Virgil

Josie Kreuzer

Josie Kreuzer – Hot Rod Girl

SheDevil Records – SheDev1950 [1997]
Wild Man – Ball That Jack – Long Dark Night – Runaway Train – So-Called Boyfriend – I Waited Up – Honey Pie – Dead Man Walkin’ – Eyes Of Whiskey – Ain’t Got A Thing – You’re Not Doin’ Me Right – One Way Love

Josie Kreuzer Hot Rod Girl

After the demise of Whistle Bait, Josie Kreuzer recorded and produced her debut solo album at Golden Track Recording Studios in San Diego, in the fall of 1996. She released it the following year on her own She-Devil label.
On this album, Kreuzer was backed by Buzz Campbell, Johnny d’Artenay and Ty Cox from Hot Rod Lincoln. Most songs are originals penned by Kreuzer, some having been played and tested on stage during the Whistle Bait days. It also contains two covers: Sonny Burgess’s Aint Got A Thing, and Donna Darlene’s You’re Not Doing Me Right.
It’s a very solid effort, especially for a debut album, considering the fact that Kreuzer sings and is also in charge of the production. Maybe an external ear could have helped her refine some vocal takes, the singer being off-key on You’re Not Doing Me Right, and some phrase ends are not always pleasant. But those are minor flaws, and Kreuzer’s high-pitch nasal vocals, close to Wanda Jackson, does wonder on most of the tracks, and Hot Rod Lincoln provides solid backing, sometimes aiming at a Neo-Rockabilly sound (So-Called Boyfriend).


Josie Kreuzer – As Is

SheDevil Records – SheDev1951 [1999]
As Is – Ain’t Got A Clue – Just Lookin’ Pretty – Hey Sheriff – I Hope It Doesn’t Rain Today – Big City, Small Town – Just Passing Through Your Heart – With A Sigh – Too Many Mistakes – Wild Fire – So Gone About You – 12 Dollars & A Heartache – Long Way Home

As Is

In 1999, Kreuzer released her second album, which was even better than the first one. The vocals were better, the production was better, and the songs (all penned by the singer) were excellent and varied. It found Kreuzer going more into a hillbilly bop direction, with the presence of a steel guitar on some tracks. The backing band consisted of Mike Kraus on guitar, Jeff Kraus on double bass, Marc Clarke on drums and Dana Duplan on steel. Also, Teri Tom of Whistle Bait played the lead guitar on one tune.


Josie Kreuzer – Beggin’ Me Back

SheDevil Records – SheDev1952 [2002]
Lucky & Wild – Good Time Girl (And A Thunderstorm) – After I Stop Lovin’ You – Gone Fishin’ – Beggin’ Me Back – Why ? – Keep Your Change – Reminder To Remember (To Forget Him) – Read The Lipstick On The Wall – Can’t Complain – 10 % – My Sin (Mi Pecado)

Josie Kreuzer Beggin' Me Back

Kreuzer’s third (and last) album appeared in 2002, still on She-Devil Records. She is supported by a new group consisting of Jeff Graves (aka Rip Carson) on double bass and Craig Packham on drums. But the main change, compared to the two previous albums, comes from the singer delegating the production to Mark Neill (who also plays the guitar). Owner of Soil of the South studios, Neill produced and recorded bands like Big Sandy and the Fly-Rite Trio, the Lucky Stars, Deke Dickerson, the Smith’s Ranch Boys, and the Sprague Brothers, to name a few. This is, by far, Kreuzer’s best effort.
The sound is more compact and better balanced. As for the vocals, they have refined over time while remaining so recognizable. Having an external ear allows her to correct certain vocal flaws. The repertoire gains in variety and emotions (which the first album lacked a bit). Lucky and Wild opens the album and immediately grabs your legs, only to release you about thirty minutes later with the superb and Latin-tinged My Sin (Mi Pecado). In between, you find songs like After I Stop Lovin’ You à la Johnny Cash, Why, a traditional Rockabilly number, Reminder To Remember (to Forget Him), a nod to Elvis’ I Forgot to Remember to Forget Her and Read the Lipstick On The Wall where we hear all the know-how of Mark Neill (listen to the sound of the snare drum and the acoustic guitar to convince you of it).

Josie Kreuzer on Spotify

Frenzy

Frenzy – Hall of Mirrors

Nervous NER016 [1985]
One last chance – Schitzophrenic emotions – Choice – Hall of mirrors(1) – Frenzy – Asylum moves – Skeleton rock – Sweet money – Ghost train – Long gone – Surfin’ bird – Was it me? – Wound up – Frustration – Hall of mirrors(2) – Robot riot – Cry or die – All alone – Torment

Frenzy – Hall of mirrors

If a label “classic psychobilly album” would exist, Hall Of Mirror would be among the first to deserve it.
In 1983, the split of the Sharks allowed Steve Whitehouse to fully concentrate on his new project: Frenzy. By many aspects Frenzy were more adventurous than the Sharks. It marked a new step for the psychobilly scene that was in full bloom and the band went into musical territories rarely explored by slap bass led combos. The recording of Hall Of Mirrors, produced by Paul “Doc” Stewart, began with Simon Brand on guitar and Merv Pepler on drums, this trio having already released one ep for a Dutch label (included on the cd reissues of this album). But Brand quickly left the band (he later formed Torment) with only three songs ready for the forthcoming album (Frustration, Frenzy, Sweet Money).
Whitehouse eventually hired Kev Saunders to complete the album. Both Saunders and Pepler came from different musical horizons and combined with the double bassist’s rockabilly background the result was an unusual, unique and explosive combination.

Frenzy
Frenzy

Musically speaking, Whitehouse fast slapping and technique proved to be a lasting influence for the many psychobilly bassmen that followed.
Hall Of Mirrors offered originals (including a reworking of the Sharks’ Skeleton Rock) and one cover (Surfin’ Bird) probably the only weak track of the album (but who could come after the Trashmen and the Cramps?).
The lyrics also set up new standard. I addition to the usual crew of ghosts, skeleton etc. you can also find songs about madness, frustration and teenage angst.
Brilliant!


Frenzy – Clockwork Toy

I.D. Records ‎– NOSE 8 [1986]
Clockwork Toy – I See Red – Misdemeanour – Nightmares – Love Is the Drug – Mexican Radio – Howard Hughes – In My Prison – Aftermath – Nobody’s Business

Frenzy - Clockwork Toy
Frenzy – Clockwork Toy

With Clockwork Toy, Frenzy confirmed their status of “Psychobilly band with more than two ideas in their songs”. The accent is put on arrangements and variations, giving more elaborated melodies (and sometimes more pop sounding) than your usual fast paced rockabilly (Misdemeanour, Clockwork Toy, Howard Hughes…). And if Whithehouse’s heavy slap bass links the whole thing to the rockabilly idiom (listen to “I See Red” – which spent some decent time in the indie charts – or “Nightmares“), the sound of the guitar doesnt owe anything to the genre. There’s a lot of production work. A powerfull live band, they also want to prove they can deliver a “real” album and not only a hastily live in the studio recording of stage favorites. These’ll remain a constant (with varied degrees of success) in Frenzy’s carreer. Retrospectivly, it sometimes turns to the disadvantage of the band and this will to explore technology shows its limits. The synthetizer’s sound on “Love Is A Drug” (yes Roxy Music’s one) or the drums on “Howard Hughes” sound terribly dated now, and let’s say it, very cheap.
But this minor flaws left aside, Clockwork Toys is as important, for different reasons, as their debut album and still stands today as a classic of the genre.
It’s later been reissued on cd with two b-sides from the same period and 3 songs from Sally’s Pink Bedroom

Frenzy

Frenzy – Sally’s Pink Bedroom

I.D. Records – NOSE 19 [1987]
The Red Book – Sign Of The Times – The Hunt – Game Of Love – Satisfaction – House On Fire – Like Father, Like Son – Man At The Top – Blue Eyes – Jumped The Gun – Run To You – Gotta Go!

Recorded in October 1987 and released the following month, Sally’s Pink Bedroom is Frenzy’s unloved album. On its release, it was shunned by a large part of the fans who criticized it for its polished sound, its arrangements, its covers of artists such as Tubeway Army, Katrina & the Waves or Bryan Adams and, oh sacrilege, its artwork on which Steve Whitehouse proudly poses with an electric bass.
Especially Psychobilly lovers did not find the group’s identity in this album, which had stormed the scene with two almost-perfect albums. In the end, Sally’s Pink Bedroom suffered a fate similar to Restless’s After Midnight.
But if we look more closely, this evolution was in germ from Clockwork Toy (after all, there is already a cover of Roxy Music’s Love Is A Drug). In addition, Whitehouse is a musician who has never hidden his interest in groups that go beyond the simple framework of music rooted in Rockabilly. Besides, was it not to escape a rockabilly scene that was too narrow-minded that he threw himself into the nascent Psychobilly, first with the Sharks, then Frenzy? The same goes for Kev Saunders and Merv Peppler.
But what about this album? Is it as catastrophic as the reputation that precedes it wants to say? Well no! I’m not saying this is the album I would use to introduce someone to Frenzy (do not exaggerate), but if you approach it with an open and curious mind, you’ll find more than enough to please you.
First, let’s get rid of the big crash, the industrial incident: their version of Satisfaction. Forget it! Once this done, we can seriously approach the rest of the album. This consists of two parts. One includes House On Fire, Man At The Top, The Hunt, Jumped The Gun (all written by the band), and Gotta Go, the G-Men (ex-Blue Cats) cover. These five songs are an extension of Clockwork Toy. House On Fire is quite simply one of the best songs ever recorded by Frenzy. Likewise, Man At The Top and Jumped the Gun demonstrate the band’s talent for composing songs with more than two melodic ideas, a skill many bands must envy. And what about the take on Gotta Go? Do you know many covers superior to the original version? Did Whitehouse suspect while recording this song that he would join the Blue Cats many years later?
The second group, composed of the remaining songs, shows a group experimenting and having fun. These songs are different from what you usually find on a Psychobilly record (but after all, it doesn’t say anywhere that it’s a Psychobilly record). Above all, these are good songs, no matter what label you put on them. Game Of Love (Katrina and the Waves) is a skilful cross between a sixties song and a Billy Idol track, while Run To You (Bryan Adams) has a little Soul side revisited by the 80s, finally quite close to what the Rockats did with One More Heartache.
Admittedly, Pat Collier’s production spoils a bit and seems quite dated today, especially on Sign Of The Time and Red Book, but the melodies and rhythms remain unstoppable.
If you own this album, do not hesitate to take it out of the limbo in which you left it 35 years ago. If you don’t have it, take off your blinders and enjoy the music (not the awful cover art.)


Frenzy – Live at the 100 Club

Nervous Records NER 033 – Raucous Records [1988]
I see red – Misdemeanour – Love is the drug 4.House on fire – Howard Hughes – The hunt – Clockwork toy – Migraine – Gotta go! – It’s All Over Now – Robot riot

Frenzy - Live at the 100 Club
Frenzy – Live at the 100 Club

In the quantity of live albums released by psychobilly bands, many were disappointing, whether they were poorly recorded (remember the Live & Loud serie on Link) or the band wasn’t able to recreate the studio recordings on stage. Among the best you find The Long Tall texansFive Beans In The Wheel, The SharksLive In Japan, a couple of Meteors and… Frenzy’s Live At The 100 Club. Recorded in 1986, it’s a magic combination of a perfect recording and a tight band of true professionnals, playing at that time 150 dates per year. The set draws heavily into Clockwork Toy recorded that same year.They kick off with a roaring version of their indie charts hit I See Red. Misdemeanor quickly follows, featuring a pumping slap bass, showing how good Steve Whitehouse is.Roxy Music’s Love Is A Drug is far better than the album version. The keyboards parts being replaced by a guest saxophonist giving a bit of a ska touch. They alternate “straight in your face” wild numbers (House On Fire) with their more complex and melodic songs (Clockwork Toy, Howard Hughes) with equal degrees of success. Next are a couple of covers, The Ricochets’Migraine, The G-Men’s Gotta Go and a epic 8 minute It’s All Over Now a song previously performed by Withehouse in The Sharks’ set. This perfect disc ends with a 100 mp/h rendition of their “early” classic Robot Riot that almost manages to make you forget the studio version. Issued on vinyl by Nervous in 1988, it’s been reissued by Raucous in 2001.


Frenzy – The Very Best-Of

Rage CD 107 [1990]

Frenzy - best-of
Frenzy – best-of

A very good overview of the band’s seven first years including songs from Hall Of Mirrors, Clockwork Toy and This Is the Fire as well as unreleased stuff like Long Gone recorded live at Hemsby and some b-sides too.


Frenzy – Live in Japan

Raucous Records RAUCD046
Nervous Breakdown- Clockwork Toy – Misdemeanour – Hall of Mirrors – I See Red – This is the Fire – CC Rider – Love is a Drug – Mad Mad World – Brand New Gun – Long Gone – Tush – Robot Riot – It’s All Over Now – Cry or Die

Frenzy Live in Japan

Another very good live album recorded in Japan (see Restless and the Sharks for others great live albums recorded in jpan with Steve Whitehouse) in 1993.

It’s a very powerful set with all the classics and a couple of covers like Brand New Gun (Tall Boys), Tush (ZZ Top), Nervous Breakdown (Cochran), CC Rider (Elvis) and Royx Music’s Love is a Drug.

It’s very different – and yet very complementary – to Live at the 100 Clubsince Carl Parry has a very Metal sound compared to Kev Saunders who was more ‘new wave meets rockabilly’. It sometimes a bit too much, but more often than not it works very well, even with the songs from Hall of Mirror and Clockwork Toy.

The Rockats / Secret Hearts

Rockats (the) – Start Over Again

Cleopatra Records CLO3052CD [2022]
Nervous Breakdown – This Is The Night – You\’re My Baby – 50 Miles From Nowhere – Rock Baby Rock (All Night Long) – Rockabilly Swamp – Start Over Again – Lucky Old Rockabilly (Walking Down The Pike) – Rock Around With Ollie Vee – Working Man – Rockabilly Doll – Tanya Jean

Start over again

Good things come to those who wait, they say. The latest Rockats album (Rockin’ Together) was released in 2013. Since then, there have been rumours of new recordings, but nothing has materialized. Finally, when fans were losing hope, the Rockats got together, or so to say, and recorded this fantastic new album. The recordings took place between August and November 2021. Due to the pandemic and the fact that each member lived in a different state or country, the musicians recorded their parts separately.
Start Over Again contains ten new tracks and a remastered version of their single from 1980. Each member of every classic Rockats line-up is present—Dibbs, Barry, Smutty and Danny, of course, but also Mike Osborn and Lewis King. Tim Scott and Tony Darnell can be heard with the reissue of the single, and Jerry Nolan’s spirit floats on the album with the new version of Start Over Again, a song he co-wrote. A picture shot by Mike Rock, who took some of the band’s best photos and sadly passed away in 2021, is used for the cover. Clem Burke, of Blondie’s fame, completes the line-up.
It’s an excellent album containing new songs, covers (Cochran’s Nervous Breakdown, Buddy Holly’s Rock Around With Ollie Vee, Bob Luman’s This Is The Night and Roy Orbison’s You’re My Baby) and re-recordings of songs that first appeared on the Live At the Ritz album. The sound and the production are perfect, and special credit must be given to Danny Harvey for this. It’s a powerful Rock’n’Roll album with a singer on top and two guitars that trade hot and inventive solos one after another.
Most of all, they managed to give a breath of fresh air to these well-known covers. Once given the Rockats treatment and become Rockats songs.
With Brian Setzer’s recent stuff (Gotta Have the Rumble), Start Over Again is the best thing modern Rockabilly can provide. Maybe we had to wait for nearly a decade, but it was worth every minute.
Available on vinyl and digipack.


The Rockats – Rockin’ Together

Lanark [2013]
Why The Doubt – Rockin’ Together – Bad Love – Road To Hell – Kitten With a Whip – Old Hickory Road – Pink and Black Cadillac – Reckless – Red Headed Rockin’ Gal – Sweet Sweet Charlotte – Tear The Roof Off – Why Do You Love Me

Rockin' together
The Rockats – Rockin’ Together

For many young Rockabilly fans who, like me, discovered this music in the 80’s, Levi & the RockatsLive At the Louisiana Hayride and the RockatsLive at the Ritz were almost as important the Stray Cats debut album for their rockin’ education. They influenced countless bands (including a certain trio from Masapequa) and still continue today. So what was my surprise when I heard that after a 10 year hiatus the Rockats were back with a brand new studio album. Not a best-of, not a live, but 12 brand new sparkling songs written by the band (and their producer Quentin Jones who made a terrific job). And believe me cats, you should hide your kittens for this boys are still full of energy and they claws are sharper than ever.

Rockin’ Together kicks off with The Doubt a superb modern rockabilly that sets the pace of the album: Dibbs’ vocal on top, solid guitars and rhythm section and top notch production. The title tracks lives to its name. Why Do You Love Me (If I Don’t Treat You Right) is a superb modern number that a strong commercial appeal without selling itself. Next is The Road to Hell a pure Rockabilly with an Elvis feel and featuring what Brian Setzer calls in his liner notes “the twin rockabilly guitar attack” of Barry Ryan and Danny Harvey.

Another highlight for the guitars is the surf tinged instrumental Kitten with a Whip penned by drummer Mike Osborn. With the next tune, they prove to be more than able on the honky tonk side with Olde Hickory Road featuring harmony vocal, piano and pedal steel effect on the guitar. They definitely should do more like this (actually you should try Dibbs’ solo album for more in that style). By comparison, Red Headed Rockin’ Gal is more on the blues side completed by finger snaps for that late 50’s rock’n’roll feel. You can find the same feel in Sweet Sweet Charlotte a rockaballad with echo not far from Gene Vincent.

Then the album ends with a string of three rockers. Starting with Tear the Roof Off (very appropriate name), going harder with Bad Love (not that far from a rockin’ Morrissey) and climaxing with the hot rocker Reckless Rebel again featuring strong guitar parts.

As a result, this is a great album and one thing is certain: the Rockats will continue to inspire many more bands!

More infos at www.lanarkrecords.net


The Rockats – Plays Elvis

Heartbreak Hotel – Baby Let’s Play House – Blue Moon – Good Rockin’ Tonight

 plays Elvis

This four-track mini cd was a Japan bonus sold with Downtown Saturday Night. I don’t think it was available separately.
The title says it all, what you’ll find are four Elvis Presley covers. Being the excellent singer he is, Dibbs has no problem to revisit the King’s repertoire.
Barry Ryan plays two hot and bluesy solos on Heartbreak Hotel (which also, like the original, features a piano.) Back to straight Rockabilly with Baby Let’s Play House. Though they remain respectful to the originals, the band bends the songs to make them fit in their style. This is by no mean a sterile act of recreation.
The highlight of this EP is the cover of Blue Moon. The band had an excellent idea to blend the melody with Sleepwalk. The result gives a very atmospheric mood, almost like a dream while Preston flies over this version with class and elegance only attained by Chris Isaak (and Elvis) before him.
The closing number is a smoking rendition of Good Rockin’ Tonight.
Though it’s not easy to find, it definitely worths the hunt.


Rockats (the) – Make That Move

RCA [1983]
Burning – One More Heartache – That’s the Way – Go Cat Wild – Never So Clever – Make That Move – Be Bop A Lula – Woman’s Wise

Rockats make that move

With Make that move the Rockats slowly departed from their neo-rockabilly sound to explore new territories. It was recorded in two sessions; the first one with Lewis King on drums for the title track and Marvin Gaye’s One More Heartache and the second with new drummer Mike Osborne. Both were produced by Mike Thorne of Soft Cell’s Tainted Love fame.

The result is a mix of all the things that influenced the band at the time. Never so Clever and their cover of Buzz and the Flyers Go Cat Wild are straight rockin’ tunes though with a modern sound. On the other hand That’s the Way (with keyboards) and One More Heartache have a strong new wave influence. And right between those two extremities you have Make That Move, a modern rocker with a catchy melody and the excellent Burnin’ that wouldn’t be out of place on Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell.
The cd reissue contains two bonus tracks recorded for the movie Where the Boys are.


Rockats (the) – Live at the Ritz

Island – ILPS 9626 [1981]
Rockin’ Baby – Rite Time – My Way – Go Kat Wild – (Don’t Treat Me Like A Dog) Love This Kat – Start Over Again – Krazy Baby – 50 Miles From Nowhere (A 1000 Miles From Home) – (Knockin’) At My Front Door – Wrong Rite Reason – Room To Rock – All Thru The Nite – I Wanna Bop

the Rockats - Live at the Ritz
the Rockats – Live at the Ritz

Signed to Island records, the next and natural move for the Rockats was to release a lp. After a failed attempt to capture their energy in studio, the label decided to record them in their natural environment: the stage. The result was Live at the Ritz, recorded, mixed and pressed in 48 hours. After an enthusiastic and drunken introduction by Billy Idol, the gang kicks off with Rockin’ Baby, a boppin’ rockabilly with fine Gallupin’ guitar. With the second song, Rite Time, the doubt is no longer possible: we are in 1981 not 1956. The Rockats don’t re-create, they totally make the genre their own by including elements of their era like Punk, as proved by their rendition of Cochran’s My Way, covering contemporary bands like Buzz and the Flyers (Go Kat Wild) and writing their own originals (All Thru The Nite; 50 Miles From Nowhere…).
Sure, their youthful exhuberance can sometimes lead to confusion but much to the chagrin of some purists, this bravado is closer to what Gene Vincent or Billy Lee Riley should sound on stage and despite some minor flaws the full platter is a neo-rockabilly rollercoaster. Culminating with the wild Krazy Baby, it contains just a few slower numbers to let you take your breath like the torrid Love this Kat (written by Bobby and Larson Paine who later wrote stuff for Brian Setzer and Stray Cats) and the bluesy Start All Over Again, quite close to the early Rolling Stones.
Listening to this album more than 30 years later, it is impossible not to aknowledge the huge influence the Rockats had on the whole rockin’ scene.
As the time of writing this it hadn’t, to my knowledge, been properly reissued on cd, except maybe in Japan.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Read the whole Rockats story here.

Sabrejets (the)

Sabrejets (the) – The Restless Kind

Raucous Records – RAUCD288 [2021]
You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone – Hell Yeah! – Tennessee Flat Top Bop – If I Gotta Explain – Faster Than The Eye Can See – Lightnin’ – Blue Moon Baby – Don’t Turn Your Back On Love – I Got The Shakes – Train To Hell – Zorita – Someone’s On The Loose – You Don’t Love Me – Storm In A D-Cup – The Restless Kind

sabrejets

The Sabrejets from Belfast have been on the Rock’n’Roll scene for some time now. But time doesn’t seem to have a hold on them, and the band is still just as creative, energetic and biting, to say the least.
Their new album, appropriately named the Restless Kind, is clear proof of this. This record demonstrates that with almost 70-year-old recipes drawn from Johnny Burnette and Chuck Berry (to name just two), one can produce a powerful and inventive Rock’n’Roll album. Because it is Rock’n’Roll that we are talking about, the real deal, the unadulterated and original one. The dangerous version, always on the edge, not this bastardized version that the media tries to sell us. I let you put here the names you want, there are too many, and I don’t have the time or the desire to dive into it. I prefer to talk about the Sabrejets, which give back their letters of nobility to this music. They approach it in a pure and straightforward way, and if I were not afraid that it would be taken pejoratively, I would say naive. We have four guys who know their stuff and play this music, not because they hope to sell records or gather huge crowds, but because it runs in their blood. It’s obvious from the first track that grabs you right away. Throughout the fifteen songs, one can hear references, a bit of Burnette in one intro, the same kind of tension as in Johnny Horton’s I’m Comin’ Home in another, or the Meteors’ aggressiveness a little further, but the result is always 100% Sabrejets. It’s always exciting, and it never feels like a band on autopilot each time our interest is revived, either by a Surf/Hot Rod instrumental (Lightnin’) or by a surprising melodic song with pop accents (Don’t Turn Your Back On Love). Most songs are written by Brian Young, the singer-guitarist or Liam Killen, the guitarist. Three well-chosen covers complete the set: Dave Diddle Day’s Blue Moon Baby (sung by Bill Johnston, the bassist), Willie Cobb’s You Don’t Love Me and ex-Whirlwind Nigel Dixon’s Someone’s on the Loose.

Get this album as soon as possible, and a good tip, crank up the sound!

Available here

The Sabrejets on facebook

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Bang Bang Bazooka

Bang Bang Bazooka – S/T

Count Orlock R.O.C.K. IV [1988]
Wild One – Dirty Hound – I’m Gonna Love You Too – Stop It Baby – Cheetah Man – Rockin’ Shock – Drive – Rocky Mountain Blues – Goldrush – Red Dress -The Blues That I Hate – Black Widow – Vampire

Rene van Lersel (drums) formed Bang Bang Bazooka in 1987 with Marcel Hoitsema (vocals and guitar), Francois Besson (guitar), Bart Gevers(double bass) and Rene van Lersel (drums).
Their first album saw the light of day the following year. Their sound combines traditional Rockabilly with metal. Despite being uneven in the songwriting, a totally wasted cover of Buddy Holly’s I’m Gonna Love You Too, this album contains a healthy dose of good ideas and originality that saves the final result.

Bang Bang Bazooka – True Rebel

Count Orlock C.O.C.K. VIII [1990]
Frankenstein Rock – Big City – True Rebel – Outlaw Man – Crime On Time – Human Alligator – Gonna Have A Ball – And I Play – Long Black Train – Joe Survived – Big John – Crimson Moon

bang bang bazooka

In 1990, Count Orlock released True Rebel, the band’s second album. It was dedicated to Arno V.D. Wassenberg, the band’s roadie who tragically died in a car accident.
True Rebel sounds like a better and more accomplished version of their debut album. Having Dick “Hardrock-abilly” Kemper in the producer’s seat marks an improvement in terms of production.
The songwriting is better too. A song like Frankenstein Rock, which shows the influence of Batmobile, could easily find its place on Sex Starved or Hard Hammer Hits. They also developed a more aggressive brand of neo-rockabilly by adding elements of Metal and Glam Rock (hence the presence of Crimson Moon, a cover of T-Rex) and even some Boogie Blues.
The guitar is powerful and very present, and the band makes good use of the two guitars even though the lead can sometimes be too intrusive.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Brian Setzer Orchestra

Brian Setzer Orchestra (the) ‎– 25! Live!!!

Surfdog Records ‎– 56800-1 [2017]
 Let There Be Rock – Gene & Eddie

brian setzer orchestra

Brian Setzer and Surfdog released this 12″ single for Record Store Day in 2017. Only one thousand copies were pressed.
 The A-side is a cover of AC/DC’s Let There Be Rock. And it sure rocks! The orchestra and the leader are firing on all cylinders, while the song seems to have been written for a big band. One can’t say the same of Gene and Eddie. This tribute to the two pioneers is originally a shot of pure Rock’n’roll, but the big band arrangement makes it sound more like Elvis in Las Vegas rather than 1956 and doesn’t bring much to the song. Other Stray Cats songs, like Look At That Cadillac, Lucky Charm, or Beautiful Blues, to name but three, would be more adapted.
 Anyway, this is a beautiful object in coloured vinyl, and Let There Be Rock is one of the best covers recorded by the Brian Setzer Orchestra. So if you stumble upon a copy, don’t hesitate!


Brian Setzer Orchestra – Don’t Mess With A Big Band Live

Surfdog
 Disc 1: Batman – Drive Like Lightning Crash Like Thunder – ’49 Mercury Blues – Good Rockin’ Daddy – Your True Love – The Dirty Boogie – Sleepwalk – Honey Man – This Cat’s On a Hot Tin Roof – Summertime Blues
Disc 2: Runaway Boys – Gina – Gene & Eddie – Fishnet Stockings – Stray Cat Strut – Jump Jive an’ Wail – Rumble In Brighton – Rock This Town – House is Rockin’

Brian Setzer Orchestra - Don't Mess With A Big Band Live
Brian Setzer Orchestra – Don’t Mess With A Big Band Live

When Surfdog and Brian Setzer announced that they would release live recordings found in their vault, it sounded interesting. But the excitement soon turned to disappointment when the show and the setlist were revealed. Recorded during the early 2009 Japan tour, the double album (19 tracks) contains once again Sleepwalk, Summertime Blues, The Dirty Boogie, Runaway Boys, Gene & Eddie, Stray Cat Strut, Rumble In Brighton and Rock This Town. Sure some of them are classics and must be in a Setzer show but why the guitarist keeps playing Gene & Eddie remains a complete mystery to me. This live album was the occasion to release some unusual tracks. One can have some regrets when you know that the band played some very rare songs during this tour, like Cry Baby, Ring Of Fire, Maybe Baby, Peggy Sue, Orange Blossom Special or For Lisa with the violin and the clarinet.
 Instead of that, it’s once again the same thing. The only songs not present on previous live recordings are Batman, Honey Man (could be good without those awful singers), Gina, and The House Is Rockin’.
 The band itself doesn’t sound very tight, and the arrangements are loose, especially in the trio part, where the comparison with the team Winchester/Dresel does not favour the new rhythm section. Sure the sound is good (but not exceptional either), but is that enough to buy this album (they could, at least, have included the whole show)? I’ll let you judge.
 Even the ugly cover reveals a hastily made project.


Brian Setzer Orchestra – Wolfgang’s Big Night Out

Surfdog
Take The 5th – One More Night With You – Wolfgang’s Big Night Out – Honey Man – Yes We Can Can – Swingin’ Willie – Sabre Dance – For Lisa – Here Comes The Broad – 1812 Overdrive – Some River In Europe – Take A Break Guys

Brian Setzer Orchestra - Wolfgang's Big Night Out
Brian Setzer Orchestra – Wolfgang’s Big Night Out

Note : the reviewers of the Rockabilly Chronicle have different points of view about this album which explains the two reviews.

Brian Setzer has widely been credited as being responsible for the revitalization of two music genres: rockabilly—as the frontman of the Stray Cats—and swing, as leader of the Brian Setzer Orchestra. When I heard of Setzer’s plans to record Wolfgang’s Big Night Out, an album of classical masterpieces with a big band twist, my curiosity was piqued. My exposure to the classics had been limited to hotel lobby music, Looney Tunes cartoons and my husband’s collection of Robert Schumann recordings. Could Brian Setzer breathe new life into one of the oldest music styles ever?
The answer? Yes, he can.
Setzer and company take an electrified romp through a dozen classical standards, from “Take the 5th”—an adaptation of Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5” , and a fine showcase of Setzer’s guitar wizardry—to “Take a Break Guys”, an interesting cover of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (think Cream playing Christmas tunes after an acid trip). Classical music novices will immediately recognize “Swingin’ Willie”—a reworking of Rossini’s “William Tell Overture”—as the theme from television’s “The Lone Ranger”. The new version screams “big band” so loudly that you’d think your grandfather had cranked up the volume on his record player.
To supplement the traditional instrumentals, Brian Setzer and crew give an interesting spin to a couple of classics with the addition of vocals. “One More Night with You”, adapted from Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King”, swings with booming drums, a Setzer guitar solo and lots of horns. The remake is well constructed and so completely different from the original that one would think it to be a freshly composed song. “Honey Man”, an updated version of “Flight of the Bumblebee”, features BSO backup singers Julie Reiten and Leslie Spencer-Smith sharing lead vocal duties. Setzer’s fingers fly in a fiery performance, possibly his best on the entire album, proof positive that Brian Setzer is one of the finest guitarists around.
While “One More Night with You” and “Honey Man” are impressive, Setzer’s take on Beethoven’s “Fur Elise”, “For Lisa”, is not. The tune consists of a violin backed by acoustic guitar and a soft drumbeat, and lacks the joy and power of the majority of the record. The signature Setzer sound is noticeably absent from the song, which would have greatly benefited from Brian just ripping it out on his Gretsch.
Although it misses the occasional step, Wolfgang’s Big Night Out is a fine display of Brian Setzer’s ability to adapt any music style and make it his own. Unusual, energetic and, overall, entertaining, Wolfgang’s Big Night Out is a must-have for this Setzer fan.

Denise Daliege-Pierce


Playing classical music with a non-classical band is not a new idea. Bob Wills did it in the 30s with William Tell, and Spade Cooley almost turned that into a trademark with tunes by Bizet (Carmen Boogie), Beethoven and Bach. Jazz musicians like John Kirby cut some excellent swingin’ side playing Beethoven. More recently, Dave Edmunds, known for his collaboration with Setzer during the Stray Cats days, played Bizet with Love Sculpture and later released a full classical album. This is what Setzer did for his first non-Christmas album with the Brian Setzer Orchestra since Vavoom.

 And when you look at his discography in recent years, one can wonder: does Setzer run out of ideas? Two Christmas albums mainly made of covers, one tribute to Sun, one particularly uninspired “ 13”, one live album and this one (again made of non-Setzer songs). The result is really weak, which is sad when you know how talented this guy is. Only a few songs sound good. “Take The 5th”, an adaptation of Beethoven’s Symphony N° 5, is quite good with a fine swingin’ rhythm, “Sabre Dance” is equally good with its arrangement taken from Edmunds’ version, nothing too exceptional, but at least you don’t want to skip the song. By far, the best one is “For Lisa” (Beethoven’s Fur Elise), which is turned into a gipsy jazz ala Django with violin, clarinet and subtle brushwork. Listening to this one and songs like Jumpin’ At The Capitol and Beautiful Blues, imagine how good a full Setzer gipsy album would sound. The other tune I would save is “Take A Break Guys” (originally God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen). It starts like a 60’s spy movie soundtrack reminiscent of Lalo Shiffrin with twangy guitar, then turns into a 70’s exploitation movie with a wah-wah pedal on the guitar.

 For the rest, “Honeyman” (Flight Of The Bumblebee), with added lyrics sung by the vixens, is unbearable. It’s hard to resist the temptation to destroy your stereo (better skip the song). “Some River In Europe” (Blue Danube) should be a hit in every retirement house, and “One More Night With You” is the only one featuring Setzer on vocals and is to be forgotten very quickly. Even when you’re Brian Setzer, you can’t turn poor tunes into first-class material, and there’s no miracle with “Yes We Can Can” ( Offenbach’s Can Can), which evolved into a parody of New Orleans jazz.

 Hopefully, someone will show Setzer his own DVD of the BSO in Montreal in 1995, when BSO meant excitement, and it’ll give him some inspiration for his next release.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis


Brian Setzer Orchestra (the) – Guitar Slinger

Interscope Records – INTD-90051 [1996]
The House Is Rockin’ – Hoodoo Voodoo Dol – Town Without Pity – Rumble In Brighton – The Man With The Magic Touch – (The Legend Of) Johnny Kool – Ghost Radio – (Everytime I Hear) That Mellow Saxophone – Buzz Buzz – My Baby Only Cares For Me – Hey, Louis Prima – Sammy Davis City

Brian Setzer Orchestra - Guitar Slinger

If the group begins to carve out a solid reputation on stage, the first album of the Brian Setzer Orchestra does not sell well. In addition, the team that signed the artist is no longer part of Hollywood Records. Quickly Brian Setzer finds himself without a record label. But the representatives of Interscope are in the room the evening when Setzer and his orchestra give an incendiary concert. A deal is quickly concluded between the artist and the label. Also present in the room that evening, Phil Ramone offered his services as a producer. He convinces Setzer to record the album not only in live conditions but also in the same sound configuration as on stage. This choice makes all the difference with the first album, and the idea initiated two years earlier of a big band led by a Rock’n’roll guitar really takes shape from this album.
The orchestra is now a well-honed machine and does not hesitate to give its full potential on purely Rock titles, such as the cover of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s The House Is Rockin’ or Hoodoo Voodoo Doll.
The guitarist also takes the opportunity to revisit his past by covering Rumble In Brighton and That Mellow saxophone by Roy Montrell, which were present on the Stray Cats’ first album. Speaking of the Stray Cats, Town Without Pity’s version here is much more compelling than the one found on Let’s Go Faster.
Joe Strummer (Clash) collaborates on the two best tracks on the album: the savage Ghost Radio, introduced by Setzer in concert by “It’s Psychobilly Big Band time!“) and the superb Sammy Davis City, a melancholic and stripped-down ballad where Setzer’s guitar and Strummer’s impressionistic writing work wonders.
There is another reference to Sammy Davis with The Legend Of Johnny Kool, which echoes the track The Ballad Of Johnny Cool by Davis. Louis Prima is another great iconic figure summoned to join the party with Hey Louis Prima before being covered on the next album by Setzer.
The Japanese version of the album offers an entirely different tracklist. It omits some songs and adds three new tracks: Bill Doggett’s Honky Tonk and two Setzer/Strummer collaborations (Guitar Slinger and Rocky Mountain Shakedown).

Fred “Virgil” Turgis


Brian Setzer Orchestra (the) – S/T

Hollywood Records – HR-61565-2 [1994]
Lady Luck – Ball And Chain – Sittin’ On It All The Time – Good Rockin’ Daddy – September Skies – Brand New Cadillac – There’s A Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder – Route 66 – Your True Love – A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square – Straight Up – Drink That Bottle Down

he idea of ​​the Brian Setzer Orchestra came into being in 1992, shortly after the Stray Cats broke up. The group’s origin dates back to when Michael Accosta, saxophonist and Setzer’s neighbour, invited him to participate in a jam session. If this invitation had a slight air of defiance (“Can this rocker play Jazz?“), it is to forget a little quickly that Setzer learned the guitar with Ray Gogarty. That day, Setzer had a revelation and imagined a large orchestra led by a Rock’n’Roll guitarist. But you have to think big, and the guitarist assembles a big band of sixteen musicians. He pays for the rehearsals out of his own pocket because he believes in his project. The first concerts are in front of a sparse audience, but Setzer is sure his idea is good, and it will end up paying, even if, for the moment, it costs him. And indeed, after a while, something happens. Word of mouth works, concerts attract more people, and finally, the record companies move too.
Finally, Hollywood, a Disney subsidiary, signed the group.
At the end of 1993, the Brian Setzer Orchestra takes over the legendary Capitol studios to record its first album with Al Schmitt (who worked with Henry Mancini, Rosemary Clooney, Lena Horne, Harry James, Ray Charles) behind the recording console. In retrospect, this album is interesting in more ways than one. At the head of his orchestra, Setzer is still looking for his sound and exploring the paths available. Some tracks play the big band card with a strong influence from the 60s, notably from the orchestras of Quincy Jones or Sammy Davis Jr (Lady Luck, Route 66). At other times he opts for a more Jump Blues orchestration (Good Rockin’ Daddy, Sittin’ On It All The Time). Sometimes he plays it safe and returns to familiar territory by covering Brand New Cadillac (Vince Taylor) or Your True Love (Carl Perkins). Paradoxically, it is on these numbers that the identity of the orchestra is forged: a rock’n’roll guitar in front of a big band. The guitar, let’s talk about it! With this group, Setzer can give free rein to his knowledge and his love of Jazz, as with this superb reinvention of Drink That Bottle Down. And when he rubs shoulders with his idol Bobby Darin, it’s also the revelation of a great singer, something we tended to forget or took to the background with the Stray Cats. There’s A Rainbow Round My Shoulder, A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square and his composition September Sky are magnificent.
So even if he sometimes seems hesitant or a little lost without the defined framework of the Stray Cats (as he might have been at the time of The Knife Feels Like Justice), Setzer still demonstrates that he knows how to reinvent himself with brio.
Note that the Japanese edition contains a version of Stray Cat Strut as a bonus.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Brian Setzer’s official website.
Surfdog’s records official website.

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