Vinyl Japan

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)

Colbert Hamilton

Colbert Hamilton and the Nitros – Like A Rebel

Migraine Records ‎– MR 45-042
Like A Rebel / Cruel Hearted Girl

Released in 2020, this single (limited to 500 copies on red vinyl) features two songs recorded in 1993 during the Still Taggin’ Along sessions.
If the excellent Cruel Hearted Girl is not new, the A-side, Like A Rebel penned by Hamilton and O’Malley is even better. It’s an outstanding neo-rockabilly number and it seems hard to believe that it didn’t end on the original album.


Colbert Hamilton and the Nitros - Love Or Glory ManColbert Hamilton and the Nitros – Love Or Glory Man

[2013]
Shake Rattle Bump ‘n’ Grind – Falling To Pieces – Roxette – Rehab – Bella Donna – Everybody Loves Me – Life’s A Bitch – Blue – Molly’s Chambers – Love Or Glory Man – I Was The One – I Didn’t See Memphis – Livin’ La Vida Loca – W.M.D.
It’s good to see Colbert Hamilton team again with John O’Malley and the Nitros (who are for this album Jason King on double bass and Guy Shalom on drums). This is great neo-rockabilly, Hamilton having a perfect voice for that style and O’Malley’s jazzybilly guitar is everywhere. There’s a majority of self-penned tune either by Hamilton or O’Malley that are quite good. I wouldn’t say the same about the covers. “I Was the One” featuring Mark Keeley of Good ROckin’ Tonight on piano is okay but Amy Winehouse’s Rehab, Prince’s Everybody Loves Me or worse Ricky Martin’s Livin La Vida Loca seem very odd choices to me but as I said the originals are good enough and you can skip the covers and have a solid neo-rockabilly album.


Colbert Hamilton and the Nitros - Wild at HeartColbert Hamilton and the Nitros – Wild At Heart

Nervous Nerd076 [1994]
Lucille – Wild At Heart – Still Rockin’ After All These Beers – Bad Reputation – Too Late – Boom Boom – Do You Wanna Rock? – Abused By You – High Flyin’ Cat – Boogaville – Pass The Bottle To The Baby – The Boys Are Back In Town – Big In The World – Ninety Nine Girls


Colbert Hamilton and the Nitros - Still Tagging Along

Colbert Hamilton and the Nitros – Still Tagging Along

Vinyl Japan JRCD05 [1993]
Get out of my sight – Cruel hearted girl – Rollercoaster rock – Gaze into the crystal – Wasn’t that good – Cadillac baby – Dead of night – Black magic – Get you back – New place in town – Stop – Haunted memories

 


Colbert Hamilton and the Nitros - Cadillac Baby

Colbert Hamilton and the Nitros – Cadillac Baby

Vinyl Japan JRT02 [1993]
Cadillac Baby – Silver Bullet – Cruel Hearted Girl – Born To Love One Woman

 


Colbert Hamilton and the HellrazorsColbert Hamilton and the Hellrazors – s/t

Fearless Records – FEAR LP001 [1984]
Wow – Mystery Train – Half-Hearted Women – Women Love – Rock Therapy – Long Blonde Hair – Ice Cold – Long Black Shiny Car – Nervous Breakdown – Love Me – I’m So High – Good Rockin’ Tonight – I’ll Never Let You Go – Don’t Knock Upon My Door – Love Me

Some records are revolutionary, some are very good, and some, despite some minor flaws, are like good friends you like to stay with. I consider the debut album of Colbert Hamilton like a good friend.
On one hand, this is an all-cover album (ranging from Gene Vincent to Restless), and the sound is a bit thin concerning the production. On the other hand, Colbert Hamilton has an impressive voice, and the Hellrazors (Toni Coni on guitar, Tony Parkes on slap bass, and Julie Gardner on drums) do a perfect job backing him. The rhythm section is simple yet powerful and effective with prominent slap bass, and Miss Gardner plays mostly on the snare. It keeps raw essence of the genre and is ably completed by Coni’s lightly electrified guitar.
All in all, it’s a good album recommended to anyone interested in the British neo-rockabilly sound of the mid-eighties.

 

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

The Gazmen

The Gazmen - Rigormortis Rock
The Gazmen – Rigormortis Rock

The Gazmen – Rigormortis Rock

Vinyl Japan JRT9 [1996]
Western Star [2020]
Rigormortis Rock – Teenage Operation – Kid From Mars – Ace Of Heart

This ep initially came out in 1996. The Gazmen formed around the charismatic personality of Gary “Gaz” Day. Day is known for his collaboration with many influential bands, notably The Frantic Flintstones, The Sharks, The Nitros, The Caravans without forgetting his stint with popstar (and rockabilly aficionado) Morrissey, whose influence can be heard on the last track of this ep. The rest of the band was basically The Sharks with the addition of ex Born Bad and Morrissey’s guitarist, Alain Whyte. They played a traditional brand of psychobilly close to the Sharks (not very surprising) and the early Meteors, Day’s voice reminding the great Nigel Lewis, but with a fuller sound. The song Rigormortis Rock was first released by Alan Wilson (who wrote it ) under the moniker of The Space Cadets (not to be confused with Mouse’s band) around 1984 on the Nervous compilation Hell’s Bent on Rocking. Some of these songs were also part of the set when Gary was in the Sharks. One can hear early versions of Teenage Operation and Kid From Mars on the excellent compilation Rare Psychobilly from the Vaults.
In 2000, the American label Rock-It re-released it on cd.
The vinyl version became an object of collection with both Psychobillies and Morrissey’s fans looking for it.
Western Star has now reissued it on 10” colored vinyl, but don’t wait to buy one it’s a limited edition
Available here.

Big Six (the)

Big Six

Big Six (the) – Don’t Stop… ROCK!

Rhythm Rock-It EPPR5 [2019]
20th Century Boy – We The Boys Will Rock Ya – Sombrero – Blue Moon – Lady Of Nagoya – Tell Me Baby – Out Tonight – At Last – Mama We’re All Crazee Now – Cold Feet – Are You Ready To Rock – Sh-Boom – Master Blaster – Groovey Geezer – All Of Me – Come Back Baby – West Coast Jive – Rock The Island – New Orleans – Get Off It and Rock It – No Way Out – Everybody Groove – Tiger Feet – Rocket Ship To The Moon – All Night Long

Shortly after he left the Stargazers in 1994, Ricky Lee Brawn went on to form two supergroups featuring the cream of the crop of the British rocking’ scene: the Space Cadets and the Big Six.
Both bands featured Anders Janes his partner in crime in the Stargazers. The Space Cadets and the Big Six released numerous albums, mostly on Vinyl Japan, and now sadly out of print. But in 2012 Janes released a best-of album of the Space Cadets on his label Rhythm-Rock-It. And while the band played its last show at Viva Las Vegas before an indefinite break appeared “Don’t Stop… ROCK!” the very best of the Big Six.
I can hear the younger ones ask: “Why are the Big Six so special?” Well, let me just tell you that the band was formed, in addition to Brawn and Janes by Mike Sanchez (Big Town Playboys) on piano, Nick Lunt and Al Nicholls (both also from the Big Town Playboys) on saxes and the one and only (or dare I say the one and crazy) Pat Reyford from Sugar Ray Ford on vocals and guitar.
Their music is a mix of various influences, all mixed to make a highly danceable and rocking cocktail. Every track here is a winner and is sure to make you wriggle, tap your feet and clap your hands.
You’ll find a good dose of Glam Rock sprinkled with Rockabilly. Listen to the guitar part on T-Rex’s 20th Century Boys. Doesn’t it sound like Paul Burlison (or Grady Martin) in the Johnny Burnette Rock’n’roll trio? And Mud’s Tiger feet and Slade’s Mama Weer All Crazy Now should be learned by every young cat who tries to master the art of double bass.
Rocksteady and early ska influences are present in some songs, including a new version of the Stargazers’ Rocketship to the Moon. It has to be said that Brawn’s vintage production works very well for that stuff. Tunes like Janes’ Cold Feet and Come Back Baby seem to come straight from Studio One in Jamaica.
There’s a bit of Latin too (Sombrero), an amazing cover of the Jazz standard All of Me featuring hot solos, plenty of Rock’n’roll everywhere as well as superb Rhythm’n’Blues (Reyford’s Tell Me Baby, All Night Long, or Master Blaster.)
If you don’t own the original albums, I can only recommend you to jump on this best-of. And if you already have them, buy it too, for it comes in a superbly designed digipack.
But be warned! If you try to dance on every track of this album, you may suffer from serious exhaustion.

Buy it here.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Gazmen (the) – psychobilly band with Gaz Day

GazmenThe Gazmen

Country: England
Genre: Psychobilly

Gary Day: vocals / bass
Alain Whyte: guitar
Alan Wilson: guitar
Hodge: drums

Gary "Gaz" Day
Gary “Gaz” Day

The Gazmen were formed around the charismatic personnality of Gary “Gaz” Day, known for his collaboration with many influential bands, notably The Frantic Flintstones, The Sharks, The Nitros, The Caravans without forgetting his stint with popstar (and rockabilly afficionado) Morrissey.. The rest of the band was basically The Sharks with the addition of ex-Born Bad and Morrissey’s guitarist, Alain Whyte. They played a traditionnal psychobilly close to the Sharks (not very surprising) and the early Meteors, Day’s voice reminding the great Nigel Lewis, but with a fuller sound.
The Gazmen released one four-track ep on Vinyl Japan in 1996, later reissued in cd due to Day’s popularity in Morrissey’s band. The songs were Rigormortis Rock (previously recorded by Alan Wilson under the moniker of the Space Cadets for a Nervous compilation), Teenage Operation, Kid from Mars and Ace of Hearts (that has a strong Morrissey feel). Some of these songs were part of the Sharks set when Gary was in the band (see the compilation album Rare Psychobilly from the Vault of X-Ray Studio). More songs were recorded but never saw the light of day. The line-up later evolved, including Pug from the Frantic Flintstones and Stuart from the Guana Batz.
They appeared at different all dayers including one Big Rumble I guess.
The Gazmen were a very good band and one can only regret they never released a full album.

Rigormortis Rock – Vinyl Japan JRT9 [1996]
Reissue on CD on Rock-It Records [2000]