neo-rockabilly

Brian Setzer

Brian Setzer - The Knife feels like justice
Brian Setzer – The Knife feels like justice

Brian Setzer – The Knife feels like Justice

EMI [1986]
The Knife Feels Like Justice – Haunted River – Boulevard Of Broken Dreams – Bobby’s Back – Radiation Ranch – Chains Around Your Heart – Maria – Three Guys – Aztec – Breath Of Life – Barbwire Fence

In 1984, Setzer came to a point in his career where he felt too limited with the labels “Rockabilly” and “Guitar Hero” sticked to him. He wanted to show and prove he was more than a Grestch guy who sings about Cadillacs an Pin-Ups. With a more ambitious vision in mind he parted way with the Stray Cats and reinvented himself as a heartland rocker (on a side note it was also the beginning of the mullet period). He was helped in this process by Don Gehman the man behind the sound of John Mellencamp’s Scarecrow and, according to his own words, by a “real band” (understand two guitars, a full drumkit, a keyboard and an electric bass) including members of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, Kenny Aronoff (John Mellencamp) and Tommy Byrnes who was for a brief period the fourth Stray Cats.
After an apparition at the first Farm Aid, the debut album from the “new” Setzer was released in 1986. If the result is not entirely convincing and really sounds dated by moment (especially that typical 80’s drums sound), the curious and open-minded listener will find a couple of good things.
The title track opens brillantly the disc and sets the pace (though the lyrics are still obscure to me). “Bobby’s Back” is a dip into R&B (via MTV) and was already present in the Stray Cats setlist in 1984, as is “Barbwire Fence” another highlight of the album. “Radiation Ranch” is a solid rocker based upon a simple but efficient guitar riff, later recycled to write “Drive Like Lightning (Crash Like Thunder)” more than ten years later.
But the real good surprises come from “Aztec” (co-written with Heartbreakers’ Mike Campbell) and “Maria” (another collaboration, this time with Steve Van Zandt) both with a strong social comment revealing a new side of Setzer. Even though some stuff is just average, the whole album remains coherent. But Setzer didn’t pursue in this way and without a clear vision of what to do of his “freedom” (without a pre-definite musical genre) he oriented himself toward FM rock on the catastrophic “Live Nude Guitar”, but this is another story.

Brian Setzer Radiation Ranch


Brian Setzer – Live Nude Guitar

EMI Manhattan [1988]
Red Lightning Blues – Rockability – Rebelene – Nervous Breakdown – Every Tear That Falls – Temper Sure Is Risin’ – When the Sky Comes Tumblin’ Down – She Thinks I’m Trash – Love Is Repaid by Love Alone – Rosie in the Middle – So Young, So Bad, So What – The Rain Washed Everything Away

After The Knife Feels Like Justice failed to convince the audience (but was he really convinced himself?), Setzer knew he had to return to familiar territories. He dropped the second guitar and the keyboards and reduced the line-up to a power trio. With the faithful Tommy Byrnes switching on bass and Jerry Angel on drums, Setzer put back his guitar up to the fore. If he couldn’t be considered as a serious songwriter, he could still play the rocker card.
Ironically, if Setzer left the Stray Cats in 1984 to be free from the Rockabilly image, it appeared that he didn’t know what to do with that newly acquired freedom. If its predecessor showed some coherence, trying to follow the steps of John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen, Live Nude Guitars is a collection of songs that go in every direction possible. For better and mostly for worse.
Things begin not that bad with Red Lightnin’ Blues (a heavy rocker) and Rockability that could have been a Stray Cats track. Rebelene is still good though a bit wasted by the production. On Nervous Breakdown, Setzer sounds like a parody of himself. How Setzer, who claimed his love for Cochran everywhere, can miss this cover? It’s beyond me.
Every Tear is even worse; it’s one of the worst songs of the album: a pop ballad with an awful FM production.
Temper Sure Is Risin’ gives you hope. It’s not great, but it’s a boogie-rock with a hot guitar solo and Bruce Willis on harmonica.
But these hopes vanished instantly with When the Sky Comes Tumblin’ Down. It’s not enough that the song is terrible, but the production is awful, and the synthesizer horns nearly made my ears bleed.
Once again, the terrible production waste the few qualities one could find in She Thinks I’m Trash.
Love Is Repaid By Love Alone is a good song. It’s too much on many aspects (the strings, Setzer who tries to put as many notes as he can) but, somehow, it works.
With just a light guitar and an accordion, Rosie In the Middle seems a bit out of place. It’s without a doubt the best song of the album, and one can regret that Setzer didn’t go more in that direction for that record. But it’s not enough to save Live Nude Guitar. Especially when it’s followed by So Young So Bad, So What (can you do something more cliché? I don’t think so.) and The Rain Washed Everything Away. After all these years I still wonder if it’s a joke or not.
Setzer toured briefly during the Summer of 1988, but by the end of the year, the Stray Cats were back on tracks.

Brian Setzer Live nude guitar


Brian Setzer Collection 81-88
Brian Setzer Collection 81-88

Brian Setzer – Brian Setzer Collection 81-88

EMI
(She’s) Sexy + 17 – Rock This Town – Summertime Blues – The Knife Feels Like Justice – Boulevard Of Broken Dreams – Echo Park – When The Sky Comes Tumblin’ Down – Cross Of Love – Every Tear That Falls – Thing About You – Waitin’ For Desiree – Bobby’s Back – Keep Your Lovin’ Strong – Living Souls – The Rain Washed Everything Away – I Won’t Stand In Your Way – Runaway Boys – Chains Around Your Heart
EMI released this compilation album when, call that a coincidence, Setzer was toping the charts with his 17-piece big band and the excellent Dirty Boogie album.
Chances are the newly converted to the sound of the Orchestra might have been surprised by the stuff included in that album. With the exception of four Stray Cats songs that sound a bit out a place, the songs date from a period when Setzer tried to reinvent himself as a serious rocker closer to Tom Petty, John Mellencamp or Bruce Springsteen. Nothing wrong with that, and despite a production that sounds terribly dated now,  there’s a lot of good things on the two albums recording during that era (the Knife Feels Like Justice and Live Nude Guitar) but they lacked of that little something that made the difference with the Stray Cats or his later solo stuff.
What really makes this compilation worthwile, especially for Setzer hardcore fans, are the the B-sides  and the many unreleased outtakes, some being very good like the Springteen-esque Waiting For Desiree. Some of the songs from that period (Cross of Love and Thing About You) would later be recorded by the Stray Cats. It also includes the version of Summertime Blues than the one recorded for the movie La Bamba.


Brian Setzer - Rockabilly Riot a Tribute to Sun records
Brian Setzer – Rockabilly Riot a Tribute to Sun records

Brian Setzer – Rockabilly Riot Vol. 1 A Tribute To Sun Records

Surfdog Records 44068-2 [2005]
Red Hot – Slow Down – Real Wild Child – Rockhouse – Put Your Cat Clothes On – Lonely Weekends – Get It Off Your Mind – Just Because – Glad All Over – Flatfoot Sam – Rock N Roll Ruby – Blue Suede Shoes – Tennessee Zip – Mona Lisa – Peroxide Blonde (In A Hopped Up Model Ford) – Get Rhythm – Stairway To Nowhere – Boppin’ The Blues – Rakin’ & Scrapin’ – Sweet Woman – Flyin’ Saucers Rock N Roll – Lonely Wolf – Red Cadillac & A Black Moustache

Brian Setzer’s  idea for this album is simple, and lays in the title, it’s a tribute to the greatest rockabilly label, the one that started it all: Sun records.
One can wonder what the use of recording such a record, especially with tracks like Blue Suede Shoes, Boppin’ the Blues, Just Because and Red Hot. Setzer claims that he made it to introduce these songs to a new generation. Well, this is a noble cause, so let’s give him credit for that, and we know that he didn’t make it for money, NOBODY makes money with rockabilly.
The recording itself is very good. What you have is a very inspired Brian Setzer, and if you want to compare to another all cover album it’s far better than Stray Cats’ Original Cool. His voice is very strong and it goes without saying that his guitar play is top notch. Though the fans of his flashy style could be deceived, Setzer serves the songs rather than his own glory. He’s perfectly supported by Mark Winchester on double bass and Bernie Dresel on drums (the best rhythm section Setzer ever worked with) and Kevin McKendree adds a solid pumping piano to the ensemble. Even the Jordanaires join in on a couple of songs. They remain very faithful to the original versions which is both a strenghth and a failing. Sure there’s no betrayal, and if you dig the originals you’ll like Setzer’s but in the end this album lacks of originality (which is often the case with tribute albums). At leats it proves that Rockabilly and Rock’n’roll are the kind of music that Setzer plays the best.
One last thing: I still wonder why this album has been recorded in Nashville instead of Sun studio? The liner notes also surprised me when I read Setzer saying “Isn’t it funny how modern rockabilly rarely incorporates acoustic guitar”. Give me a call Brian, I have some records you really should listen.


Brian Setzer - Red Hot & Live
Brian Setzer – Red Hot & Live

Brian Setzer – Red Hot & Live

Surfdog Records  [2007]
Red Hot – This Cat’s On A Hot Tin Roof – Get It Off Your Mind – Slow Down – Put Your Cat Clothes On – Take A Chance On Love – Broken Down Piece of Junk – Peroxide Blonde (In A Hopped Up Model Ford) – Tennessee Zip – Mini Bar Blues – Runaway Boys – Stray Cat Strut – Rocket Cathedrals – Fishnet Stockings – Rock This Town – Gene & Eddie

To be honest, although I’m a huge Setzer fan I didn’t really know what to expect with this live album recorded in 2006 in Japan with Robbie Chevrier on piano, Ronnie Crutcher on bass and the great Bernie Dresel on drums.
On one hand the idea of an album made for one third of Setzer classics heard many times before on live records (both official and bootlegs), one third from the pleasant but not very original “Tribute to Sun Records” and the remaining third from the highly disappointing “ 13” had nothing to excite me.
On the other hand I was more than curious to hear those classics played with a new arrangement with piano or a second guitar (a configuration not used by Brian Setzer since The Knife Feels Like Justice era 20 years ago) and maybe the tunes from “ 13” would sound better on live than on the studio takes.
And I must admit that once again, Setzer caught me.
This album is nothing less than excellent. It manages to capture perfectly the excitment of the live performance, and it’s amazing how much a piano or a second guitar can change the sound compared to the trio format. The sound is full and pure rock’n’roll. The Rockabilly/Sun tunes are all excellent with sparkling guitar and real rockabilly piano courtesy of Robbie Chevrier. What could sound sterile on record takes here its real dimension, one of the best exemple being “Put Your Cat Clothes On”. The songs from “ 13” sound raw and good when they are played live with this this line-up, especially the glam “Rocket Cathedrals” (do I hear a electric bass on this one?) and the instrumental tour de force “Mini Bar Blues” quoting Les Paul and Jimmie Bryant.
But the real surprise to come from this album is the way they inject new life in those classics that are “Stray Cat Strut”, “Runaway Boys” (one of the best version I heard and believe me I have quite a few bootlegs) and “Rock This Town” which starts like a good ol’ boogie woogie to quickly evolve into a pure rock’n’roll gem.
This album proves (if needed) that when he doesn’t waste his talent in Christmas albums or pre-marketed album for Japanese audience, Setzer can rock like nobody else.


Brian Setzer goes Instru-mental
Brian Setzer goes Instru-mental

Brian Setzer – Setzer Goes Instru-Mental

Surfdog 233291 [2011]
Blue Moon Of Kentucky – Cherokee – Be-Bop-A-Lula – Earl’s Breakdown – Far Noir East – Intermission – Go-Go Godzilla – Lonesome Road – Hillbilly Jazz Meltdown – Hot Love – Pickpocket

Well, fine, Brian Setzer is a damn good picker but how I wish I could have loved this album more. This is not bad but it just sounds like a missed opportunity.

Some songs are just quick reworking of classics that Setzer plays for years and really don’t bring anything to his glory. Seriously who wants to hear another version of Blue Moon Of Kentucky or Be Bop A Lula, even by Brian Setzer? And when he picks his banjo you can expect something new, why not a real bluegrass number with mandolin or dobro or whatever. Instead of that what you have is a clean (in the sense of “sterile”) version of Earl’s Breakdown a song he plays live since 1983. Cherokee is a bit better but reveals the major flaw of the album: its production. The sound is way too clean, totally disembodied and for the most part evokes a cd one can find with guitar methods. And the lack of interaction between the rhythm section and the solist doesn’t help either. Let’s quickly forget Go-Go Godzilla that sounds like a self-parody to concentrate on the few good numbers of the albums. “Far Noir East” seems to have been written for the Brian Setzer Orchestra album “Songs From Lonely Avenue” like a cross between Harlem Nocturne and the Stray Cats little known jewel Jade Idol. Intermission is really jazzy, with a strong Charlie Christian feel and a guest vibraphonist and you regret that there aint no more guests on this album to enhance the final result. For example Lonesome Road is really good too, more or less in the Jimmy Bryant style and it’s too bad that there is not a guest steel guitar on that tune (or why not, Setzer on both as we all know that he plays steel too). And though enjoyable, the remaining songs seems to have been improvised on the spot around a single riff.
It seems that this is not this time that my dream to hear him do an instrumental album with a small jazz combo will come true.


Brian Setzer - Rockabilly Riot! Live from the Planet
Brian Setzer – Rockabilly Riot! Live from the Planet

Brian Setzer – Rockabilly Riot! Live from the Planet

Surfdog 253147 [2012]
Ignition – ’49 Mercury Blues – This Cat’s On A Hot Tin Roof – Drive Like Lightning (Crash Like Thunder) – 8-Track – Slow Down / Folsom Prison Blues – Put Your Cat Clothes On – Blue Moon of Kentucky – Pickpocket – Rumble in Brighton – Runaway Boys – Cry Baby – Great Balls Of Fire – Red Hot – Seven Nights to Rock

Though his recent studio albums vary in quality, Brian Setzer remains one of the top rockabilly acts when on stage. His latest live album, recorded during a tour that took him, two drummers (including Slim Jim Phantom), tow bassists and a pianist from Europe to Australia with Japan and North America in between is another proof, if needed that he’s still the king of modern rockabilly.

The first good surprise comes from the set-list. Setzer has dropped songs like Stray Cat Strut, Gene & Eddie and Rock This Town to make room to rare covers (Great Balls Of Fire, Seven Nights To Rock) or lesser played songs like Cry Baby or 49 Mercury Blues, the latter in a trio version way more powerful than the studio version with the Orchestra. Two songs from his latest release (Instru-Mental) are also included and though I had major reserves about the studio versions, they take all their sense on stage (partially due to the excellent recording work). the other good surprise is simply the performance. You have to go back to Ignition in 2001 to find him in such a good form. The band is tight and Setzer’s playing is inspired and creative and what you hear is a band that works together, not a singer/guitarist and a backing band. This is particularly audible on Slow Down/Folsom Prison Blues on which you can hear the pleasure that Setzer has to trade licks with Kevin McKendree on acoustic guitar. An excellent album from start to finish, more than that a lesson of Rock’n’roll.
Rock This Town, Stray Cat Strut, Sexy & 17 and Fishnet Stockings are available in mp3 format.


Brian Setzer – Gotta Have The Rumble

brian setzer gotta have the rumbleSurfdog 68102 [2021]
Checkered Flag – Smash Up On Highway One – Sytack my Money – The Wrong Side Of the Tracks – Drip Drop – The Cat With 9 Wives – Turn You On, Turn Me On – Rockabilly Riot – Off Your Rocker – One Bad Habit – Rockabilly Banjo

Brian Setzer has a new album out after six years of silence (well, not really, since he reformed and toured with the Stray Cats during this time.)
This new album is produced by Julian Raymond, whose credits include, among others, Cheap Trick and Glenn Campbell. One could fear that having someone coming outside the Rockabilly/Rock’n’Roll circle could not work. But to the contrary, I find that it forces Setzer to reinvent and challenge himself. Also, Setzer didn’t call back his usual crew but chose to play with session men, namely Victor Indrizzo on drums and David Roe Rorick on bass. Rorick toured with Johnny Cash and played bass on John Mellencamp, Dwight Yoakam, and Billy Joe Shaver’s albums. Indrizzo recorded with Sheryl Crow, Meat Loaf, Depeche Mode and Boyzone (ouch! I can hear some Rockabilly teeth cringe from here).
Against all odds, this eclectic mix works fairly well.
Co-written with Slim Jim Phantom, Checkered Flagg features heavy pounding drums and a menacing riff. Not the most original nor the best of the set, so it’s good to have it as an opener so that you can fully enjoy the rest of the disc. Smash Up On Highway One is far more original, a wild tune, with a riff inspired by Dick Dale. Stack My Money is pure Rockabilly gold and proves if needed that Setzer’s bag of rockabilly licks is bottomless.
The Wrong Side Of the Track is one of the highlights of the album. The melody reminds me of Ghost Radio, Setzer’s collaboration with Joe Strummer. But Setzer totally turns the song into something different by adding strings, and the result wouldn’t be out of place on Songs From Lonely Avenue. Drip Drop is more lighthearted, even though the singer laments about lost love, and when you didn’t expect it, bam!, a stunning Rockabilly solo. The Cat With 9 Wives is pure Swingabilly with Setzer’s guitar all over the place. What happens when you mix Hot Rod music with Bo Diddley’s Who Do You Love? The answer is Turn You On, Turn Me On. Despite its name, Rockabilly Riot is almost Punkabilly. It’s a full-throttle rocking charge. One Bad Habit sounds like an outtake from Ignition, and as usual, Setzer’s solo takes you to places you’re not used to. Both Off Your Rocker and Rockabilly Banjo were penned in collaboration with Dibbs Preston of the Rockats. I was thrilled to see two of my favourite artists collaborate. Off Your Rocker is different from the Rockats song of the same name. It’s a middle paced rocker featuring female backing vocals, and Rockabilly Banjo is, of course, a banjo-led ditty also featuring Paul Franklin on pedal steel guitar.
Setzer delivers a superb album, supported by a solid set of originals and a perfect production. Not for the purists, but they already know that, but more for those curious to see how you can add modern ingredients in a 70-year old genre.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

 

 

Dave Phillips and the Hot Rod Gang

Dave Phillips and the Hot Rod Gang - Wild Youth
Dave Phillips and the Hot Rod Gang – Wild Youth

Dave Phillips and the Hot Rod Gang – Wild Youth

Rockhouse [1982]
Wild Youth – She Will Come Back – 56 Boys –  Tainted Love – Love Me – My Turn – On The Move – One And Only – Flea Brain – Should I Ever Love Again – Summertime – Baby Blue – Just Can’t Believe – Wow

Having left the Blue Cats in 1980, Dave Phillips took some time off before forming his own band. Still with Gene Vincent in mind he named his new band the Hot Rod Gang after the 1958 movie featuring the screaming kid. The first line-up consisted of John Day and Ray Thompson on guitars, Rob Tyler on drums and of course Dave Phillips on double bass and lead vocals. But it’s the second line-up with Mark Harman from Restless on guitar replacing both Day and Thompson that entered the history of modern rockabilly. Harman was the perfect choice, his fast Gallup influenced licks being the perfect complement to Phillips. The trio recorded Wild Youth in late 1981 and contrary to what the cover reads it’s Tyler on drums and not Andrew Wrightson who was the band’s driver (even on the cd reissue features the mistake).
One can suppose that the label (Rockhouse for both) acted with Phillips the same way he did with the Blue Cats’ second album (with Clint Bradley) hence the presence of many familiar cover in a more traditional style (Flea Brain, Summertime, Baby Blue and the Phantom’s Love Me sung by Harman). But there’s enough modern stuff to make of Wild Youth a benchmark in Neo-Rockabilly history, the best known being their cover of Tainted Love. It’s an instant classic that will have a lasting influence on many young bands.
Essential to any decent collection.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Dave Phillips

Dave Phillips – Rockhouse Mini L.P. Collection

Rockhouse Records – MLP 8420 [1985]

Brand New Beat – The Fun Of It – In My Dreams – So Now You’ve Lost her – You Don’t Want to Know – The Trip

I said it before and I’ll say it again, mini lp are often the best support for Rockabilly. It’s short, every number counts and there’s no place for fillers.
Dave Phillips’ mini lp for Rockhouse is the perfect exemple of that statement.It’s almost perfect and dare I say, even better than his debut solo album.
Once again one can hear the influence of Gene Vincent, with the covers of Brand New beat (imagine Vincent revisited by Restless of vanish Without A Trace period) and In My Dreams which is probably the weakest song of the album (but to his discharge it’s hard to compete with Vincent on that type of song.)
The four remaining tracks are originals. You Don’t Want to Know features Mark Harman of Restless (and former hot Rod Gang member) on guitar and is a rockin’ ballad with once again the shadow of Gene Vincent over it.
So You’ve Lost Her is a medium rocker while the Fun of it is a fast neo-rockabilly with breaks later covered by French band the Happy Drivers on their debut album and the Trip is Worth th eprice of the album alone. This fast modern rockabilly number (with a dash of psychobilly) is a modern masterpiece.

Dave Phillips – The Best Of

Rockhouse records ROCKCD8603
Tainted love -’56 Boys – Wild youth – She will come back – Love me – On the move – It was free – The trip – Every walk of life – I saw her standing there – Sunshine girl – So now you lost her – The fun of it – Brand new beat – I’m gonna die – I’m driving home – Boogie up roar – Pink thunderbird – Cat man

If you don’t have any of the solo albums of Dave Phillips or the Blue Cats (which is, in my opinion, a shame), you should definitely acquire this best-of album.
It covers the “Rockhouse years” of the fame double-bassist, with songs from the first Blue Cats album, the studio recordings (including the hit Tainted Love) and two live songs lifted from the Live at the Rockhouse compilation album.
It also shows that Phillips always had the best musicians to back him, Rob Tyler on drums and aces like Mark Harman, Paul Gaskin and Mick Malone on guitar.


Dave Phillips – Understatements

Kix 4 U Records ‎– 4U 3334
Rescue – Desert Town – Every Walk Of Life – Next Stop – Night Life – Paradise For The Children – The Trip – Room At The Top – Sunshine Girl – I Saw Her Standing There – Dancing Shoes – The Fun Of It!

Following the success of Tainted Love, Bert Rockhuizen of Rockhouse/Kix4U pushed Dave Phillips to add even more modern elements on Understatements.
Hence, despite having good melodies, most of the album is made of pop/new wave-influenced music with a modern production that has little if nothing in common with Rockabilly.
Nevertheless, a bunch of great self-penned Neo-Rockabilly numbers (The Trip, The Fun of it, and the Beatles influenced Next Stop) and two good rocking covers of the Beatles’ I Saw Her Standing There and Buzz & the Flyers’Every Walk of Life, save half of the platter.


Dave Phillips and the Hot Rod Gang – Look Out!

Bank Of Troy Recordings ‎– AR-92-1-33, My Way Records ‎– WAY LP 1223 [1992]
New Job – Git It – Goin’ Up The Country – It Was Free – She’s A Woman – No Comeback – Joy Ride – Ain’t That Good News – Handsome Johnny – Linda Lou – A Soft Growl – It’s Murder On The Streets

After going too deep into the musical experimentation with “Understatements” his previous album, Dave Phillips wisely chose to return to what he does best: ROCK! And what a better band than the original Hot Rod Gang (the faithful Rob Tyler on drums and Mark Harman as well as Paul Gaskin on guitars) to help him?
The result is a superb twelve track album. Some tracks a pure neo-rockabilly (almost Psychobilly for “It’s Murders On the Streets”); others are more traditional sounding. As usual with Phillips, there’s special care to write melodic songs (or cover songs with strong melodies), and he’s attached to add a variety of instruments (piano, harmonica, flute) to explore styles and moods. There’s even a slow, which is always a good point!
The only low point being the drawing on the cover.

Available here.


Dave Phillips and the Hot Rod Gang – Good Thing

Fury Records F3035 [1995]
Good Thing – I’ve Just Seen A Face – Rollin’ Danny – Teenage Partner – Here Comes The Night – Linda Lu (Live Recording)

Recorded in 1995, Good Thing features Rob Tyler on drums and Darrel Higham on guitar. This mini-album features six covers. Next to the now mandatory Beatles cover, there are songs from Fine Young Cannibals, Gene Vincent, Hank Noble, and Ray Sharpe.
Good Thing, the song, captures the same vibe as Tainted Love. Phillips is as usual extremely at ease when it comes to singing Gene Vincent his idol, and both Here Comes the Night and Linda Lu rock (the latter being recorded live.) Surprisingly, they do not convince with their cover of the Beatles, which is usually one of their strong points.
The whole atmosphere is very laid back, and it benefits to the final result.


Dave Phillips and the Hot Rod Gang – I Lost My Beer

Dave Phillips

KEiL-Records – V.07-21-009 [2021]
I Lost My Beer! / I’m Gonna Toss My Cookies

After a break of a quarter of a century, Dave Phillips returns with a brand new single (but a little bird told me there’s more in the pipeline). Some bands grow older, and often not for the best, but Dave Phillips has matured. I try as much as possible to avoid the overused comparison with the wine, but if you allow me just one exception, let it be for this single.

Backed by the excellent Mark Twang on lead guitar and Pete Deville on drums and superbly recorded, Dave Phillips proposes two original songs, thematically centred around beer and cookies. This man knows about essential things in life. This kind of lyrics evokes the likes of Slim Gaillard or Louis Jordan. Actually, the music is also a variation around their music, a brand of swingin’ Rock’n’roll or a brand of Jump/Rhythm’n’Blues without horns. The trio is very impressive by its cohesion and how they complement each other. Philips and Deville infectious groove allows Twang to jump and gallop (and sometimes he “gallups” too) over the fretboard. The final result is delightful, though having only two songs create a lot of frustration. It’s a strictly limited release (only 444 copies), so grab a copy when you can.
Release date: October 2021

https://www.facebook.com/keilrecordsgermany

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Read our in depth interview with Dave Phillips here.

The Tin Cans

 

The Tin Cans – Back For More

Tin Cans

PART-CD 6101.002 [2021]
The Time Is Right – Boppin’ On – Lost In Swamp – Illusive Love – You Drag Me Down – Anyway – Sound Of The Highway – Free As A Bird – Poor Man‘s Blues – Ship Of Lost Souls – I Need To Know – The Girl Next Door – Please Mr Postman

The Tin Cans return with a brand new album, full of original material except for The Marvelettes’ Please Mr Postman. The band consists of Claudius Wolke (ex-Magnetics) on double-bass and lead vocals, Sebastian Glenz (Scannerz) on guitar and Martin Putela (The Cambles) on drums.
The first song, The Time is Right, is pure Neo-Rockabilly gold, with a haunting guitar riff, in the style of RestlessVanish Without A Trace. Mark Harman influenced quite a few guitar players, but Sebastian „Semmel“ Glenz is, without a doubt, one of the best. Boppin’ On is more traditional, with a slight boppin’ Hillbilly edge.
Lost In the Swamp is a great and powerful country-rocker that finds the band sounding like the Planet Rockers. The next song, titled Illusive Love, is a highly melodic rock’n’roll tune propelled by a solid double bass. In the same style, you’ll find I Need To Know, with harmonies. Back to pure Neo-rockabilly (can Neo-Rockabilly be pure, hum, that’s a good question) with You Drag Me Down, followed by Anyway, which is more in the boogie blues vein as is Poor man’s Blues in the second half of the album.
Sound Of The Highway is one of the best cuts of the album. One could describe it as country-rock meets British Rock’n’roll à la Johnny Kidd. Free As A Bird pursues in the Country vein, but this time, it’s a western ballad, with another fine picking part from Semmel. Ship Of Lost Souls is a fast neo-Rockabilly tune, maybe not the most original of the set, but very efficient.
With its Beatles-tinged melody, fast rhythm and beautiful harmonies, The Girl Next Door made me think, “Wow they sound like a German Neo-Rockabilly answer to the Bellfuries.” Even Wolke’s voice reinforces this feeling. Really, really great! The album ends with Mr Postman (also covered by the Fab Four, by the way), turned into a ska number. And it works.
All in all a very pleasant album, warmly recommended to anyone who likes Restless, Dave Phillips, the Blue Cats, or simply has good taste in music.

Buy it here.

The Tin Cans – Unbreakable

Tin Cans

Mad Drunken Monkey Records MDMO15 [2012]
I Got The Rhythm – From One To Four – From The Bottom Of My Heart – Turn That Music Down – Once Again – Searching For You – Go Buddy Go – I Wanna Know – Crying Shame – Please Come Back – This Is It – Letter Of Goodbye – High On Rock ‘n’ Roll – That Day Went To The Devil – Lady Of Leisure – Brave Rockin’ Heart
Formed in 1996, the Tin Cans are now firmly established as one of the top Neo-rockabilly band in activity today. To tell you the truth with Unbreakable their sixth album, they probably release one of the very best albums of the genre. With 15 self penned songs it’s a rare case of all-killer-no-filler record. Yes sir! Here you’ll find superb musicianship from the strong rhythm section to the hot guitar of Semmel. The Tin Cans doesn’t seem to care about the musical trends that come and go on the rockin’ scene they play their own vision of Rockabilly and album after album like a joiner who sands down a piece of wood to obtain the perfect curve, they refine their vision. To achieve this they use elements of 50’s rockabilly mixed with 80’s neo-rockabilly, a bit of country twang, a touch of ska, all of this played with a 21st century feel. A brilliant that comes in a nicely designed digipack.
.
Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Smell of Kat

Smell of Kat

Smell of Kat – Raw Beat

Vampirella Music – 10200009-7 [1997]

Nothing More But Shout – You’re Gonna Die / Evil Girl – Raw Beat

“Smell of Kat” is the name of an excellent song by Stringbeans, a Finish neo-rockabilly trio. This is also the name of an equally excellent quartet from Spain. Smell of Kat formed in 1994, and in 1996 the band recorded their first EP. The line-up consisted of Javi Caballero on vocals, David Mourello on double bass, Christobal Saez on drums, and Javi Uroz on guitar. All four songs are originals.
Their music falls somewhere in the blurry zone between fast Neo-Rockabilly and Psychobilly, a bit like the Blue Cats meet the Ricochets or something like that. The instruments are well played, and the tight rhythm section keeps a solid beat throughout. Superb production too.

The radioactive Kid

Levi Dexter

Levi Dexter and the Ripchords – In the Beginning

In the beginning

Mistral Records BLOW 1 [1980]
I’m Gone – It’s The Beat – Cat Fight – 21 Days in Jail

Sometimes when a band splits, it’s a colossal waste of talent. On the contrary, the split of Levi and the Rockats gave us two great bands: the Rockats and Levi and the Ripchords. A bit like the original Blue Cats’ split gave us Dave Phillips and the Blue Cats with Clint Bradley.
Anyway, back to Levi Dexter. When he parted ways with the Rockats, he quickly searched for potential members to form a new band. Dexter approached different musicians for the Ripchords, including Brian Setzer and his brother Gary. Still, the line-up finally settled on Danny B. Harvey on lead guitar, Jimmy Reed on rhythm guitar, Dave Curry on bass, and Pat Brown on drums.
This hot combo cut this EP in April 1980 at Alaska studios in London. It features three originals and one cover.
Danny Harvey penned two songs: I’m Gone and Cat Fight. The former is a superb fast-paced Rockabilly number, the latter has a menacing mood, which carries the theme of the song. You’d expect the violence to erupt anytime. Also, it features a fine slide guitar on the solo.
It’s The Beat, written by the singer, is a mid-tempo dancing tune with drums to the fore, not surprisingly with such a title.
The fourth track is Magic Sam’s 21 Days In Jail. Dexter and the Ripchords turned the song into a superb Rockabilly with a powerful double-bass and Harvey’s guitar galloping (or should I say “galluping”) behind the melody.
In 1980, the band managed to capture the excitement of the Fifties while keeping it relevant for a contemporary audience that saw the arrival of Punk. Forty years later, it still sounds fresh.


Levi Dexter & The Ripchords – I Get So Excited

I Get so excited

Fresh Records – FRESH 40 [1981]
I Get So Excited – The Other Side Of Midnight

Recorded in July 1981, Levi and the Ripchords’ second single shows a slight departure from the band’s debut effort. After Curry and Reed decided to return to Los Angeles the previous Summer, the band recruited Bobby Brennan on double bass, and Danny Harvey remained the sole guitar player. It’s also produced by the expert hands and ears of Richard Gottehrer (Blondie, Robert Gordon, the Strangeloves, Holly and the Italians). It finds Dexter and the Ripchords leaving the traditional Rockabilly idiom to flirt with Neo-Rockabilly. Suffice to compare the Other Side of Midnight’s version recorded by Levi and the Rockats on their Louisiana Hayride album with this one. The former is played in a medium train beat and sounds traditional, whereas the latter is slightly faster, the vocal is meaner, and the guitar sound is more modern. Those differences may sound subtle, but in the end, you almost have an entirely new song.
I Get So Excited is from the pen of Danny Harvey, and drummer Pat Brown is in the same vein. I always get chills when the song stops and Harvey erupts into an amazing, yet brief, guitar solo.


Levi – The Fun Sessions

levi the fun sessions

PVC Records – PVC 5905
I Get So Excited – The Other Side Of Midnight – Victim Of Kool – Let Er Roll – Jitterbop Baby

Both I Get So Excited and Other Side Of Midnight were released as a single in 1981. Victim of Kool comes from the same session (July 1981) produced by Richard Gottehrer. It sounds like a modern version of Gene Vincent’s Dance In The Street.
The remaining two songs, a cover of Hal Harris’ Jitterbop Baby and Sid King’s Ler Er Roll, come from a Trident Studio session in London in November 1980. The sound is more traditional and closer to the band’s debut single in terms of sound.


Pomp!
Levi Dexter – Pomp!

Levi Dexter – Pomp!

Jappin’ and Rockin’ JRCD3 [1992]
Other Side of Midnight – Just Go Wild – Hot’n’Cold – Lolita – Joint Jumpin – Dub-Scratch Boogie – Crazy Blues – Everytime – Stealin Corn – Motorhead Baby – All Night Rockin’

In 1985 Levi Dexter gathered a fine array of musicians and did what he does best (and better than many): ROCK! The result was Pomp!
Actually there’s more than just rockabilly here and everyone who likes good music will find something on this platter that is sure to please him . Of course the amateur of Neo-rockabilly as defined by Dexter with the Rockats and the Ripchords will be knocked off by his new version of his classic “Other Side Of Midnight” – that plays in the same league as, say, everything the Blue Cats recorded on the Tunnel in term of modern Rockabilly – or by his interpretation of classics like “Hot’n’Cold”. But there’s also a good dose of good old Rock’n’roll with saxophone, a jazzy ballad (Lolita) with a great solo that is worth the price of the album itself (even if it sells for big money on the internet now!) a rockin’ blues with steel guitar (Crazy Blues) and a bit of western swing influence (Everytime) too. There’s even an instrumental in the Bakersfield style.
As I said before, “Pomp” is not that easy to find but definitely worth the hunt.


Levi Dexter - Roots Man
Levi Dexter – Roots Man

Levi Dexter – Roots Man

Dextone Records/Rhythm Bomb records RBR5776 [2014]
Roots Man – Honey Bun – Completely Sweet – Oakie Boogie – Boppin’ Bernie – Rollin’ To The Jukebox Rock – Hadacillin Boogie – I’m Laying It On The Line – Put Your Cat Clothes On – Move Around – The Man Who Counts – Hurricane – Restless – Cannibal Party

Levi’s back! Not that he was really gone – though he’s a real gone cat but that’s another story – but his latest album released jointly by his own label Dextone records and Rhythm Bomb records sounds like a sonic bang and a slap in the face. A shoot of Rock’n’roll directly injected through your ears to your feet. Boppin’ fever guaranteed.
Roots Man, quite an appropriate name, was recorded live mostly o n vintage gear and it shows. One can hear the emergency and the excitement that make the essence of Rockabilly. Special mention also to the perfect backing band: Buzz Campbell (Hot Rod Lincoln, Lee Rocker) sets his guitar on fire while Johnny Bowler (Guana Batz, Head Cats and many others) and Stinky provide the beat.
Among the 14 songs, three are Dexter originals. The title track is a hot rocker with stop-starts arrangements with Levi naming his favourite rockers while Campbell answers with the appropriate riffs. Boppin’ Bernie (I wonder who this Bernie can be?) has a slight Gene Vincent feel and is sure to make you… bop! The third song, quite possibly my favourite track, is the humorous Cannibal Party that sounds like a mix between Jungle Rock and the MeteorsVoodoo Rhythm.
The remaining songs are covers from the songbooks of Larry Donn, Eddie Cochran, Carl Perkins, Don Rich & the Buckaroos, Jack Guthrie, Benny Joy, Hank Penny and, that’s a good point, contemporary artists like Bob Butfoy( Jack Rabbit Slim) and Steve Bloomfield. Dexter assimilates them, mixes them with his own influences (Do I hear a bit of Cavan on Oakie Boogie?) and in the end the songs are what I call “Dexterised”, sounding 100% Levi.
A must have.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Levi Dexter (Photo by Bernie Dexter)
Levi Dexter (Photo by Bernie Dexter)

Cellmates (the)

The Cellmates – On Parole

the Cellmates

Rage Records Rage LP 103 [1990]
Road To Riches – Nobody’s Guy – Blue Moon Baby – The Hustler – The Contract – Riot In Cell Block No. 9 – Lady Seduction – Eyes That Didn’t Care – Russian Roulette – On Parole – Getta’ Kick – Tallulah

The Cellmates formed in Leicester in early 1989 with Steve Orbell on vocals, Nick Withfield on drums, Kev Downes on guitar, and Mark “Moff” Moffat (previously in Go-Katz) on slap bass. They quickly started to write their own material and recorded a two-track demo. After playing some support gigs, notably for the Long Tall Texans, they caught the attention of Rage records, and they recorded their sole long-play under the direction of Roger Tebbutt (Long Tall Texans, Happy Drivers) in 1990. The Cellmates played bouncy neo-rockabilly, with special care to melodies and arrangements. To sum it up, this is not just Rockabilly played at a fast pace. The guitar is excellent and innovative; the slap bass works very well with the drums, and Orbell is a more than competent singer. Some songs show some Psychobilly influences creeping in, like The Contract, Lady Seduction, or Russian Roulette. Most tunes are originals except for three covers: Dave Diddle Day’s Blue Moon Baby, The Recalls’ Nobody’s Guy, which sounds a bit like It’s All Over Now, and Riot In Cell Block no9, which alternates bluesy parts with fast neo-rockabilly on the chorus. On Parole is a hidden treasure that deserves to be rediscovered today. The Cellmates were an excellent band. Sadly, though they began working on a second album, the label folded and the band split in 1992. Five songs remain unreleased to this day. If you like the early Long Tall Texans, Restless and the Nitros, On Parole is the album you need to complete your collection.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

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