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Tommy Steele

Colin Hicks

in Reissues

Colin Hicks – Sexy Rock

colin hicks

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

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.

Available here.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

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

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