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The Brits Are Rocking

The Brits Are Rocking Vol. 10
Cliff Richard – Dynamite

Bear Family BCD 17729
Nine Times Out of Ten – Never Mind – My Feet Hit The Ground – Pointed Toe Shoes – Don’t Bug Me Baby – Blue Suede Shoes – Mumblin’ Mosie – I Cannot Find A True Love – Move It – Tough Enough – Got A Funny Feeling – High Class Baby – Gee Whiz It’s You – Choppin’ ‘n’ Changin’ – Livin’ Lovin’ Doll – Ready Teddy – Mean Streak – She’s Gone – What’d I Say – Apron Strings – Down The Line – Twenty Flight Rock – Dynamite – Baby I Don’t Care – Mad About You – We Say Yeah – Please Don’t Tease – Mean Woman Blues – Whole Lotta Shaking Goin’ On – The Snake And The Bookworm – Forty Days – Do You Want to Dance – My Babe – No Turning Back

Cliff Richard

Between the moment Elvis Presley lit the fuse of Rock’n’Roll and the tidal wave of Beatlemania, Cliff Richard reigned almost unchallenged over the English Rock scene. And even if his music, like his idol Elvis Presley, quickly softened to capture a wider audience, Richard’s influence on British music and that of his group, the Shadows, is immense.
This compilation covers the career of Harry Roger Webb, Richard’s real name, from his beginnings to the end of 1961. The selection focuses on the most rock-oriented tunes, and leaves aside pop material. The songs are very intelligently distributed in a non-chronological order to avoid feeling too strongly about the singer’s pop turn.
First attempt and first masterstroke with Move It. This song alone would almost be enough to make Cliff an essential artist. The song is a superb Rockabilly full of contained rage and tension, counterbalanced by Ernie Shear’s dazzling guitar. Move It is the work of Ian Samwell, originally Richard’s guitarist but relegated for the recordings to the rank of rhythm guitarist. He wrote Richard’s best songs, and let’s hope his pioneering work will one day be recognized for its value.
High-Class Baby and My Feet Hit The Ground were equally successful, both written by Samwell and recorded less than three months later. Cliff’s voice mixing the energy of Little Richard, the warmth of Elvis and the sweetness of Ricky Nelson works wonders.
The following month (November 1958) saw a significant change in Richard’s career. He enlisted the services of a new group, which would become the Shadows, with Hank Marvin and Bruce Welsh on guitars and Jet Harris on bass.

Little Lovin’ Doll is successful and pleasant but nothing more, the success once again coming from a composition by Samwell, Mean Streak, with its heady and disturbing riff.
Cliff’s first album was recorded in February 1959 in live conditions, in front of a select audience, and the atmosphere of a club was recreated in the studio. Exhausted by the intensive touring pace, Richard arrived at the sessions with laryngitis. However, to hear the energy released, you wouldn’t believe it. This compilation offers a selection of six tracks (My Babe, Down The Line, Baby I Don’t Care, Readdy Teddy, Don’t Bug Me Baby, Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On). Although most tracks are covers, Cliff’s voice and the Shadows’ musical inventiveness are enough to make the difference.
The group returned to the studio the following month. Among the tracks recorded, Bear Family selected Never Mind, another brilliant demonstration of Ian Samwell’s talent.
The following session is devoted to recording three songs by Lionel Bart. The two selected for this compilation are No Turning Back, which offers an insane bass part that fits perfectly with the singer’s voice, and Mad About You, which is much more shaky in its structure (what a strange break in the middle) and suffers from the comparison.
September saw Richard and the Shadows record a series of covers (Twenty Flight Rock, Blue Suede Shoes, Mean Woman Blues, Pointed Toe Shoes) which struggled to reach the level of the original versions. Recorded during the same sessions, Dynamite, once again written by Ian Samwell, eclipses all the other songs with its dazzling success. It is one of Richard’s masterpieces. But despite this last stroke of rock’n’roll genius, we feel the end of an era for the singer and the beginning of a new career.
It was not until the beginning of 1960 that Cliff Richard recorded original material again. In the meantime, Samwell threw in the towel, perhaps tired of being relegated to the background, forcing the Shadows to compose for their leader. However, he remains present on Gee Whiz It’s You, a rock ballad composed with Hank Marvin, perfectly served by the Shadows and the suave voice of Richard. With the help of Jet Harris, Marvin composed She’s Gone, a pretty ordinary blues and Bruce Welsh and Pete Chester wrote Please Don’t Tease, a nice and harmless twist. If the quality of the compositions declines, the vocal and musical levels remain. Finally, at the end of March, they recorded a composition by Samwell (I Cannot Find A True Love), which raised the level and put Richard and the Shadows back on the right path of Rock’n’Roll. The song is a Rockabilly gem with a Milk Cow Blues type of break. Likewise, Choppin’ n Changin’, recorded in June, returns to the heyday of Move It and Dynamite.
By comparison, the covers of Johnny Otis (Tough Enough and Mumblin’ Moise) seem very tame, and What’d I Say should be forgotten as quickly as possible. The rest of the selection follows the downward slope that has begun, however, with one last burst of brilliance, which shines all the more given its entourage, the excellent We Say Yeah.
This new volume in the series is once again perfect. It places the importance of Cliff Richard on the emerging British Rock’n’Roll scene, which his long career and ennoblement had perhaps displaced. As with the others, the disc is accompanied by a copious booklet and a detailed discography. I don’t know who the next artist will be selected for the next volume, but there is no doubt that it will be exciting.

Available here.

The Brits Are Rocking Vol.8
Vince Taylor – Brand New Cadillac

Bear Family BCD17646
Brand New Cadillac – Long Tall Sally – Rocky Road Blues – What’cha Gonna Do (Southern Love) – I Like Love – Sweet Little Sixteen – Endless Sleep – Baby Let’s Play House – Jet Black Machine – Shaking All Over – Ready Teddy – Move Over Tiger – So Glad You’re Mine – Lovin’ Up A Storm – My Babe – Right Behind You Baby – Twenty Flight Rock – Blue Jean Bop – I’ll Be Your Hero – C’mon Everybody – Don’t Leave Me Now – Mean Woman Blues – B. B. Baby (Big Blond Baby) – There’s A Whole Lot of Twistin’ Goin’ On – Love Me – Rip It Up – Have I Told You Lately That I Love You – Mimi – Peppermint Twist – Part I – Peppermint Twist – Part II – Pledging My Love – Don’t Ever Let Me Go

Vince Taylor

Vince Taylor had an undeniable charisma and the magazines knew how to exploit his half-angel, half-demon image. This same charisma, combined with a good dose of energy gave dazzling stage performances. Unfortunately, all this does not necessarily show through on his recordings.
His recording career begins with a very good Rockabilly-inspired single, the excellent Right Behind You Baby coupled with I Like Love on the B side. This one benefits from the presence of Tony Sheridan on guitar and Brian Benett (Shadows) on drums. Benett is renewed for the next session in February 59, and was joined by the excellent Joe Moretti on guitar. The result gives the dazzling Brand New Cadillac (the only composition by Vince Taylor on this compilation). This single piece would be enough to leave him a place in the pantheon of Rock’nroll. Success did not come, Taylor changed label and after Parlophone joined Palette for which he recorded another excellent single I’ll Be Your Hero with the wild Jet Black Machine on the B side. But already, we can see an evolution in the sound. After another solid single for Palette, Taylor found refuge in France and signed for Barclay. If the accompaniment always remains of quality, the inspiration seems to disintegrate and very often the listener has the impression of hearing an imitator of Gene Vincent or Eddie Cochran without the flame of genius that makes the difference. Taylor sings well, sometimes overdoes it, but too often settles for the bare minimum. The last period covered by this CD, corresponding to the year 1962, sees Taylor evolving towards Twist and a rather uninteresting pop-Rock.

The Brits Are Rocking Vol. 5
Lee Curtis & the All Stars – Let’s Stomp

Bear Family BCD17626
Boppin’ The Blues – Let’s Stomp (1st Version) – I’ve Got My Eyes On You – Jezebel – Boys – Irresistible You – Nobody But You – Memphis Tennessee – It’s Only Make Believe – A Mess Of Blues – My Baby – Sticks And Stones – Stupidity – Hello Josephine – Stand By Me – Slow Down – Shot Of Rhythm And Blues – When I Get Paid – Can’t Help Falling In Love – Let’s Stomp (Second Version) – Little Egypt – Blue Suede Shoes – One Night – Exstacy – Wooly Bully – Mohair Sam – Jezebel (Live At The Cavern) – Skinnie Minnie (Live At The Cavern) – Um Um Um Um Um

 The Brits are Rocking Lee Curtis & the All Stars

The fifth volume of this excellent series sheds light on Lee Curtis (real name Peter Flannery), a minor hero of the Mersey scene. His band once featured Pete Best, who almost became a Beatle and was signed to Decca. The label that refused the Fab Four probably tried to find a band with a similar potential. Lee Curtis and his All Stars were once voted second in a music poll, just behind the Beatles, but one must admit that today, except for true amateurs, his name is almost forgotten.
There are many reasons for that: some missed opportunities from Decca, a lousy schedule and poor management. And the material was also a problem. If Curtis was a good singer, he didn’t write his own songs and thus, stuck to covers.This album gathers the best sides recorded for Decca and Star Club. There’s a good dose of danceable and uptempo numbers. Though enjoyable, they are not all that original, and the similarity of repertoire with King Size Taylor is not always in favour of Curtis. But Curtis had a magnificent and powerful voice that shone through some slower tunes. He’s perfect on Exstacy, It’s Only Make Believe, Stand By Me, Irresistable You, and Little Egypt. Even Jezebel, albeit a tad emphatic, is perfect. This song, along with Bill Haley’s Skinnie Minnie, also appears in live versions recorded at the Cavern. Both are excellent, and one can regret that more live recordings don’t exist. Lee Curtis and the All Stars were a terrific live act by all accounts. Anyway, if you’re not a real completist of the British scene of the early 60s, 29 songs might be a bit too much. But if you’re curious and open-minded, you’ll find some good tunes on this volume. As usual, the booklet is quite impressive, with a biography, press clips and plenty of photos.

The Brits Are Rocking Vol. 4
Colin Hicks – Sexy Rock

Bear Family – BCD 17582 [2020]
Giddy Up A Ding Dong – Empty Arms Blues – Wild Eyes And Tender Lips – Sexy Rock – MeanWoman Blues – Oh Boy! – Love’s Made A Fool Of You – Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On – Hanging Around – Tallahassee Lassie – Jambaylaya (On The Bayou) – Blue Moon Of Kentucky – That Little Girl Of Mine – lea lea – Robot Man – Put Me Down – Lovin’ Up A Storm – A Teenager In Love – Book Of Love – Hallelujah, I Love Her So – Brand New Cadillac – All Because Of You – Impazzivo Per te – Johnny B. Goode – Tutti Frutti – Twenty Flight Rock – Hung Up My Rock And Roll Shoes

 The Brits are Rocking   Colin Hicks

Here’s volume four of this excellent and exciting new series on Bear Family. This time, you have a full album dedicated to Colin Hicks covering the period from 1957 to 1961. Some of you may not know him, and to be honest, until I received this cd, I had never heard about him. Colin Hicks is none other than Tommy Steele’s little brother, who is also part of this series, but his name seems to be reduced to a footnote in British music history.
The reasons are multiple. Hicks never achieved the same degree of success as his older brother at least in England. Both looked very similar, and even sometimes their voices could sound the same. So maybe England was too small for two Hicks/Steele. And when success knocked upon his door, it was in Italy.
It has to be said; Hicks didn’t have the talent of his brother. Some of the songs recorded here are pretty average. He also lacked original material, and most of his covers are very well known. It probably didn’t allow him to create a personnal sound. And if his approach of Blue Moon of Kentucky is very original, one can forget in the minute his version of Johnny B. Goode. But the curious listener and the amateur of British Rock’n’roll will find pretty to enjoy here. If Hicks is not Steele, it doesn’t mean he’s an average singer. Far from that. He can rock like none other, and, to pursue the comparison with his older brother, he seems more free, even wilder, in his approach.
Like on many of Bear Family reissues,you’ll aso find rare tracks. Among them are Hicks debut single for Pye Nixa recorded by Joe meek in 1957, or Impazzivo Per Te that was released as a flexi disc in an Italian magazine in 1960.
This compilation is an excellent occasion to rediscover an artist that should receive more credit. Taken separately, this one is maybe not as essential as the first three volumes, but as a whole, its place is fully justified.

The Brits Are Rocking Vol. 3
King Size Taylor – Doctor Feelgood

Bear Family BCD17603 [2020]
Heeby Jeebies – All Around The World – Dr. Feelgood – She Said Yeah – Hippy Hippy Shake – Hello Josephine – Slow Down – Sweet Little Sixteen – Never In A Hundred Years – Money – Bad Boy – Sherry Baby – Whole Lot Of Lovin’ – Stupidity – Long Tall Sally – Domino Twist – Short On Love – Memphis, Tennessee – Mashed Potatoes And Hot Pastrami – Lipstick, Powder And Paint – Slippin’ And Slidin’ – Twist And Shout – Dizzy Miss Lizzy – I Can Tell – Fortune Teller – You Can’t Sit Down – I’m Late – Sad And Blue – Saw My Baby With Another Guy – Matchbox – Good Golly Miss Molly

 The Brits are Rocking king size taylor

For their third volume in their series The Brits are Rocking, Bear Family decided to put the spotlight on King Size Taylor and his band the Dominoes. It’s somewhat surprising as one could expect more familiar names like Marty Wilde or Wee Willie Harris. But it’s also an excellent thing since Taylor needs to be rediscovered.
If you, like me, think that the Beatles never sounded so good than when they were five angry (and hungry) lads struggling in Hamburg, this cd is sure to please you.
This compilation covers the period 1963-1964 and contains all his recordings made for Philips, Polydor, and Ariola. It also includes four demos from 1958. Except for these four songs, the tracks were all recorded in Hamburg, Germany, in the studio or on stage.
Associated with the Beat bands of the Merseyside, King Size Taylor and the Dominoes developed a more aggressive sound than many of their counterparts and stayed true to Rock’n’roll and Rhythm’n’Blues. Unfairly they never reached commercial success in their own country.
Except for their first single, which was more pop-oriented, King Size Taylor and the Dominoes were a beautiful war machine, blasting killer rhythm’n’ blues tunes with a rocking edge one after another. Whether in the studio or on stage, they took no prisoners. Ted “Kingsize” Taylor was probably one the best British singers, but sadly remains one of the unsung heroes of the period. He had a powerful and expressive voice that was ideally suited for material by Larry Williams, Fats Domino, Little Richard, and Solomon Burke. The band was equally amazing with sharp guitar parts and for the live recordings two saxophones blowing scorching riffs and solos.
With all those qualities, why didn’t they achieve international success? Maybe they lacked a good manager to get them a good contract. Probably they were too busy in Germany to develop something ielsewhere. And perhaps the fact that they didn’t have originals didn’t help either.
Anyway, this well-deserved cd (and the 36-page booklet that comes with) is the perfect object to rediscover this artist. Maybe Taylor didn’t have originals, but I wouldn’t trade the 2 minutes and 14 seconds of his version of Short On Love (way better and meaner than Gus Backus inoffensive original version) for any of the LSD influenced stuff that their most famous counterparts later recorded.

The Brits Are Rocking Vol.2
Billy Fury – Wondrous Place

Bear Family Records – BCD17583
Gonna Type A Letter – Baby How I Cried – Comin‘ Up In The World – Wondrous Place – Don‘t Leave Me This Way – Colette – Keep Away – Running Around – Bumble Bee – Nothin‘ Shakin‘ (But The Leaves On A Tree) – My Advice – Don‘t Say It‘s Over – Unchain My Heart – Sticks And Stones – Twist Kid – Push Push – Baby Come On – What Did I Do – If I Lose You – One Kiss – Play It Cool – Sweet Little Little Sixteen – Don‘t Knock Upon My Door – That‘s Love – Don‘t Jump – Tell Me How Do You Feel – Talkin‘ In My Sleep – I‘d Never Find Another You – I‘m Moving On – It‘s You I Need – Phone Call – Turn My Back On You – Alright, Goodbye – You‘re Having The Last Dance With Me

 The Brits are Rocking Billy Fury

After Tommy Steele, the second volume of this series is deservedly dedicated to Ronald Wycherley, better known as Billy Fury. I personally hold “the Sound of Fury” as one of the best pieces of Rockabilly ever recorded. Billy Fury had it all, the look, the voice, and above all, he could write his own songs (and he was good at that!). This 34-song collection focuses on Fury’s most upbeat material and avoids the hits and the well-known songs like “Halfway to Paradise” or “Maybe Tomorrow” (which is a good thing if you ask me.)
To compose a varied compilation, Bear Family chose to present the songs randomly, but for this review, we’ll take them chronologically in the order of the recording sessions.
“Gonna Type Me a Letter” was originally the b-side of Maybe Tomorrow. It’s a solid rocker, though the typewriter gimmick can be slightly annoying.
Asked about his influences, Fury answered, “I was most of all an Eddie Cochran fan. I was an Elvis Presley fan second, and then I liked Dion.” If you can, without a doubt, hear some of the latter two throughout this collection, “Don’t Knock Upon My Door” is pure Cochran.
“Colette” was obviously written with the Everly Brothers in mind. “On Baby How I Cried,” a plaintive ballad, his voice channels the best of Gene Vincent while the Vernon Girls enhance the performance with their backing vocals. “Turn My Back On You,” recorded during the same session, is a pure Rockabilly masterpiece and will appear on “The Sound of Fury.” Eight out of ten songs of that essential album are included here. From the Buddy Holly tinged “My Advice” to the bluesy “Phone Call,” those songs are worth the price of that compilation alone. They also benefit from the superb guitar work of Joe Brown. For the anecdote, Andy White, the session drummer, is best remembered for having replaced Ringo Star during the recording of “Love Me Do” (and he also married Lyn Cornell one of the Vernon Girls.) Also, since the art of the slap bass was yet to be discovered in Albion, two basses were used: one electric bass to play the notes and an acoustic to record the slap.
In June 1960, Billy Fury cut his masterpiece, Wondrous Place, an eerie ballad with sparse backing, sounding like a mix between Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Crawfish.” Even more provocative, listen to that breath just before he drops ‘Wondrous Place.’ Bear Family made an excellent choice by including the first version rather than over-arranged one recorded in 1963.
By comparison, “Push Push” with its semi Calypso beat seems pale while “You’re having the Last Dance With Me” adds nothing to the glory of Fury.
Penned by Gene Pitney, “Talkin’ In My Sleep” brings a little more blues, and “Comin’ Up In The World” offers a superb contrast between the singer’s voice and the screaming sax.
Backed by a Duane Eddy sounding twangy guitar and an ethereal female vocal at the right moment, “Don’t Jump” is a splendid melodramatic tune. “I’d Never Find Another You” is another highlight thanks to Billy, of course, but also to the arranger who kept it simple despite the presence of strings. Just compare to Paul Anka’s version to see how a poor arrangement can waste a good song. From the same session comes “If I Lose You,” a soulful ballad that shows the other side of Fury’s voice, the rough one.
The next pair of songs, both written by Norie Paramor, are far less successful. On “Play It Cool,” the mix between strings and Rock’n’Roll doesn’t work very well, whereas “the Twist Kid” proves that even Fury couldn’t turn lead to gold.
The Presley-esque “Running Around” finds him in better form with a song more suited to his voice. “One Kiss” sees him returning to his idol Eddie Cochran, in a laid back jazzy manner.
“On Keep Away” and “What Did I Do,” the singer is backed by the Tornadoes of “Telstar” fame. The former shows the inspiration of Elvis’ “Stuck On You.”
After a session without the Tornadoes to record Laverne Baker’s “Bumble Bee,” the band returns to record the live-in-the-studio album “We Want Billy.” Five songs are lifted from that album (Sweet Little Sixteen, Baby Come On, Sticks and Stones, Unchain My Heart, and I’m Moving On.) The singer is wild and more rhythm ‘n’ blues than ever, and the Tornadoes are excellent throughout.
“Tell Me How do You Feel,” recorded in 1963, continues with the rhythm ‘n’ blues vein with organ, sax, and a trumpet solo.
The compilation ends with “Nothing Shaking (But The Leaves On The Tree)” on which one can hear some Mersey echoes.
As usual with Bear Family, it comes with a thick 40-page booklet containing photos, informative liner notes, record covers, and detailed sessions. Highly recommended.

The Brits Are Rocking Vol. 1
Tommy Steele – Doomsday Rock

The Brits Are Rocking  Tommy Steele

Bear Family BCD17581
Rock Around The Town – Giddy-Up A Ding Dong – Teenage Party (LP version) – The Trial – Tallahassee Lassie – Give! Give! Give! – Build Up – Knee Deep In The Blues – Rock With The Caveman – Take Me Back, Baby – Time To Kill – Hair-Down Hoe-Down – Swaller Tail Coat – Drunken Guitar – Kaw-Liga – Elevator Rock – Grandad’s Rock – Puts The Lightie On – On The Move – Cannibal Pot – Hollerin’ And Screamin’ – (The Girl With The) Long Black Hair – Rebel Rock – Two Eyes – Hey You – Happy Go Lucky Blues – Singing The Blues – Butterfly – Doomsday Rock – Razzle Dazzle – Come On Let’s Go – Honky Tonk Blues – Young Love – You Gotta Go

2019 saw Bear Family launching a new series called The Brits are Rocking dedicated to the British pioneers of the ’50s and 60s.
They couldn’t choose a better artist than Tommy Steele (real name Tommy Hicks) to begin this series with. If he wasn’t the best nor the most rocking, Steele was one of the first – if not the first – and he had a strong British identity to boot. Above all, unlike Tony Crombie, who was already 30 when he jumped on the Rock’n’roll bandwagon, Steele was a teenager singing for the teenagers.
Steele began his musical career by singing Hank Williams tunes and playing guitar various bands. George Martin signed him. He later recalled: “We sat with our coffee and watched this genial young man bounce on to the stage with his guitar over his pelvis, and my immediate impression was that he was a blond cardboard imitation of Elvis Presley. Tommy had a lot of energy, but he didn’t sound too great.
Fortunately for the young lad, people at Decca saw some potential in Tommy and, following his test audition, they almost immediately signed him. Two days later, Steele was in the recording studio to cut his debut single “Rockin’ with the Caveman / Rock Around the Town.”
This 34-song/71 minute compilation album spans the years 1956 to 1960. It shows how versatile Steele was, playing styles as various as pop-tinged stuff, country and western, novelty songs, and more. But, of course, the most exciting songs, were his Rock’n’roll sides. Steele was a credible rocker, and tunes like Teenage Party, Rock With the Caveman, Doomsday Rock, Two Eyes are small classics. This album also proposes good live versions of Freddie Bell’s Giddy Up Ding Dong and Haley’s Razzle Dazzle and the weird and Link Wray sounding semi-instrumental Drunken Guitar.
At first, I was surprised that the songs were not in chronological order, but it happened to be a good idea. It avoids the problem of too many compilations, especially when they are copious like this one, to have ten solid rockin’ tracks at the beginning and, as the years pass, you find mellower material. This is not the case with this compilation, which alternates styles and paces as well as studio and live recordings.
As usual with Bear Family, it comes with a 40-page booklet richly illustrated, though, for some reason, there’s no sessionography.
This album definitely proves that the Brits, and Tommy Steele, could easily rock like their American counterparts.
Hopefully, this is the beginning of a long series.

Available at Bear Family

Bear Family V/A – Destination…

Various Artists – Destination Health

Bear Family BCD17524
Rock Therapy – Johnny Burnette & The Rock’n’Roll Trio / Doctor, Doctor – Ben Joe Zeppa & The Hot Notes / Call A Doctor – The Crows / Achoo-Cha-Cha (Gesundheit) – The Andrews Sisters / Doctor Feelgood – Herbert Hunter / Quarantine – Dennis Bell / Asiatic – Ebe Sneezer & The Epidemics / Pills – Bo Diddley / Red Cherries – Flyod Dixon / Bop Pills – Macy Skipper / Boogie Disease – Doctor Ross / Boppin’ The Blues – Carl Perkins / Doctor, Doctor, Doctor – Joey Nepote with H.B. Barnum Orchestra / Doctor Jazz – Woody Herman & his Orchestra / Doctor In Love – Richard Allen / Rock Doc – Louis Jordan / Drinkin’ Hadacol – Little Willie Littlefield / Fever – The Knockouts / Satellite Fever – Asiatic Flu – Lonnie Miley / Tu-Ber-Cu-Lucas – Huey ‘Piano’ Smith & The Clowns / Medic (from the TV series) – Les Baxter & his Orchestra / Vitamina – Noro Morales / Operation Blues #2 – Homer ‘Zeke’ Clemons & his Texas Swingbillies / D.R. Rock – George Chisholm & The Blue Notes feat. Bert Weedon / Diagnosis Neurosis – Their Singing Bodies / PSA (Public Service Announcement) for Mental Health Association – Tab Hunter / Amnesia – The Mysterions / Psycho Serenade – Big Jay McNeely & Band with Little Sonny Warner / She Said – Hasil Adkins / Feelin’ Good – Sonny Burgess & The Pacers

bear family destination health

Another excellent thematic compilation album from Bear Family, this time centred around the subject of health in all its possible forms (and styles).There’s no better way to introduce this collection than Johnny Burnette & the Rock’n’Roll Trio’s Rock Therapy. It’s a classic that we’ve heard hundreds, if not thousands, of times, but it still sounds fresh and wild.
Next is Benn Joe Zeppa, who offers a groovy rocker with a scorching guitar solo. The next tune is from the Crows, a Harlem quintet halfway between doo-wop and rhythm and blues. The McGuire Sisters are pretty strange. On the one hand, you have the lovely harmonies of these charming girls, and on the other hand, the song features a sinister organ, all that on a Cha-cha rhythm, with a string orchestra punctuated by the girls’ sneezes. After a great rocker from Herbert Hunter, you find a poor teen pop with annoying female backing vocals by Dennis Bell. Much better is Asiatic Flu, perfectly described as a Rockabilly Novelty. Bo Diddley is, as usual, excellent, and Floyd Dixon’s tune is a piano blues in the vein of Charles Brown. Following this great song is a string of three classics: Macy Skipper’s Bob Pills, an insane tune, insane enough to be covered by the Cramps, Doctor Ross’ Boogie Disease and the immense Carl Perkins with Boppin’ the Blues. Inspired by Chuck Berry, Joey Nepote’s Doctor Doctor Doctor is good, albeit a bit messy. Totally different in style, Woody Herman delivers a swing, although a bit tame compared to Jelly Roll Morton’s version of Doctor Jazz. Also heavily orchestrated is Richard Allen’s Doctor in Love, a song recorded for the movie. Think of a British version of Frank Sinatra. Next is Louis Jordan’s Rock Doc. What can I say? Louis Jordan is a genius; that’s all you need to know. Little Willie Littlefield keeps a high level of quality. Instead of a well-known version of Fever, the fine folks at Bear Family included the Knockouts version, a doo-wop with a rocking attitude, a growling voice and a mellow saxophone. That’s why those compilations work, by mixing well-known stuff with more obscure versions.
Talking about obscure, Lonnie Milley is not the kind of Rockabilly you find on your run-of-the-mill compilation. Continuing with the unexpected, Huey Piano Smith is not featured here with the hit Rocking Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu, but its follow-up (equally excellent) from 1959: Tu-Ber-Cu-Lucas and the Sinus Blues. Les Baxter is featured here with a T.V. theme. Noro Morales brings a touch of exotism with the mambo-tinged Vitamina. It’s good, but I much prefer the hot western swing of Zeke Clemmons and his Texas Swingbillies. D.R. Rock is a bouncing Rhythm’n’Blues, played by jazzmen under the name of George Chisholm and the Blue Notes. The result is a tune filled with hot solos. Completely different are Their Singing Bodies with their pre-garage Rock. After a public service announcement from Tab Hunter (thank you Tab) back to Garage with Amnesia by the Mysterions which sounds like a psychedelic nightmarish rendition of Steel Guitar Rag. Great with a capital G. As you can imagine, Big Jay Mc Neely’s Psycho Serenade is wild and could have been easily covered by the Sonics. Hasil Adkins took the musical insanity to a whole new level that still waits to be reached today. He deserved more than anyone else his place on this compilation. Bear Family decided they couldn’t let their listeners with such madness, and Sonny Burgess’ Feelin’ Good ends this collection on a positive note.
As I said, this collection works well because Bear Familyl mixes classic numbers with more obscure gems. And in the end, there’s a bit of something for everyone.
Another good point is that the compilations in that series are all at a very friendly price.

Available here.

Mac Curtis

Mac Curtis – Rocks

Bear Family BCD 17719 [2023]
Wake Up Rock’n Roll Rock-A-Baby – Real God Itch – What You Want – Goosebumps – Hard Hearted Girl – Little Miss Linda – That’s How Much I Love You – Sidething – Don’t You Love Me – That Ain’t Nothing But Right – Half Hearted Love – You Ain’t Treatin’ Me Right – If I Had Me a Woman – Say So – Just So You Call Me – Grandaddy’s Rockin’ – You Oughta See Grandma Rock – Party Line – Rockin’ Mother – No – Good Rockin’ Tomorrow – For Your Love – Missy Ann – You Are My Very Special Baby – The Low Road – How Long Will It Take – Good Love, Sweet Love – Been Gone a Long Time – Hey Hey Little Lady – Show Me the Money – Little Mama Have Mercy – John Lewis – Flat Top Cat (dedicated to Mac Curtis)

Mac Curtis

I can’t imagine anyone seriously interested in Rockabilly not knowing the name of Mac Curtis and how great he was. But, since the genre is still alive and well and the scene is generating new fans, it’s a mighty good idea from the venerable German label to add Mac Curtis to his flawless “Rocks” series.
The very fact of introducing the genius of Mac Curtis to a new generation would justify the existence of this compilation. But its interest goes beyond that. This collection brings together almost all the King sides (perhaps missing one or two tracks but of lesser importance). Still, it goes beyond the 50s to add recordings from different periods of his career, including the sides recorded for Rockin’ Ronny Weiser on Rollin’ Rock in the early 70s, as well as three tracks from his album released in 1998 on Vinyl Japan/Jappin’n’Rockin on which the excellent Rimshots accompanied him.

Whatever the era, Curtis remains a master of Rockabilly. His King sides are flawless and should be studied by all aspiring singers and songwriters interested in this type of music. Very few before or after him achieved this perfect balance between his rich and warm voice, the hiccups typical of Rockabilly and stripped-down instrumentation, including at times a huge double bass sound. It’s very well done on the part of Bear Family to have kept in its selection the dark and sinister The Low Road, one of Curtis’s peaks.
After working as a DJ and recording country-inspired albums (see the recent reissue on Bluelight), Mac Curtis returned to his Rockabilly roots in the early 1970s under the leadership of Ronny Weiser. The songs recorded for Rollin Rock are wilder and rawer in terms of sound but perfectly capture the energy and urgency of this music. They perfectly complement the King’s sides.
Finally, the three tunes recorded with the Rimshots conclude this selection in style. Curtis is in great form, and the Rimshots were one of the best bands on the scene at the time. As a bonus, you have a song written and performed by John Lewis of the Rimshots as a tribute to the singer.
Very intelligently, the songs are not presented in chronological order, which allows you to navigate between periods and eras while being constantly surprised.
As usual, the label has done things well, and a copious and complete booklet accompanies the disc.
If you are new to the work of Mac Curtis, this compilation is exactly what you need. If you already know him, it may also interest you because you may very well discover some gems there.

Available here.

Mac Curtis – Early In The Morning/Nashville Marimba Band

mac curtisBluelight Records – BLR 33224 2
Early In The Morning – Big Boss Man – Ain’t That A Shame – Blues Man – Baby What You Want Me To Do – Maybelline – Gulf Stream Line – Stagger Lee – I’d Run A Mile – I Got A Woman – When The Hurt Moves In – Him Or Me (What’s It Gonna Be) – Running Bear – I Fall To Pieces – Gentle On My Mind – For The Good Times – Orange Blossom Special – Spanish Eyes – Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town – Careless Hands – Help Me Make It Through The Night – Devil’s Dream – Pistol Packin’ Mama – She Knows All The Good Ways To Be Bad

In 1970 Mac Curtis recorded Early in the Morning, an album on which he revisited songs from the fifties with a Country edge. The songs came from the catalogues of Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Jerry Reed, Ray Charles, Lloyd Price, etc., with a couple of originals thrown in for good measure.
The repertoire ranged from the bluesy, albeit with steel guitar, Baby What You Want Me to Do, to the Country shuffle of When The Hurts Moves In, which would be perfect for Dale Watson, with a bit of Swamp Rock in between with Gulfstream Line. The majority of the remaining songs are on a thin line between country and Rock’n’roll, and the result is close to what Carl Perkins recorded during the same period.
The musicianship is excellent throughout, but that’s not a surprise with musicians like Tommy Allsup and Leon Rhodes on guitars, Charlie McCoy on harmonica, DJ Fontana on drums, and Curtis’s deep and rich voice beautifully serves the whole album.
The following year, Mac Curtis returned to the studio to record Mac Curtis’ Nashville Marimba band in one day. This is a surprising album, to say the least. Still, with a crew of first-rate musicians, Curtis revisits a set of Country classics in instrumental versions done in an exotica/easy-listening mood. However, it features some sparkling moments on guitar and hot fiddle parts from Johnny Gimble. It’s the kind of album you’re happy to own and play to your friends to see their reaction. You really have to hear their version of Gentle On My Mind to believe it.
Two excellent Country numbers with a Rockabilly feel, recorded in 1974, rounds up the set.
All in all, you have one excellent album, a curiosity and two hot bonus tracks. That’s more than enough to make you jump on this reissue.

Mac Curtis – the Rollin Rock Recordings 1

Mac Curtis – the Rollin Rock Recordings 1

Part records
Big D Women – Baby Let’s Play House – Heartbreakin’ Mama – Fannie Mae – Sidetrack Mama – Holdin’ On – Good Rockin’ Tonight – Amarillo Killer – Hot Rocks – Crazy Crazy Lovin’ – Wild Wild Women – You Hurt Me – Sexy Ways – Good Rockin’ Tomorrow – Wake Up Rock’n’roll Rock-A-Baby – Hard Hearted Girl – Party Line – Turn To Me – For Your Love – Rockabilly Uprising – Been Gone A Long Time – Juice Box – Gone Out Of My Mind – Wildcat Tamer – Let’s Go

Mac Curtis is a true Rockabilly legend and in my humble opinion he recorded some of the very best sides of the genre. In 1972 he got in touch with the no-less legendary Ronnie Weiser of Rollin’ Rock and Ray Campi (the full story is explained in the very informative booklet featuring notes by Mac Curtis himself) to make some new Rockabilly recordings.
The first album to result from those sessions was Ruffabilly on which he’s backed by Campi (dobro, guitar, bass), Steve Bailey (drums) and Jimmie Lee Maslon on harmonica for one track. This is superior Rockabilly music, especially if you replace it in the period (the 70’s) with powerful slap bass and at the time with the exception of Charlie Feathers very few could come closer to the real thing than Mac Curtis. The liner notes explain why there are three Johnny Carroll tunes on that album: Campi and Curtis believed that the singer had died and wanted to pay homage to him.
The second album included here is “Good Rockin’ Tomorrow” and is equally good with Campi playing all the instruments and Billy Zoom (X) guesting on saxophone. In all you have 25 recordings that are 25 little rockabilly gems that deserve to be in anyone’s collection. They also show the importance of Mac Curtis and Rollin Rock on the European scene in the 70’s from the Teddy Boys to the burgeoning psychobilly scene.

James Intveld

James Intveld & The Honky Tonk Palomino’s – Never Gonna Let You Go

Sleazy Records – SR208 [2020]
Never Gonna Let You Go – To Be As One

james intveld

James Intveld recorded this excellent single in Spain in 2020 with Evil Bob Gothar on guitar, Lorne Rall on double bass, and Kip Dabbs on drums. Both songs are from the pen of Intveld.
Never Let Me Go is a smooth Rockabilly along the lines of Ricky Nelson. The B-side, To Be As One, marks the return of a lost art: the ballad. And this song, a superb and tender piece of music, is among the very best. Intveld really can handle the vocal for such a thing, and the band is perfect.

James Intveld – s/t

Bear Family Records – BCD 15 900 AH [1995]
Perfect World – Blue Blue Day – Cryin’ Over You – I’m To Blame – Barely Hangin’ On -Samantha – Your Lovin’ – You Say Goodnight, I’ll Say Goodbye – Kermit Vale – Wild Places

james intveld

James Intveld grew up in California and, from a very young age, developed an interest in Rock’n’Roll. He soon started to sing and play the guitar and enlisted his young brother Rick to play drums and Pat Woodward on upright bass to form the Rockin’ Shadows. They recorded one single with Steve Grindle (Ravenna and the Magnetics) on bass. But soon Pat then Rick left to join Rick Nelson and sadly perished in the plane crash that also killed Nelson.
After a break from music, Intveld eventually sent a demo of Cryin’ Over You to Rosie Flores, who recorded the song for her debut album. Then Intveld recorded the vocals for John Waters’ movie Cry Baby (in place of Johnny Depp) and played guitar with the Blasters between 1993 and 1995. That’s when Bear Family asked him to record one song for a compilation album. The song was so good that the label eventually asked him to record an entire album.

It is one of those rare records with no bad or even weak songs. Think about it and try to name just five; you’ll see it’s not that easy.

Perfect World lives up to its name. It’s the kind of tune that moves slowly but surely, almost inexorably, with a Presley-like drive and a solo reminiscent of Heartbreak Hotel.
Don Gibson’s Blue Blue Day suits him to a t and shows he can play steel guitar too. Cryin’ Over You sounds like an old classic. And it’s fine to hear Intveld’s version of his own song (not that Rosie Flores’s version was bad, far from that.) Mickey Gilley’s I’m To Blame is the second cover. While the original had a Jerry Lee Lewis/swamp pop flair, the Intveld version seems darker and more resigned.
Barely Hangin’ On is a superb country shuffle, whereas Samantha is more emphatic and closer to the great Roy Orbison. Your Lovin’ is a classic Country-rock tune with a slight 60’s feel. Next is You Say Goodnight, I’ll Say Goodbye. Listening to this song, I wondered why more artists weren’t singing such pretty and poignant ballads. And the answer struck me in all its obviousness: you must be a good singer. It doesn’t just mean singing in tune and having a good voice, but it includes the emotion, the dosage of effects and all those little things that make subtle differences. Almost anyone can make edgy Rockabilly songs, but a song like this is unforgiving and allows no mistakes.
Kermit Vales sounds a bit like Solitary Man, only darker. This stripped-down track, featuring just acoustic guitar, once again showcases Intveld’s vocals.There is a purity and an evidence in each of these ten songs, an intelligence in the simplicity of the lyrics, highlighted by the subtlety of the arrangements. All these qualities are confirmed by Wild Places, which closes the album in style.

James Intveld – Introducing

Bear Family Records – B10 10001 [1995]
Perfect World – Blue Blue Day – Cryin’ Over You – I’m To Blame – Barely Hangin’ On -Samantha / Standing In A Rock – My Heart Is Aching For You – Important Words – Your Lovin’ – I Love You – You Say Goodnight, I’ll Say Goodbye

introducing james intveld

This is the ten-inch vinyl version of the above CD with a slightly different tracklisting. Kermit Vales and Wild Places are not included, but instead you have four additional tracks. Standing On A Rock is a pure bouncy Rockabilly gem. I Love You is a Presleyan ballad whose recipe we thought had been lost. You will find two rereadings: a very fine one of Important Words and a new version of the muscled country shuffle My Heart Is Aching For You previously recorded with the Rockin’ Shadows.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Vince Taylor

Vince Taylor – Brand New Cadillac – The Brits Are Rocking Vol.8

Bear Family BCD17646
Brand New Cadillac – Long Tall Sally – Rocky Road Blues – What’cha Gonna Do (Southern Love) – I Like Love – Sweet Little Sixteen – Endless Sleep – Baby Let’s Play House – Jet Black Machine – Shaking All Over – Ready Teddy – Move Over Tiger – So Glad You’re Mine – Lovin’ Up A Storm – My Babe – Right Behind You Baby – Twenty Flight Rock – Blue Jean Bop – I’ll Be Your Hero – C’mon Everybody – Don’t Leave Me Now – Mean Woman Blues – B. B. Baby (Big Blond Baby) – There’s A Whole Lot of Twistin’ Goin’ On – Love Me – Rip It Up – Have I Told You Lately That I Love You – Mimi – Peppermint Twist – Part I – Peppermint Twist – Part II – Pledging My Love – Don’t Ever Let Me Go

Vince Taylor

Vince Taylor had an undeniable charisma and the magazines knew how to exploit his half-angel, half-demon image. This same charisma, combined with a good dose of energy gave dazzling stage performances. Unfortunately, all this does not necessarily show through on his recordings.
His recording career begins with a very good Rockabilly-inspired single, the excellent Right Behind You Baby coupled with I Like Love on the B side. This one benefits from the presence of Tony Sheridan on guitar and Brian Benett (Shadows) on drums. Benett is renewed for the next session in February 59, and was joined by the excellent Joe Moretti on guitar. The result gives the dazzling Brand New Cadillac (the only composition by Vince Taylor on this compilation). This single piece would be enough to leave him a place in the pantheon of Rock’nroll. Success did not come, Taylor changed label and after Parlophone joined Palette for which he recorded another excellent single I’ll Be Your Hero with the wild Jet Black Machine on the B side. But already, we can see an evolution in the sound. After another solid single for Palette, Taylor found refuge in France and signed for Barclay. If the accompaniment always remains of quality, the inspiration seems to disintegrate and very often the listener has the impression of hearing an imitator of Gene Vincent or Eddie Cochran without the flame of genius that makes the difference. Taylor sings well, sometimes overdoes it, but too often settles for the bare minimum. The last period covered by this CD, corresponding to the year 1962, sees Taylor evolving towards Twist and a rather uninteresting pop-Rock.

Available here.

Eddie Cochran

Eddie Cochran – Dark Lonely Street

Bear Family – BAF 14009 [2020]
Dark Lonely Street – One Kiss – Stockin’n’Shoes – Teresa – Pretty Girl – Summertime Blues / C’mon Everybody – I Remember – Teenage Heaven – Little Angel – My Way – Strollin’ Guitar
+ 28-track cd

Eddie Cochran had the whole package. He managed to do alone what Elvis did with the best songwriters, session musicians, sound engineers and producers. And he was like both characters of Cut Across Shorty: like Dan, he had the look, but like Shorty, he had something that can’t be found in books: class.
This beautiful 10”, released for the 60th anniversary of his death, pays tribute to his vast talent.
The twelve songs included on the vinyl demonstrate Cochran’s versatility. This young man, who passed away at 21, penned tunes that influenced countless musicians and singers, an influence that goes far beyond the strict rocking scene. His music contains the germs, in a complementary way with Buddy Holly, of all the sixties and even the premices of Punk Rock.
He was a top songwriter (Summertime Blues), a musician’s musician (as shown by the instrumental version of My Way) and a singer that could be mean or poignant (Teresa, One Kiss, Dark lonely Street). And, of course, he was a rocker (Teenage Heaven).
The accompanying CD widens the scope with more Cochran songs like the premice of Heavy Rock that are Nervous Breakdown, and Something Else. One will also find the first version of C’mon Everybody, titled Let’s Get Together. There’s also a wild rendition of Chuck Berry’s Sweet Little Sixteen and an interview.
You’ll also find Cochran guesting on Troyce Key’s Baby Please Don’t Go, a blues tune, the superb Rockabilly tune Guitar Picker sung by Bob Luman and Baker Knight’s Just Relax.
The CD concludes with Heinz’s Just Like Eddie, produced by Joe Meek. If not great, it’s a sincere tribute to an immense artist.
It features a beautiful and richly illustrated booklet.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Cochran Brothers

The Cochran Brothers – Latch On with The Cochran Brothers

ALP 10502 RV
Side 1: Mr. Fiddle – Two Blue Singin’ Stars – Your Tomorrow Never Comes – Guilty Conscience – Latch On (Version 1)
Side 2: Latch On (Version 2) – Tired And Sleepy –Fool’s Paradise – Slow Down – Open The Door

If you’re a fan of Eddie Cochran you probably already own this sides. They are available on the superb Bear family box set released a couple of years ago or on the Rockstar CD titled “Mighty Mean”. But this limited ten 10 inch records that comes in a gatefold sleeve is a superb object that is sure to make you want to buy it even if you

If you’re new to the music of Cochran and only know his big hits like Twenty Flight Rock, Something Else, Summertime Blues and so on, this album is the perfect introduction to Eddie’s early years as a country and rockabilly singer and the team he made with Hank Cochran (no relation) under the name of the Cochran Brothers.
Side one focuses on their country sides, with harmony vocals reminiscent of the “brothers group” of the era, with some occasional steel and fiddle. The success of Elvis Presley will have an impact on the duo and they will quickly start to record in a more rockin’ vein, as shown on side two. It’s easy to compare the two versions of Latch On to see the evolution of the band in a very short time.

Eddie Cochran – Eddie Rocks

Bear Family BCD 17136
Pink Peg Slacks – Blue Suede Shoes – Long Tall Sally – Twenty Flight Rock – Completely Sweet – Pink Peg Slacks – Mighty Mean – Skinny Jim – One Kiss – Mean When I’m Mad – Am I Blue – Twenty Flight Rock – Completely Sweet – Stockings And Shoes – Cradle Baby – Sweetie Pie – Pretty Girl – Jeannie Jeannie Jeannie – Teenage Cutie – Little Lou – Cruisin’ The Drive-In – Nervous Breakdown – Summertime Blues – Ah Pretty Girl – Nervous Breakdown – Let’s Get Together – Teenage Heaven – C’mon Everybody – My Way – Teenage Heaven – Weekend – Somethin’ Else – Jelly Bean – Don’t Bye Bye Baby Me – Cut Across Shorty
If someone would come to me asking “What is Rock’n’roll?”, the best answer I could give would be “Listen to Eddie rocks… on Bear Family”.Though I consider Bill Haley as the true father of Rock’n’roll, I believe that Eddie Cochran, who died at only 21 in 1960, inspired more musicians. Songs like Something Else, C’mon Everybody and Summertime Blues have been played one day or another by the Who, the Sex Pistols, T-Rex, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and many more. Only Chuck Berry can claim the same score.
This collection focuses on Eddie Cochran’s solo releases (no Cochran brothers here) and rockers only (no ballad, no instrumentals, no hillbilly). You won’t be disapointed and BearFamily being the perfectionnists we all know couldn’t help but include a rarity even on a “best-of” collection, namely the original version of Cut Across Shorty at the correct speed the song having been speeded up for its release.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

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