Posts Tagged ‘Rockabilly’

Banditos: Banditos

Saturday, October 17th, 2015

Banditos_BanditosNashville-resident Alabamians surge with boogie, country and soul

No doubt Mary Beth Richardson’s heard enough Janis Joplin comparisons to last a lifetime. But her Joplin-like fervor is arresting, and only one of the ingredients that makes up this Alabama band’s insurgent stew. The flavors are Southern – boogie, country, rockabilly, blues, R&B and soul – but they’re blended loosely rather than mashed together, and each gets a turn in the spotlight with one of the group’s three lead vocalists. The band shows off their instrumental talents and stylistic diversity, but never wanders too far from the gritty, stage-ready drama that is their calling card. The vocals beseech, the guitars buzz, and the band barrels down the track with a load tightened up in a hundred second sets. This is a powerful debut that surely plays well on the road. Make sure to buy the singer a drink and request “Still Sober (After All These Beers).” [©2015 Hyperbolium]

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The Kingbees: The Kingbees

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

Kingbees_KingbeesThe Kingbees’ debut still has its sting thirty-five years later

It’s hard to believe that at thirty-five, this album is nearly a decade older than was rockabilly itself in 1980. The Kingbees emerged in the late ‘70s, alongside the Blasters, Stray Cats, Pole Cats and others, and though primarily known for only this one album (their follow-up, The Big Rock, was stranded by their label’s bankruptcy), it’s among the very best of the 1980s rockabilly revival. The Kingbees laid down a solid backbeat, but weren’t afraid to move beyond the sound of vintage microphones, standup bass and slapback echo. Even better, they had great songs, guitar riffs that crossed classic tone with modern recording sonics, a fiery rhythm section (check out the bass and drum solos on “Everybody’s Gone”) and a terrific vocalist in lead bee, Jamie James.

Produced in the group’s native Los Angeles, the album initially failed to stir commercial interest, but in a page from the book of 1950s record promotion, the band gained a second wind through the regional airplay on Detroit’s WWWW and WRIF. “My Mistake” and “Shake Bop” both charted, and the band’s club performances led some to think they were local. The group’s second album garnered a cameo in The Idolmaker and an appearance on American Bandstand, but that was basically it. The group and their label both disbaned, leaving behind a small but impressive collection of recordings. The albums have been reissued as a twofer, but this remastered anniversary reissue sweetens the debut’s ten tracks with the demos that landed the band a contract, live tracks from a 1980 Detroit show, and a 12-page booklet featuring period photos and new liner notes from Jamie James.

The demos show how fully realized the band’s sound was before they signed with a label; even more impressively, the subsequent studio versions of “My Mistake,” “Man Made for Love” and “Ting a Ling” take the performances up another notch. The latter, a cover of the Clovers’ 1952 doo-wop hit, pairs with an inspired reworking of Don Gibson’s “Sweet Sweet Girl to Me” to show just how thoroughly the group knew what it had to offer. The latter kicks off the album, hotting up Warren Smith’s Sun-era cover in the same way Smith transformed Gibson’s original into rock ‘n’ roll. The live tracks show the trio to be a tight unit with plenty of spark, and the band’s simple, percussive covers of “Not Fade Away” and “Bo Diddley” speak to James’ roots rock inspirations; the former shines with the sheer joy of singing a Buddy Holly song, the latter gives all three players a chance to really lean on the Bo Diddley beat.

James’ originals are superb and sound fresh as he sings about girls, lust, romance, broken hearts and rock ‘n’ roll. “No Respect” builds from a slinky bass line and snappy snare drum to James’ lead guitar, and after a short verse, a sharp solo; Rex Roberts really grabs your attention with his drumming on both “My Mistake” and “Shake-Bop.” There’s a pop-punk edge to the faster numbers, but the rockabilly beat and James’ glorious ‘57 Fender Strat absorb, rather than fetishize the ‘50s roots. Cross-pollinated with the energy of ‘80s power-pop and new wave, the Kingbees forged a rock ‘n’ roll sound that’s proven quite timeless. Omnivore’s reissue features a master by Gavin Lurssen and Reuben Cohen, and includes a 12-page booklet highlighted by period photos and liner notes from Jamie James. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

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Hypercast #5: The Fool Anthology

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

“The Fool” was written by Lee Hazlewood (though credited to his nom de spouse, Naomi Ford, and with a guitar riff borrowed from Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightnin’“), and first waxed by Sanford Clark in 1956. Since then, the song’s been recorded dozens of times across a surprising range of genres. Here, for your irritainment*, are twenty-eight different recordings, clocking it at over ninety-six oddly hypnotic minutes.

* Thanks to artist Gordon Monahan and his Exotic Trilogy series for inspiration.

The Crags: Long Shadow Day

Monday, April 6th, 2015

Crags_LongShadowDayIntoxicating combination of country, punk, rockabilly and surf

When last heard from, this Durango, Colorado band was sporting a charming lo-fi sound. Three years later, their production is richer, their arrangements more polished and their musical scope widened. Tracy Ford sounds like Patti Smith backed by a rockabilly band on the opening “It Can’t Be So Hard,” and just as you’re settling into the two-step groove, Tim Lillyquist lays staccato surf picking into “Walida.” The band’s punk-rock, country, psychobilly, doo-wop and surf sounds are surprisingly sympathetic to one another, with Lillyquist’s guitar and Ford’s varied vocal moods tying it all together. There’s chicken-picking (“Tokyo”), ‘50s styled balladry (“Where Can I Go”) and even drippy neo-psych guitars (“In the Breeze”), and the distance between them all is shorter than you might imagine. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

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NRBQ: Brass Tacks

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

NRBQ_BrassTacksTerry Adams’ latter-day NRBQ keeps chugging along

The discussion no doubt rages on, as to whether founding member Terry Adams’ reconstituted lineup should be using the NRBQ name. Even Adams wasn’t so sure back in 1989. But with the band’s long-time lineup starting to fray in 1994, and an official hiatus ten years later, a number of interrelated projects took the group members in various directions. Adams, who turned out to have been dealing with throat cancer, returned to full-time music-making with the Terry Adams Rock & Roll Quartet in 2007, and four years later, with the rest of NRBQ still dispersed in other bands and projects, reapplied the NRBQ name to his quartet for the album Keep This Love Goin’.

Is it NRBQ? Many of the original band’s fans would probably say ‘no,’ but Adams, guitarist Scott Ligon, drummer Conrad Choucroun and bassist Casey McDonough, certainly carry on the NRBQ ethos of musical taste, deep knowledge and an irreverent sense of adventure. You need a pack full of hyphens to describe their mosaic of R&B, jazz, sunshine pop, country, folk and rockabilly, and their topics range from sweet (“Can’t Wait to Kiss You”) to loopy (“Greetings from Delaware”) to fantastical (“This Flat Tire”), and their music even stretches to a cover of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Getting to Know You” that’s more California sunshine than old Siam. Call them what you will, just make sure to call their music really good. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

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OST: Porky’s Revenge

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

OST_PorkysRevengeA terrific Dave Edmunds-helmed soundtrack to a forgettable film

If you don’t remember, or never knew, the film Porky’s Revenge, don’t be surprised. As the third film in the Porky’s trilogy (filled in the middle by Porky’s II: The Next Day), its sophomoric humor was a tired rehash that had little of the original film’s raunchy charm. What this sequel did have is an inexplicably fine period-influenced soundtrack piloted by Dave Edmunds and stocked with A-list talents that include Jeff Beck, George Harrison, Carl Perkins, Clarence Clemons, Willie Nelson, Robert Plant, Phil Collins, Slim Jim Phantom, Lee Rocker and the Fabulous Thunderbirds.

Edmunds was initially hired to produce only the film’s theme song, but he grew the project into a full original soundtrack – the only one of the series. And by selecting songs and then drafting friends and colleagues to perform (including a backing band of Chuck Leavell, Michael Shrieve and Kenny Aaronson), he elevated the soundtrack well beyond the artistic qualities of the film itself. At the time of the soundtrack’s mid-80s recording, Edmunds was a few years past a commercial run that began with 1979’s “Girls Talk.” But he’d maintained his well-earned reputation for modern-edged roots music, and had recently worked on projects with the Everly Brothers and the Sun class of 1955, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Carl Perkins.

The original album included two Edmunds originals – the bouncy “High School Nights” and the synth-laden instrumental “Porky’s Revenge.” The 2014 CD reissue adds “Don’t Call Me Tonight” (which had appeared two years earlier on Edmunds’ Information), and a Carl Perkins remake of “Honey Don’t.” The bulk of the album is filled with lovingly crafted covers, including Jeff Beck’s impressive take on Santo & Johnny’s “Sleepwalk,” George Harrison’s recording of the obscure Bob Dylan title, “I Don’t Want to Do It,” the Fabulous Thunderbirds torrid version of Lloyd Price’s “Stagger Lee,” Carl Perkins remake of “Blue Suede Shoes” with Perkins’ guitar and the Stray Cats’ rhythm section dialing up some real heat, and Clarence Clemons blowing his thunderous sax on “Peter Gunn Theme.”

Edmunds finishes out his contributions with a bright, double-tracked cover of Bobby Darin’s “Queen of the Hop,” which was also released as a B-side to Harrison’s track. The album included two tracks not overseen by Edmunds: a Chips Moman production of Willie Nelson covering “Love Me Tender,” and a Robert Plant-led cover of Charlie Rich’s “Philadelphia Baby.” Other than the closing instrumental, everything here resounds with Edmunds retro sensibility and the talent of his guests. Perkins shines especially bright, with Slim Jim Phantom and Lee Rocker stoking the rockabilly rhythm. If you missed this the first time around – and most probably did – here’s a chance to get your hands on a truly unexpected treat. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

Various Artists: Moonage Timequake

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

Various_MoonageTimequakeSpace pop, early electronica, rockabilly and outside jazz

Cherry Red’s Righteous label offers up this stellar collection of twenty-seven kitschy, space-themed tunes. Space age bachelor pad collectors may be familiar with the selections drawn from Jimmie Haskell’s 1959 space-twang orchestral-pop classic Count Down!, as well as the orchestra, oscillator and Theremin “Out of This World” from Frank Comstock’s Project: Comstock – Music from Outer Space, but this set stretches much more broadly. In celebration of the moon landing’s fortieth anniversary, the collection reaches back to the late ‘50s and early ‘60s fascination with all things space. The lion’s share of these tracks are early rock, rockabilly and hillbilly boogie, but there’s also early electronic music from Thomas Dissevelt and Theremin virtuoso Samuel J. Hoffman, orchestral scores from Ron Goodwin and Bobby Chistian, and outré jazz from Sun Ra and His Solar Arkestra. Tying it together are snippets of spoken word and dialog, including a short piece from NICUFO founder Frank Stranges. The breadth may be too eclectic for some, but the range demonstrates how widely the space race infiltrated the popular imagination, and the rock ‘n’ roll rarities will set any party on a collision course with fun. [©2013 hyperbolium dot com]

Wanda Jackson: The Best of the Classic Capitol Singles

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

WandaJackson_BestOfTheClassicCapitolSingles

Recent collections of singles from Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Ray Charles and others have shed new light on much-loved performers. In addition to well-known hits, these anthologies highlight the valiant misses and B-sides that faded from an artist’s repertoire as their catalog was reduced to greatest hits collections. Wanda Jackson’s rockabilly and country recordings have been well-served in reissue, with both original albums and anthologies in print, but Omnivore’s 29-track collection provides an expanded view of her career as a singles artist. In addition to her well-loved A-sides “Hot Dog! That Made Him Made,” “Cool Love,” “Fujiyama Mama,” “Honey Bop,” “Mean Mean Man,” “Rock Your Baby,” “Let’s Have a Party,” “Riot in Cell Block Number Nine,” “Right or Wrong,” and “In the Middle of a Heartache,” the set is stocked with ace chart-misses and B-sides.

As early as 1956 Jackson was backing up her incendiary rockabilly singles with country flips that included “Half a Good a Girl” and the maiden recording of Jack Rhodes and Dick Reynolds’ “Silver Threads and Golden Needles.” She added a rockabilly croon to the Cadillacs’ bluesy doo-wop B-side “Let Me Explain” and shined brightly on Boudleaux Bryant’s calypso novelty “Don’a Wan’a.” Her ballads were often backed by Jordanaires-styled male harmonies and hard-twanging guitars (courtesy of A-list players Joe Maphis and Buck Owens) that keep her rock ‘n’ roll roots simmering. Even more straightforward country weepers like “No Wedding Bells for Joe” and “Sinful Heart” have downbeats that are more insistent than their Nashville contemporaries.

Jackson’s original “Little Charm Bracelet” didn’t make the charts, but it’s a cleverly written story of a relationship’s hopeful start and interrupted ending. Fans may be surprised to find that the favorite “Funnel of Love” was actually a B-side (to the country hit “Right or Wrong”), as the release signaled the beginnings of Jackson’s transition to the country charts. Still, even as the A-sides turned country, the B-sides held onto their sass with originals “I’d Be Ashamed” and “You Bug Me Bad,” and a bouncy version of Bobby Bare’s “Sympathy.” The productions are split between Los Angeles (tracks 1-17) and Nashville (tracks 18-29), and while the latter show countrypolitan touches, several of Jackson’s hottest rock ‘n’ roll records were recorded with Roy Clark and other Music City luminaries.

Jackson’s still recording vital new works today, including a 2012 release produced by Justin Townes Earle. There have also been anthologies of her rockabilly sides, best-ofs [1 2], album reissues [1 2 3 4], and box sets that tell the complete story from 1954 through 1973 [1 2]. Every one of these sets has something to offer, as does Omnivore’s look at Jackson’s singles from her rockabilly and initial country years. This isn’t a complete retelling, as its missing non-LP singles and leaves the last decade of her run on Capitol unexplored, but what’s here, all in superbly crafted mono, is terrific. The A-sides are well-known but not worn-out, the B-sides rare treasures, and the 16-page booklet includes fresh liner notes from Daniel Cooper, session and release data, photos and ephemera. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Wanda Jackson’s Home Page

Janis Martin: The Blanco Sessions

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

The original rockabilly filly heats up her final session

If you’re going to cut a rock ‘n’ roll record – a real rock ‘n’ roll record – dropping eleven tracks in two days is the way to do it. Get everyone in a room, run ‘em through the songs once or twice and let it fly. It doesn’t need polish and pitch correction, it needs abandon and raw energy, and rockabilly singer Janis Martin had the latter two in spades. Recorded only a few months before she passed away, these sides find Martin’s voice deeper than her late ‘50s work as “the female Elvis,” and though she no longer had the tone of youth, she still had the fire. Longtime friend Rosie Flores (who’d coaxed Martin into the studio to sing on 1995’s Rockabilly Filly) pulled together a talented band of Austin-based musicians and produced this album of retro-rockabilly in 2007. It’s taken five years to get it released, but it was well worth the wait.

The sessions proved a fitting farewell as drummer Bobby Trimble and upright bassist Beau Sample goose the rhythms as all-star guitarist Dave Biller and pianist T. Jarrod Bonta sling themselves around the vocals. At  67, Martin was still connected to the verve of her teenage years, and prodded by the band – particularly Trimble’s backbeats – she really belts out the tunes. The material is a connoisseur’s collection of R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, rockabilly and country, reaching back to the early years, as well as touch on revival material, like Dave Alvin’s “Long White Cadillac.” Backing vocals fromFloresand a guest duet with Kelly Willis (added in 2011) fill out a terrific final chapter in the career of a genuine rockabilly star. [©2012 Hyperbolium]

Janis Martin at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame
Rosie Flores’ Home Page

Elvis Presley: Elvis Country (Legacy Edition)

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Elvis caps his remarkable comeback

Recorded in 1970 and released in 1971, Elvis Country was the culmination of a remarkable career resurrection. Starting with his 1968 Comeback Special, Elvis went on to reel off the brilliant From Elvis in Memphis (and the second-helping, Back in Memphis), the smartly constructed Vegas show of On Stage, and the studio/live That’s the Way It Is. He capped the run with this 1971 return to his roots, branding these country, gospel, blues, rockabilly and western swing covers with authority. Elvis showed his genius was rooted in his passion for music, which encompassed everything from the early rockabilly of Sanford Clark’s “The Fool” (written, surprisingly, by Lee Hazlewood) to the then-contemporary hit “Snowbird,” as well as classics from Ernest Tubb, Lester Flatt & Bill Monroe, Willie Nelson and Hank Cochran.

Recorded in RCA’s famed Studio B with Presley regulars James Burton, Charlie McCoy and Chip Young; the newly assembled studio hands included several players from the Muscle Shoals powerhouse, and the sessions were produced by Felton Jarvis. The arrangements ranged from loose, down home country jams to Vegas-styled orchestrations, and hearing the variety back-to-back, one quickly realizes how easily Elvis transcended the musical boundaries between his ‘50s roots and his glitzy ‘70s stage shows. Much like the 1969 American Studio sessions in Memphis, Elvis’ enthusiasm and musicality directs the assembled players and provokes top-notch performances; he leads the crew through a rocking workout of Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and brings “Tomorrow Never Comes” to a volcanic climax.

The original album tracks are knit together with snippets of “I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago,” a gimmick that some listeners find irritating, and which wreaks havoc on shuffle play; the complete take is included in the bonuses. An earlier CD reissue expanded the track count from twelve to eighteen, and this double-CD pushes the total to twenty-nine, including all six earlier bonuses. Disc two opens with the third-helping of the Nashville sessions, previously released as Love Letters from Elvis, and adds three more session bonuses: the singles “The Sound of Your Cry” and “Rags to Riches,” and the album track “Sylvia.” The broad range of material on Love Letters doesn’t always connect with Elvis’ legacy as tightly as that on Elvis Country, but Elvis is in fine voice on each track, and the assembled players are sharp.

Everything here’s been issued before, but pulling together session material previously spread across singles, albums, box sets and latter-day compilations has created a superb recounting of the last chapter of Elvis’ incredible comeback. Not included are the eight Nashville tracks released as part of That’s the Way It Is. A third-disc with banded versions of Elvis Country (minus the musical segues, that is) would have been a great addition, but even without it, this is an excellent expansion upon previous standalone reissues, and a terrific complement to the Legacy editions of From Elvis in Memphis and On Stage. The remastered discs (by Vic Anesini) are housed in a tri-fold digipack with a booklet that includes liner notes by Stuart Colman and terrific photos. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]