcore Cats, Billinghurts Disonante on guitar, Matias Camino on slap bass, drummer John Olson and Tom LaVelle adding some refreshing variety on piano.
The CD gets off to a strong start, with She's Not Bad and Mack's favourite The Moon's Not Mine Anymore being particularly fine. Sounding like an Imperial rockabilly is the duet Take A Number with local songstress Jessica Rooth proving a perfect partner for the Texas madman.
Turn Me On is a frantic rocker that was written during a food break Š sod the diet boys, I think you should have had 'em every hour. The guitar break is chilli pepper hot and LaVelle's piano pounds away behind Stevens before launching into a wild solo. The whole thing rounds off with Stevens sounding like he's making love to Mamie Van Doren Š well, that would turn you on! Streets of Dodge is another of those western moody songs that he has made his own and the loping beat and honky tonk piano add to the atmosphere created by the fine vocals.
Yo Te Dije is fun filled Tex-Mexabilly with John Olson sounding for all the world like Jerry Allison and Disonante appropriating his best Buddy Holly jangling. Special mention should also go to Camino whose bass playing is strong throughout, but is adorable here. Benzedrine, Dexedrine is just what the doctor ordered and the Stevens-Weiser co-write Basta Don't Mean Pasta is a tasty bopper.
Since it's heyday in the '50s, rockabilly has always had a fascination with flying saucers, rockets and such, and many classics have been built around the theme. Rocket Ride To Uranus is another to add to the list, complete with wild singing and some blast-off guitar and piano.
The album finishes in brilliant style with the acoustic, dark, disturbing Psycho, an insight into the mind of an habitual murdered. Mack Stevens has just the right manic tone of voice to carry off the lyrics. Betty Clarke was asking for it I reckon, she must have known he had a wrench.
Well, roll on number four, and let's hope they don't change the formula. With it's blend of rockers, western and Tex-Mex (plus psycho-ballad) there's never a chance to get bored.
The Original Band -
Still Rockin' Around The Clock
Rollin' Rock CD 103
After recording predominantly with small rockabilly combos, this marks Ronnie Weiser's first major project in the big band style of rock'n'roll. And they don't come any bigger than Bill Haley's Comets. They weren't just in the hospital at the birth of rock'n'roll they were actually taking deep breaths with the mother! Original's Joey D'Ambrosio, Franny Beecher, Johnny Grande, Marshall Lytle and Dick Richards are joined by Englishman Jacko Buddin who sings on their live shows and on eleven of the tracks here.
The group are in brilliant form throughout, with Marshall's bass coming through nice and round and giving the whole sound an authentic feel. The Haley numbers are recreated with all the well known fills and breaks as well as the vocal chants. For anyone who hasn't seen the band live (and why not?) Buddin's voice bears a strong resemblance to Bill Haley's. My favourites' are probably Mambo Rock and Saints Rock'n'Roll but they're all on the money. Franny's solo on Rock Around The Clock could actually have been taking off the original and edited onto this take, Danny Cedrone lives.
For the Jodimars number Let's All Rock Together, they are joined by ex-Jodimar Max Daffner - the band are great but Dick Richards struggles a bit with the vocals. In his defence he plays the shit out of the drums for over 49 minutes! I became familiar with The House Is Rockin' on Stevie Ray Vaughan's In Step album and as with his, it's a real driving rocker. Joey D'Ambrosio takes centre stage for a blistering sax instro called appropriately, Joe's Rockin' - he sure is. The second instrumental is a reworking of Goofin' Around with Franny belittling the age theory with some dexterous picking. R-O-C-K is a great version with Johnny Grande laying down a great boogie line and another great cover is the Essex song Rock The Joint with everyone having a ball.
To sum it up the band are still amazing, the Comet's sound is as brilliant as it was 45 years ago, my only gripe is that there weren't more new tracks, perhaps they're getting them ready for the follow up! Be careful when looking for copies in your local/internet shops, these guys have to be called The Original Band as farcically the name Comets has been copy-writted by one time Comet Al Rappa. Buy it now, or get it at one of their gigs, it'd be a great souvenir.
THE BILLY FURY EXPERIENCE
HALFWAY TO PARADISE
Thursday 30th September 1999
If there's one thing I hate more than Man Utd, it's Elvis impersonators. Some seem to get so immersed in the part, they actually believe they're him! However, sunglasses and sideburns do not an Elvis make! Having seen the Website and photos of the Billy Fury Experience it was obvious that this was a more tasteful, respectful affair, and it was therefore an evening I had looked forward to for some time.
The band consist of three members of Billy's 70's touring band, billed as Fury's Tornados and lead singer Colin Gold. Colin had appeared on ITV's Stars In Their Eyes and had impressed the Tornados sufficiently for them to arrange a get together to try out a few numbers. Things went well and the Billy Fury Experience came into being.
The Grand Theatre in Swansea is named appropriately and was the type of stage Billy himself would have strutted his stuff on, which gave the show an authentic feel. It was also the early 60's when Phil last took his wife Mair out, another nice touch!
The show started with the sounds of Liverpool's dockland and a quick run through the early life of the cities finest singer (bar none!!). The band opened both parts of the show with the likes of Hoots Mon, Just Like Eddie, Diamonds etc. before the appearance of Gold who came on dressed in the gold lame suit a la Sound Of Fury. Launching into Like I've Never Been Gone, it was obvious that a good night was definitely on. The rest of the show followed in a fairly chronological order. Maybe Tomorrow was brilliant as were the rockers Gonna Type A Letter and Don't Knock Upon My Door. Other highlights of the first set were Collete, That's Love and the magical Wonderous Place. Phil's favourite of the night was Nobody's Child performed with only guitar accompaniment. Another nice touch, was a convincing a cappella version of Devil Or Angel, before going to the interval with Jealousy, Julie's favourite of the night.
For the second half, Gold was in the shiny blue suit. This impressed my misses so much that I was starting to sing Jealousy to myself. The hits followed, all excellently performed, Halfway To Paradise, I Will, In Summer before an amazing It's Only Make Believe. This was a stunning version and generated so much excitement that I hardly heard the closer, Forget Him, from the last album.
This really was a great night and I highly recommend you check it out for yourself. For band information visit their Webster at http://www.paradisepromotions.co.uk/
Rip Carson and the Twilight Trio
Rollin' Rock CD-102
Following the brilliant Mack Stevens CD earlier in the year, Rollin' Rock now come up with another cracker from new boys, Rip Carson and the Twilight Trio. They've wasted no time building a reputation with their manic Stateside shows including an impressive performance at Viva Las Vegas as well as a gig backing Larry "Honey Bunn" Donn. As with Stevens, the live show is something to behold and the proposed Rollin' Rock tour would be a perfect vehicle to show their wares. The band formed two years ago after Carson left West Virginia and settled in California where he met lead guitarist Danny Angulo, double bassman Reece Linley and drummer Charles Henning.
Throughout the CD, Henning and Linley together with the acoustic guitar of Carson, provide a tasty beat with Angulo interjecting with some great authentic fills and lead breaks. They are a self contained unit, with half the sixteen songs written by Carson and Angulo and the rest by Carson alone.
The pace is mostly unrelenting with boppers in the form of Don't Hold Me Baby, Whisky 'n' Water, Gamble My Life Away which has some great pickin' and the meaty Full Of Sin (loved the drumming on this).
There's a couple of acoustic driven tracks which reminded me of the much missed Go Cat Go, So Long and the brilliant You Can Find Another Man. The melody is a bit like Don't Think Twice, It's Alright and it's probably my favourite track. Green In My Pocket has an excellent loping beat as does Get It Through To You with more great drum and bass work together with plenty of Cliff Gallupesque guitar.
All Alone & Blue and Keep Your Pain are tasty neo-western slowies, both with strong vocals and guitar. Two Timin' Woman is a call and response rocker with more hot pickin'. Down That Line is a another in the lonesome western style, with a most impressive vocal performance as is Tornado Love after it's Running Bear start. I Gotta Rock is a stop-start rocker with shades of Gene Vincent in the vocals and Dickie Harrell in the drumming, Angulo also plays his socks off!
Ronnie and Rollin' Rock are really producing the goods, and while this hot streaks lasts it would be the perfect time to get Alvis Wayne back in the studio (together with a spot on the tour!). I saw him in London a couple of weeks ago and he still has the voice - go get him Ron! Perhaps these boys could back him - they're up to it.
LEE ROCKER - LIVE
J-BIRD RECORDS JBD 80289-2 (CD)
RestlessWell this is a bolt from the blue. After the Brian Setzer Orchestra albums and the recent Swing Cats CD (Lee Rocker and Slim Jim Phantom) here comes a post Stray Cats album that rocks, really rocks. Just when we thought they owed more to Sammy Davis than Sammy Masters, Lee Rocker hits us right between the eyes with this storming self-produced live set, full of raunchy rockabilly.
Love Me Good
That's All Right/Blue Moon Of Kentucky/Eastbound And Down
Mind Your Own Business
The Red Neck Mama
Miracle In Memphis
Everybody's Tryin' To Be My Baby
Please Don't Touch
Little Piece Of Your Love
Recorded in L.A. the band consists of Adrian DeMain (ex Big Sandy) and Brophy Dale on guitars and Jimmy Sage on drums and a sterling job they do. Rocker"s doghouse bass is well up in the mix and his powerhouse performance is matched by his urgent vocals.
The ten tracker kicks off with a raucous four minute version of his friend Carl Perkins' Restless. This would make a brilliant single for the Americana format but apparently radio isn't interested because it's live!! What type of people work for these radio stations? He returns to the Perkins songbook later for a fine rocking take on Everybody"s Tryin' To Be My Baby. He also pays tribute to another Sun legend with a great authentic medley of That's All Right/Blue Moon Of Kentucky/Eastbound And Down and Miracle In Memphis. Penned by Rocker and Slim Jim, Miracle In Memphis has got loads of Scotty guitar, a frantic bass driven rhythm and some great lyrics;
Well there's a jukebox in the corner,After paying homage to the king of rock we head to Montgomery to the king of the hillbillies. The version of Mind Your Own Business on the Swing Cats CD was nice but here it's a classic stroller and shows you where Hank might have been had he lived a few more years.
I've played it a million times,
I've just heard a new one,
Blue Moon Of Kentucky shine.
The world stopped spinning,
For a minute it was clear,
Finally heard a music,
I'd been waiting to hear.
There's a miracle in Memphis
Shine a light on you
Once the spirit grabs you
There"s nothing you can do.
There's a miracle in Memphis
Burning down at Sun.
The Red Neck Mama from the Paine brothers is a gutsy blues drenched tribute to lil ol' Southern belles everywhere from Houston to Nashville. If they're as tasty as the song, I want one. Please Don't Touch is a solid stab at the Johnny Kidd & The Pirates UK classic adding little but losing nothing to the original.
Leon Russell's Little Piece Of Your Love kicks off like Rock This Town before turning into a flat-out rocker. It's full of burning guitar and Mike Tyson drumming and must be a real crowd pleaser live. The album closes out with the funky Little Buster, a co-write with Mike Eldred.
Go buy it now, it's available from the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame or via J-Bird Records at http://www.j-birdrecords.com Some record stores will carry it, too. so Check with your local music outlet. This really is the best solo album any of the Cats have ever made and I can't wait for the studio album next spring. The folks at J-Bird should also be congratulated for letting him record in this rockabilly mode without making concessions for the currently popular swing style. "Once the spirit grabs you, there"s nothing you can do."
THE TOWN HALL PARTY TV SHOWS
STARRING EDDIE COCHRAN & GENE VINCENT
ROCKSTAR CD RSRCD 016
EDDIE COCHRAN (with Dick D'Agostin & the Swingers)
February 7th 1959
GENE VINCENT & THE BLUECAPS
25th Oct 1958
GENE VINCENT & Town Hall Party Musicians
7th November 1959
What else do ya need to know? Buy it now! Back in the mid 1970's UA said that the well was dry, there was no more Eddie material to release. Undaunted life long fan and Rockstar label supremo Tony Barrett has made it his mission to disprove UA's glib dismissal. With a fine pedigree from the vinyl eps through this absolute gem of a release, Rockstar has a superb cataogue of Cochran/Vincent releases. Darrel Higham's amazing Cochran Connection cd was my pick of 1998 and this will be the pick of 1999 (and of any other year). As well as the Cochran catalogue Rockstar also was responsible for the legendary Jerry Mercer and Narvel Felts Radio Rockabillies release.
A recent media course I attended said that commentators/reviewers should be impartial and balanced but hell, did Eddie Cochran change their lives back in 1964?? When the postie delivered this goodie today from Mr Hot Rod Pyke I felt the same excitement as I did back in running home from the local record emporium in 74 frantically devouring the sleeve notes of Eddie Cochran "On The Air" lp.
There's a superbly detailed and richly illustrated booklet with all the gen in Rockstar tradition. Tasters of California's seminal Town Hall Party Tv Show have featured on other cds in the past. The interesting history of the show is covered in the booklet. This cd however, answers the prayers of many of us by giving a glimpse of what our heroes sounded like blasting through the ether to those lucky young westerners plonked in front of a black n white tv set. Tv didn't reach the Davies household in North Wales until November 63, the week of JFK's assasination!
First up is Eddie, four days after the death of his friend Buddy Holly, in February 1959. Introduction to the spot is by Jay Stewart and Dick D'Agostin & the Swingers zip through an instumental before Dick ntroduces Eddie. The boys storm through C'Mon Everybody with Connie Guybo Smith's bass well to the fore, Dick's piano adds a new dimension to the song. Catering to the country audience Eddie performs a heartfelt Have I Told You Lately That I Love You featuring the band on backing vocals, Eddie's husky sensual performance draws good applause at the end.
Interesting to compare these performances with Eddie's UK TV shows from a year later. The backing is more sympathetic and the bonus of no Vernon Girls screeching in the background! Rockstar have again confirmed that Eddie was a great fan of New Orleans r&b, by previously giving us his version of Chris Kenner's great Sick 'n Tired (recorded by Eddie before Fats' cover) and here with Eddie's romp through Fat's Don't Blame It On Me. Great growly vocal on this mover with plenty of piano and hard riffing guitar. Paul Coffman takes a good brief sax solo too. A real find this one.
Finishing up his first spot Eddie closes with the now anthemic Summertime Blues, Guybo's bass and the boss' Gretsch in fine unison, Dick providing the deep asides. Enthusiastic applause brings that part to a close. Part two starts with a brief interview of Eddie by Johnny Bond, where they talk about the Cochran Brothers previous appearances on the show. Rockstar are already looking for those shows from April 27 and 28th 1956, which also featured Lefty Frizzel! Some of the band are also interviewed with Eddie singing their praises. A fine articulate and sympathetic interview not at all like Marty Wilde's embarrasing ramblings on the Uk shows.This interview delves as far back as Jimmie Rodgers bluesier sides and lasts around 7 minutes.
Part two starts with Jay Stewart introducing Dick & the Swingers on the instrumental Night Walk with fine rasping sax and atmospheric guitar lick. Eddie opens with Schoolday, with fine guitar and piano, more uptempo and tighter than Berry's original, unfortunately most of the first verse's vocal is off mike but nevertheless the rest is clear and rocks along. Pity Eddie never did a Berry song in the studio. Nice spoken intro by Eddie leads into Gene Autry's Be Honest With Me. Good sax solo here too and Eddie turns in a typical classy ballad vocal.
With a doff of the hat to Elvis, the Drifters Money Honey is next, though Eddie's rasping version is far bluesier than both the other cuts. Eddie closes in fine style with his then current chart hit C'Mon Everybody, down to 51 in Billboard that week (11 weeks in the charts then). A driving rendition which leaves the kids wanting more.
Alas, 14 brief months later it all ended on an English roadway in the early hours of that dark day, but thanks to Rockstar's team we can lift the curtain one more time and glimpse Eddie's talents once more. As excited as this cd will get you, think what the possible video release of this material will do to you if it comes out. I'm off to buy spare boxer shorts now! Top marks to Alan Stoker the audio engineer at the Country Music Foundation who transfered the sound from the original aged kinescope soundtrack, and also Adam Skeaping who mastered the cd. Messres Barrett and Glenister and all involved in this worthy project deserve a place in rock n roll Valhalla.
Suppose I'd better keep Rod happy by mentioning the Vincent shows included here! On October 25th 1958 Jay Stewart introduces Eddie's compadre the immortal Gene Vincent and the Bluecaps. Whilst Steve Aynsley and the fan club have kept Gene's fans ticking over with the Magnum label live/studio recordings this is a taste of prime Capitol era Mr Craddock. Gene n Caps stalk their way through the sublimal (Eat yer heart out Cleveland's alleged hall Of Fame!!) Be- Bop -A - Lula, Caps here are the great Johnny Meek on guitar, Cliff Simmons on 88s, Grady Owen on bass and Clyde Pennington on drums. New Orleans r&b to the fore on Huey Smith's classic High Blood Pressure, with the Caps "Oh Yeah"ing in fine style, nice piano on this lengthy cut. Storming take on Rip It Up follows, Gene's frantic vocalising accentuated by Meek's stinging guitar cutting loose, think I prefer this to the issued Capitol cut.
Second part of the show features the wild cat on Dance To The Bop, the on set photos hint at the frantic but controlled energy on stage with Gene in classic mike leaning mode, clad in black with a light jacket, with his Caps closely clustered around him. Tony where's that video? man we need it now! Then a nice intro to Hank's immortal You Win Again performed as Gene says in the intro in "Jerry Lee Lewis style". A nice tribute to the Killer who was experiencing the sudden fall from fame's fickle hand that would also bedevil Norfolk's finest. From out of left field Gene springs the unexpected, Jerry Butler's great For Your Precious Love, rippling piano and clear guitar intro. Gene 's skill as a balladeer is what places him in the pantheon of all time great vocalists in my opinion. Fantastic rendition, you gotta hear this. Gene prefeaced the song with the news that he was heading north to hospital and would be parting from the Caps for a while(little did we know!). Another leg operation as we now know failed to cure the abuse he'd given the leg night after night on stage. The song encapsulates the sadness that seemed to follow Gene around his all too brief life.
November 7th 1959 saw Gene return to the show "Caps"less alas, though he did have Jerry Merritt on guitar, they'd played in Alaska and Japan before Gene tried to escape personal and business woes by crossing the Atlantic soon afterwards. Just like Eddie he storms through a Chuck Berry classic, Roll Over Beethoven. Even though Jimmy Pruett on piano does his best you feel that the Caps would've turned this into a barnstormer. Gene's melancholic side appears in a most worthy attempt at Over The Rainbow, with Jerry's poignant guitar helping out. The next song is prefaced with the comment "going to do one now, if Capitol records ever catch me they'll probably kill me!!!". Jerry's guitar picks up the beat after a plodding start to She She Little Sheila. Great photos of high school sweater clad Gene on stage here too.If only Gene and the caps could've stayed together or achieved another hit in 1958.
There we have it, nearly one hour of prime time fifties music in this hot little cd. Both artists captured in their final blaze of American glory before crossing the big pond and changing many of our lives over here and sadly hastening the end of their brief time with us. As we approach the millenium we can raise a glass to the many dedicated fans involved here and this fine small but highly worthy label for enabling us to sample what Californian teens took for granted back then. Gene and Eddie, rockers through and through.
ED NOTE: This CD is available in London from the UK Rockabilly Hall of Fame store.
WAIT - THERE'S MORE...
Phil & Shaun's Archive #1