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Tommy Steele

in Reissues

Tommy Steele – Doomsday Rock – The Brits are Rockin’ vol. 1

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 Rockin’ dedicated to the British pioneers of the ’50s.
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 on Bear Family’s website

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Link Wray

in Reissues

Link Wray – Rocks

Link Wray rocks

Bear Family – BCD17600
Raw-Hide – Batman Theme – Tijuana – Slinky – Right Turn – I’m Countin’ On You* – I’m Branded – Hand Clapper – The Swag – Comanche – Deuces Wild – El Toro – Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby – Studio Blues – Hang On – Jack The Ripper – Turnpike USA – The Black Widow – Big City After Dark* – Danger One Way Love* – Dance Contest – Run Chicken, Run – Pancho Villa – Radar – Mary Ann – The Outlaw – Hold It* – Dinosaur – Big City Stomp – The Shadow Knows – Dixie Doodle – Ace Of Spades – Mr. Guitar – Rumble
*Ray Vernon

While the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame continues to ignore Link Wray, the Shawnee guitar player receives the Bear Family treatment with a 35 tracks compilation album in the “Rock” series. All things considered, he’s in a better company on the German label than with the likes of Madonna, Pink Floyd, Donna Summer, and al.
I hope Link Wray needs no introduction. His simple, straight-in-your-face and powerful guitar style influenced countless guitar players, from The Who’s Pete Townshend and Jimmy Page to Eddie Angel, Billy Childish, and Poison Ivy.
There have been quite a few Wray’s compilation albums on the market, but none as good nor as this one. And the fact that Bear managed to license sides from more labels than its competitors makes it one of the most complete too. Between Rawhide, the opening track, and Rumble the last one, and next to hits like Run Chicken Run and Jack The Ripper, you’ll find a whole panorama of Wray’s recordings between 1958 and 1965, including some lesser-known tune but by no means, songs one could consider as fillers. Among the rare tracks are songs recorded by Link’s brother under his name (Ray Vernon) and two numbers sung by Link Wray’s himself (Mary Ann and Ain’t That Loving You Baby.)
As usual with Bear Family, it comes with a thick booklet, including a story by Bill Dahl, rare photographies, and a discography.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Little Jimmy Dickens

in Reissues

little-jimmy-dickens-gonna-shake-this-shackLittle Jimmy Dickens – I’m Little But I’m Loud!

Bear Family BCD 16198
Buddy’s Boogie – Salty Boogie – You All Come – Stinky Passed The Hat Around – I’m Gettin’ Nowhere Fast – A Hole In My Pocket – Love Must Be Catching – Country Boy Bounce – Happy Heartaches – Wabash Cannon Ball – Blackeyed Joe’s – Slow Suicide – I Never Had The Blues – Raisin’ The Dickens – Big Sandy – Country Ways And City Ideas – You Don’t Have Love At All – Hannah – Me And My Big Loud Mouth – Hey Worm! – Hey Ma! – Walk Chicken Walk – Out Behind The Barn – Red Wing – I’m Coming Over Tonight – Rockin’ With Red – Hillbilly Fever – I Feel For You – I Wish You Didn’t Love Me So Much – Jambalaya – Goodbye.

Like the other releases of this serie, this collection of 31 tracks focuses on Little Jimmy Dickens uptempo numbers he recorded in the 50’s.
You have to search to find a weak track in Dickens’ career, and for this collection Bear has choosen the best sides, which means they didn’t include the good ones but only the excellent!
It’s full of hillbilly, some with a western swing flavor (Hey Worm, Me and My Big Mouth), country boogie (Salty Boogie), proto rockabilly (Blackeyed Joe’s) and frantic rockabilly (Hole In My Pocket). On all this recordings, Dickens leaves plenty of room for his musicians to shine, most notably a young Buddy Emmons on steel and the incredible pair of Howard Rhoton and James Wilson both on electric lead guitar. They are also featured on four amazing instrumentals. This great pieces of cowboy jazz equal the recordings made by Speedy West and Jimmie Bryant and are worth the price of this cd alone.
It comes with a 32 page booklet with an interesting song by song analysis.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Ricky Nelson

in Reissues

Ricky Nelson - Ricky rocks
Ricky Nelson – Ricky rocks

Ricky Nelson – Ricky rocks

Bear Family BCD 16856
Shirley Lee ~ Stood Up ~ Be-Bop Baby ~ If You Can’t Rock Me ~ Waitin’ In School ~ Your True Love ~ Boppin’ The Blues ~ My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It ~ Baby I’m Sorry ~ Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On ~ Am I Blue ~ Believe What You Say ~ There’s Good Rockin Tonight ~ Down The Line ~ I’m Walkin’ ~ My Babe ~ I’m In Love Again ~ There Goes My Baby ~ I Got A Feeling ~ One Of These Mornings ~ You Tear Me Up ~ It’s Late ~ Hey Pretty Baby ~ Don’t Leave Me ~ Just A Little Too Much ~ You’ll Never Know What You’re Missing ~ Mighty Good ~ Milk Cow Blues ~ Stop Sneakin’ Around ~ I’ve Been Thinkin’ ~ Ain’t Nothin’ But Love ~ Travelin’ Man ~ Hello Mary Lou.
With his angel face and soft voice Ricky Nelson has been too hastily pigeonholed as a Teenage Idol. But Ricky, who was a huge fan of Carl Perkins, had a guenine love for Rockabilly. With the help of songwriters like the Burnette brothers and guitar aces like Joe Maphis and the young but talented James Burton he cut a serie of solid rockabilly numbers – maybe on the soft side (sure he wasn’t Charlie Feathers) but none the less Rockabilly. If you only know him from the movie Rio Bravo, the song Teenage idol, the later Garden Party or the country sides from the second part of his career this cd is the occasion to discover the rockin’ side of Ricky Nelson (and I bet that pretty soon you’ll buy the boxed sets).

https://www.bear-family.fr/nelson-ricky-ricky-nelson-ricky-rocks.html

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Bill Haley

in Reissues

Bill Haley and His Comets - the Decca Years and more...
Bill Haley and His Comets – the Decca Years and more…

Bill Haley & His Comets – The Decca Years and More

Bear Family BCD 15506
CD 1: Rock Around the Clock, Thirteen Women, Shake Rattle and Roll, ABC Boogie, Happy Baby, Dim Dim the Lights, Birth of the Boogie, Mambo Rock, Two Hound Dogs, Razzle Dazzle, ROCK, Rock-a-Beatin’ Boogie, The Saint’s Rock and Roll, Burn That Candle, See You Later Alligator, The Paper Boy, Goofin’ Around, Rudy’s Rock, Hide and Seek (vocal by Billy Williamson), Hey Then There Now (vocal by the Comets Trio), Tonight’s The Night (vocal by the Comets Trio), Hook Line and Sinker, Blue Comet Blues (aka. Blue Home Blues), Calling All Comets, Choo Choo Ch’ Boogie, A Rockin’ Little Tune, Hot Dog Buddy Buddy, Rockin’ Thru the Rye.

CD 2: Don’t Knock the Rock (without overdub), Teenager’s Mother, Rip it Up, Don’t Knock the Rock, Forty Cups of Coffee, Miss You, Billy Goat, Rockin’ Rollin’ Rover, Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone, You Can’t Stop Me From Dreaming, I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter, Rock Lomond, Is it True What They Say About Dixie?, Carolina in the Morning, The Dipsy Doodle, Ain’t Misbehavin’, The Beak Speaks, Moon Over Miami, One Sweet Letter From You, In Apple Blossom Time, Somebody Else is Taking My Place, How Many?, Move it On Over, Rock the Joint, Rip it Up (without handclaps).

CD 3: Me Rock-a-Hula, Rockin’ Rita, Jamaica DJ (vocal by Williamson), Piccadilly Rock, Pretty Alouette, Rockin’ Rollin’ Schnitzlebank, Rockin’ Matilda, Vive le Rock and Roll, It’s a Sin, Mary Mary Lou, El Rocko, Come Rock With Me, Oriental Rock, Wooden Shoe Rock, The Walkin’ Beat, Skinny Minnie, Sway With Me, Lean Jean, Don’t Nobody Move, Joey’s Song (stereo), Chiquita Linda, Dinah, Ida Sweet as Apple Cider, Whoa Mabel!, Marie, Eloise, Corrine Corrina (without handclaps), Joey’s Song (mono).

CD 4: Corrine Corrina, B.B. Betty (vocal by Williamson), Sweet Sue Just You, Charmaine, Vive le Rock and Roll (vocal by Bill Haley and Catarina Valente), Hot Dog Buddy Buddy, The Dragon Rock, ABC Rock (vocal by Williamson and Franny Beecher), The Catwalk, I Got a Woman, A Fool Such as I, Be By Me, Where Did You Go Last Night?, Caldonia, Shaky, Ooh Look-a There Ain’t She Pretty?, Summer Souvenir, Puerto Rican Peddlar, Music Music Music, Skokiaan, Drowsy Waters, Two Shadows, In a Little Spanish Town, Strictly Instrumental, Mack the Knife, The Green Door, Yeah She’s Evil, Football Rock and Roll, Six Year Olds Can Rock and Roll.

CD 5: Behind-the scenes studio recordings from 1959, featuring incomplete and alternate takes of : The Dragon Rock, ABC Rock (vocal by Williamson), The Catwalk, I Got a Woman, A Fool Such as I, Be By Me, Where Did You Go Last Night?

On April 12 1954 when Bill Haley and his Comets entered the studio to cut their first single for Decca their new label under the direction of Milt Gabler (who previously worked with notorious jazz musicians like  Billie Holiday). Little did they know that the little tune recorded in a hurry at the end of the session would change the face of the popular music. This five cd boxed set gathers all the sides recorded for Decca between 1954 and 1959 (with some extras) and proves – if needed – that Haley was far more than a one-song-man.
The songs are presented chronologically with the exception of cd 1 that opens with “Rock Around The Clock” rather than “Thirteen Women“.
Haley’s most well known songs are on this first platter. After a few sessions new Comets (Franny Beecher, Al Rex, Rudy Pompilli, Ralph Jones) replace Dick Richards, Joey D’Ambrosio and Marshall Lytle who left after a financial disagrement to form the Jodimars. But it would be a mistake to believe that Haley had little consideration for his musicians. He takes every chances he can to put them in the spotlight as shown on the second half of this cd. Billy Williamson, steel guitarist and Haley’s partner takes the lead vocals on Big Joe Turner’s Hide & Seek (he used to sing Big Joe’s Feelin’ Happy on stage too). He is joined by Beecher and Grande too for the Comets trio on Tonight The Night and Hey There, Hey Now.
A couple of instrumentals are thrown in allowing Beecher (“Goofin’ Around“) and Pompili (Rudy’s Rock“) to show their skills. Grande is not forgotten and get his own one with “A Rockin’ Little Tune” (who said you couldn’t rock with an accordion?).
All the hits are on this cd and by the time you reach the last song Haley’s commercial success (with a few exceptions) is over, and this cd alone would be enough for the casual listener.

When cd2 two opens, the Comets haven’t charted for a while and the band is looking for a hit or a second breath. With “Don’t Knock The Rock” and “Teenager’s Mother” Haley takes the defense of Rock music. If not masterpieces, these are good songs and I don’t really understand why Colin Escott has a real go at this songs in his notes. “You Hit The Wrong Note Billy Goat” clearly tries to reproduce the success “See You Later Alligator” but the songs is far from being as good as Bobby Charles’.
Next are the sessions that gave the “Rockin’ the oldies” album. Maybe the constant touring didn’t allow them to write original material and led to the decision to make an all cover of Tin Pan Alley material. Whatever the reason, the result is not really convincing. It’s not the fault of the band but more to the songs that were not suitable to be turned into rock’n’roll. For example “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone” features a superb bluesy guitar solo from Beecher and Al Rex plays some of his best bass part here.
But the band is in a dead end, trying to apply a formlula instead of exploring new creative ways. Logically this recordings didn’t chart and the following session (July 1957) finds Haley trying at last new things, even if it marks a return to his country roots. “How Many” is a very good country-pop ditty that had everything to chart (but didn’t), and their cover of”Move It On Over” was excellent as is their remake of “Rock The Joint“.

Cd3 features another concept album: “Rockin’ Around The World” (Rocking Tunes representative of 12 different and exciting parts of the world to quote the ad). For this session the band is joined by Rusty Keefer on second guitar which brings a little excitement to a very poor material. You can’t even blame songs that would be hard to transform into rock material as most of them are originals. Even for die hard fans there’s not much to save here except “Vive Le Rock’n’Roll“, “Roch Lomond” and maybe another one or two.
The worst enemy of Haley was maybe his will to make Rock’n’roll music acceptable by the whole family. While Elvis, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis were playing with the parents vs teenagers conflict. Haley in trying to please everyone, didn’t please anyone and despite good musicianship there were not much to please teenagers in “Pretty Alouette” and “Rockin’ Rollin’ Schnitzlebank“.
Things get better with the following session (February 1958). The band now featuring an electric bass delivers an instant classic with the Bo Diddley-esque Skinny Minnie and the lesser known follow-up Lean Jean. The sound is dirty and mean and Haley’s voice shows an agressivity rarely heard. In comparison Sway With Me sounds weak.
After a single for the instrumental market (Joey’s Song / Chiquita Linda) the Comets return to their trademark sound with another concept album based upon, girls’ first names. This is by far the best of the three. It’s not 100% successful but the band seems fresh again, inspired (Pompilli cuts some of his best solo on “Woah Mabel” and plays clarinet on “Ida”) and rocking. This is the first time in ages that Haley’s voice has sounded that good and the arrangements are very tight(especially on “Marie“).

This session continue on cd4. Also on this cd are 2 songs recorded for a German movie (“Vive Le Rock’n’Roll” with Caterina Valente and “Hot Dog Buddy Buddy“).
After that Bill Haley and his Comets seem to experiment various genres and tracks hoping to chart again. The result ranges from good to average. There’s attempts at new things like the crooning on “I Got Woman” or “A Fool Such As I“, first-rate rockers (“Where Did You Go Last Night”, “Caldonia“) and old mistakes (“ABC Rock” couldn’t really compete with Chuck Berry’s School Days). Then there’s the material for an instrumental album with different degrees of success, some announcing the forthcoming mexican releases.
The cd ends with two tracks recorded in 1964 seeing Haley returning to Decca for a single and also proving he still had plenty of good thing in store (though the public didn’t think so) and two songs recorded for the consideration of Milt Gabler that never went any further than the state of demos probably because Football Rock was too close to Crazy Man Crazy.

Cd5 gives you an inside view in the recording process of Haley, Gabler and the Comets.You can hear the evolution and the construction of the songs. Just wish they could have found the same tapes for a more interesting session.

This boxed set is perfect to discover the complexity of Bill haley. The only regret I have concerns the booklet. The liner notes seem to have been written by someone who doesn’t really like Haley but the discography is very complete and the pictures are beautiful.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis


Bill Haley - Rocks
Bill Haley – Rocks

Bill Haley – Bill Rocks

Bear Family BCD 16807
Rock Around The Clock – Shake Rattle And Roll – Dim Dim The Lights – Happy Baby – Mambo Rock – Rocket ’88 – Birth Of The Boogie – Razzle Dazzle – Two Hound Dogs – Rock The Joint – Burn That Candle – Rock-A-Beatin’ Boogie – See You Later, Alligator – Real Rock Drive – The Saints Rock And Roll – A.B.C. Boogie – R-O-C-K – Crazy Man Crazy – Hot Dog Buddy Buddy – Rockin’ Through The Rye – Rip It Up – Fractured – Rudy’s Rock – Choo Choo Ch’Boogie – Don’t Knock The Rock – Live It Up – Forty Cups Of Coffee – Skinny Minnie – Lean Jean – Where Did You Go Last Night? – Green Tree Boogie.

Bill Haley’s greatest hits have been compiled over and over again , mostly on budget series with ugly covers and no liner notes. It is justice that the true father of Rock’n’roll finds his place in the Bear Family’s Rocks serie because Bill Haley didn’t rock, he was the Rock (the same way Charlie Feathers was the rockabilly).
The core of this collection is made of the hits he cut for Decca in the wake of the success of Shake Rattle & Roll and Rock Around the Clock. Are also included some of his Essex sides when he first tried to mix Western swing with Rhythm’n’blues showing a man and band figuring how to find a new sound, how they succeeded and changed the face of the popular music.
That’s without a doubt the best thing from Bill Haley you could buy if you’re not fan enough to get the boxed sets ‘The Decca Years & More” and “The Real Birth Of Rock’n’roll”. As usual it comes with a thick booklet.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

BR5-49

in Reviews

BR5-49 - One Long Saturday Night plus
BR5-49 – One Long Saturday Night plus

BR5-49 – One Long Saturday Night, plus

Bear Family BCD 17347
Even If It’s Wrong – Long Gone Lonesome Blues – Heartaches By The Number – Bettie Bettie – Right Or Wrong – Hometown Boogie – Honky Tonk Song – Go Boy Go – Lonesome 7-7203 – My Name Is Mud – I Ain’t Never – Little Ramona (Gone Hillbilly Nuts) – Big Mouth Blues – Cherokee Boogie – Ole Slewfoot – Crazy Arms – Gone, Gone, Gone – One Long Saturday Night – Take Me Back To Tulsa – Hillbilly Tramp – Settin’ The Woods On Fire – Knoxville Girl – Sweet Georgia Brown

BR5-49 came like a breath of fresh air in the musical landscape of Nashville. Sure they weren’t the first to play traditionnal country, others played it on a smaller level, but they managed to get signed on a major lbel and for a while this music was at the place it deserved in the country music industry.
But though I like their songs and style a lot, I always thought that their studio albums sounded a little bit too clean and would have been better with a little more grit. Just imagine how they would have sounded had they been recorded by Wally Hersom at his Wallyphonic studio.
On this live album, recorded in Germany (and four bonus tracks recorded in Japan) in 1996, they show that the stage whether it’s a honky tonk in Dallas or a German TV show was the place where they belonged.
With no pression but the sheer joy of playing for an audience, the band felt free to play whatever they wanted from western swing (Bob Wills’ Right Or Wrong and Take Me Back To Tulsa) to 60’s country rock (Graham Parson’s Big Mouth Blues) with a solid dose of classic Honky Tonk and Rockabilly in between. This is fun from start to finish. Both Mead and Bennett are mighty fine singers and their harmonies are superb (without mentionning their guitar skills), Don Herron is a wizard with anything that has strings while Wilson and McDowell provide the beat with a subtility that too often lacks in modern country. In the end “One long Saturday Night” could possibly be the band’s best album (and as usual with Bear family it comes with a thick booklet including many pictures and liner notes by Chuck Mead).
And for those who think that the experience can’t be complete without Jay’s smile, Chuck’s legs, Gary’s hat, Shaw’s mustache and Don’s overall, Bear has a also released a dvd from the same live.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

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