Rockabilly , Psychobilly and everything in between.

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Delta 88

in Contemporary artists/Reviews

Delta 88 – Firefly

Delta 88

Western Star [2019]

Cherry Pie Until I Die – I Fell In Love On The Wall Of Death – Damsel In Distress – She Does Me Good – High Heeled Boots – She’s Hot To Handle – Massachusetts Firefly – Rockin’ On A Sunny Afternoon – Patient Man – Panther In The Night – Return Of The Girl With A Ray Gun – Gonna Get Me A Motorcycle – Satisfaction Guaranteed – Please Don’t Send Me Home

Delta 88 are a British Rockabilly trio consisting of Simon Clews on guitar and vocals, Nikki Clews on stand-up drums and vocals and Julian Wood on upright bass. Both Simon and Nikki sing with Simon taking the lion’s share.

Like their previous albul, Firefly is produced by the expert hands and ears of Alan Wilson (the Sharks.) And let me tell you that if you dig your Rockabilly with a good dose of neo in it, this is definitely a “look-no-further” album for you.

Their sound is anchored by a solid rhythm section with Wood providing a strong backbone on doublebass (and thanks to the production you can hear both the notes and the slap) and miss Clews’ simple yet effective drumming. When I say “simple” please don’t read “poor”. Rockabilly drumming doesn’t have to be played on a gigantic drumkit drowned behind drum rolls and a dozen of cymbals. On the front you find and hear the crisp sound of the guitar with solos that are both traditionnal and original (the song She’s Hot to Handle illustrates this perfectly.)

The songs (all penned by the Delta 88 by the way) are varied and the two singers ad even more diversity.
Panther in the Night is almost psychobilly (well 80’s psychobilly that is…), Return of the Girl with a Ray Gun is pure 80’s neo bliss while Massachusetts Firefly ads a welcome touch of hillbilly. The core of the albul is good old Rockabilly played with a very fresh and natural approach. I mean they play the music they like the way they like without thinking “Can we do that? Did they play it like this in the 50’s.” Instead they take that music and its code to play them their way.

Available at Western Star and on the Delta 88’s website.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Jack Rabbit Slim

in Albums/Contemporary artists/IJKL/Reviews

Jack rabbit Slim - Jet Lag, Junk Food and JD
Jack rabbit Slim – Jet Lag, Junk Food and JD

Jack Rabbit Slim – Jet Lag, Junk Food and JD [2011]

Western Star WSRC DVD 001
Good to see that Western Star is now releasing DVD’s. JRS makes quite a noise on the rockin’ scene. For good reasons I think. Their first albums are great and the latest one (Hairdos and Heartaches) is nothing less than a killer and they all sell well. This DVD could be called “In Bed with Jack Rabbit Slim” if Madonna hadn’t steal the idea. You’re invited to follow the band on the road, on stage, in the studio and much more. Bob Butfoy and the rest of the gang (Paul Saunders, Darren Lince and Landon Filler) talk about the band, their influences and heroes, their previous bands, memories of gigts and so on… External points of view are given by Mouse Zinn (Red Hot’n’Blue, Space Cadets), Alan Wilson (owner of Western Star, the Sharks), Jerry Chattabox (promoter of the Rockabilly Rave) and even the legendary Rockin’ Ronnie Weiser (wilder than ever) makes a short apparition at the beginning of the film. The interviews are peppered with live footage from different gigs and various degrees of quality. One can only regret that no entire songs are shown or even better that a complete live show is not featured at the end, but, what do you want?, the name of this DVD is Jet Lag Junk Food and JD not JRS in concert!


Jack Rabbit Slim - Hairdo's & Heartaches
Jack Rabbit Slim – Hairdo’s & Heartaches

Jack Rabbit Slim – Hairdo’s & Heartaches

Western Star WSRC038
Hairdos & Heartaches – Shake Rag – The Gift – Skin – Sentimentally Yours – I Need You – Everydays Gonna Be Like Yesterday – Typhoon – The Prisoner – 21st Century Bettie Page – High N Mighty – Time Is A Wastin

This is what I call a great rock’n’roll album. With their fourth album they propose a wide diversity of styles. It kicks off with “Hairdos and Heartaches” a pop song in the vein of “Needles and Pins” that seems to come straight from the sixties. “Shake Rag” follows and is radically different, but you’ll have to get used to this changes of pace. Each song is different to the one that follows. This time it’s a mean blues bopper with a terrific harp. “The Gift” comes closer to a rockabilly number and has a strong “Jungle Rock” beat. It’s a very powerful song with a blistering guitar solo.
“Skin” is what rock’n’roll should always be : wild. Not that it’s super fast or anything, it’s just full of tension and dare I say “sexual energy”. It features an electric bass for a fuller and garagy sound. And the lyrics are not your usual “I kiss you in the back of my Pink Cadillac”, far from that but don’t forget they define themselves as “sleaze-a-billy”.
But Bob and his pals know how to be sweet and smooth like they demonstrate on “Sentimentally Yours”. They perfectly nailed the sound of Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps and I can easily imagine that the band and Alan Wilson had a lot of fun doing that.
But the calm was just for a short period, they’re back with the garage sound of the Kinks’I Need You, full of sex frustration. “Everyday Gonna Be Like Yesterday” remains in the sixties but this time more in the country/rockabilly style of Rick Nelson. Twang meets blues on “Typhoon” with guitars and bass providing a solid wall of sound. Even blusier is “The Prisoner” with a fine slide guitar in the background. One of my favorite is “21st Century Bettie Page”, a rockin’ tune that wouldn’t be out of place on a Cramps album like “Stay Sick” or “Flame Job”. Then back to the pop sound with “High’n’Mighty” that sounds like an outtake of Morrissey’s Your Arsenal. Bob’s voice can be smooth or mean with equal success. The authentic rockabilly sound of “Time is a Waistin” a duet with Sue Moreno (Jack Rabbit Slim have backed her on a full album that we also strongly recommend) closes perfectly this killer platter.
As you can see it’s a very varied album and it could surprise some narrow minded listeners. But it’s always done with taste and most of all it rocks, so why should you hesitate.
As usual with Western Star the production work is perfect both clean and lively, vintage and contemporary (you’ll have to listen to understand that), in one word flawless.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Various Artists – Western Star Rockabillies 4

in Albums/Contemporary artists/Reviews/VARIOUS

various_western_star_rockabillies_vol4Western Star Records – WSRC 035
Sanity – Rockin’ Rocket 88 / Rain – Bill Fadden and The Silvertone Flyers / Forget Me – Bonneville Barons / Shake Rag – Jack Rabbit Slim / Three Months To Kill – Graham Fenton / Rocket Ship Mama – Warren Scott and The Memphis Playboys / Got A Lot Of Rhythm In My Soul – Miss Jean Vincent / Bluer Than Blue – Rudy La Crioux and The All-Stars / Record Hop – Sue Moreno and Jack Rabbit Slim / Thinkin’ ‘Bout You – Rockin’ Rocket 88 / Lone She Wolf – Lil’ Red and The Doghouse Trio / Rockin’ Rollin’ Stone – Bill Fadden and The Silvertone Flyers / Teenage Bug – Rudy La Crioux and The All-Stars / The Fire Is A-Burnin’ – Sue Moreno and Jack Rabbit Slim / Roly Poly – Graham Fenton / Back No More – TJ and The Bellevue Bombers / Fool For You – Bonneville Barons / The Storm – Rockin’ Rocket 88 / Dirty Billy – Kansas City Cryers / Rock It – Warren Scott and The Memphis Playboys

Volume Four of the Western Star Rockabillies serie is another good occasion to see the good health of this music in UK and the impeccable taste of label owner/producer Alan Wilson.
It also show that the term rockabilly encompass a wide range of music and as they say there’s a little bit for everyone here (and a lot for everybody if you ask me).
Matchbox’s Graham Fenton backed by the Western All Stars (the house band) offers a solid rendition of Roly Poly (with steel guitar) and Huelyn Duval’s Three Months to Kill. If Fenton’s album on Western Star is entirely like this I’m gonna get me a copy for… tomorrow!
Label’s biggest seller, Jack Rabbit Slim are present here under many forms. “Shake Rag” is taken from their latest excellent album. A part of the band is also featured on the Warren Scott tunes, in a 50’s sounding style (I try to avoid as possible the term authentic). Also playing in this style are Bill Fadden (who’d make Charlie Feathers proud with his rendition of rain) and Rudy La Crioux.
Women are not forgotten with Miss Jean Vincent, Sue Moreno (backed by Jack Rabbit Slim) with a mean rocker and a self penned country rocker and Lil’ red and the Doghouse Trio (featuring Rusti Steel).
One highlight of the album is Rockin’ Rocket 88’s the Storm that sounds like an unissued Blue Cats track from the Fight Back period with a fiddle. I know it sounds weird, but you have to listen to it! There’s plenty of good stuff in that excellent album (including my favorite artist of Western Star the Bonneville Barons) and it’s the perfect occasion to discover the label and that sure will lead you to buy the albums.

Available at Western Star.
Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Slick 49 – Go Wild With Me

in Albums/Contemporary artists/Reviews/S

Slick 49 - Go Wild With Me
Slick 49 – Go Wild With Me
Western Star WSRC045
Go Wild with Me / Got Rockin’ On My Mind / Cattin’ Baby /The Stars Don’t Look So Bright / Jumpin’ Round / Prove You Wrong and Do You Right / ’41 Dodge / Riverside Jump / Shake ’em Up Rock / Sweet Rockin’ Baby / Still I’m Gonna Love You / Don’t Shoot Me Baby / All That’s On My Mind / Tear This World Apart / Hot Headed Mama.

Slick 49 are a classic drummer less rockabilly trio with a sound as authentic as you can dream. The pair made by the acoustic guitar and the slap bass lays down a strong rhythmic giving lead guitarist Nigel Mc Corkell plenty of room to express. It’s obvious that these guys have listened to Charlie Feathers (notably on the hiccupy Still I’m Gonna Love You) and most generally to the Meteor label (Bill Bowen’s Don’t Shoot Me Baby).
Slightly different is “Tear This World Apart” that sounds more modern, even neo-rockabilly at places. But different doesn’t mean bad though maybe a question / answer backing vocals would have added something to the tune.
Globally, I wouldn’t use the word “wild” to describe them but tense, always menacing to explode. All in all with eleven original songs and only four covers, Go Wild With Me makes an excellent debut album and as usual you have the Western Star quality in term of production and sound.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Las Pistolas – Deadly Combination

in Albums/Contemporary artists/Reviews

laspistolasWestern Star WSCR048 [2011]
Pistol Packin’ Peggy Sue – Rhythm In My Soul – The Cinnamon Kid – She’ll Rock Your World – Jump Start – Rock Around With Ollie Vee – Jessica Rabbit – Liquor and Las Pistolas – Don’t Shut Me Out – The Return of Eddie Sin – Lost It All – Sunday Lover – Black Widow – Lady Luck – Sad But True

Las Pistolas are a modern rockabilly trio (guitar, slap bass, drums), and though they already had a cd ep out (on Raucous I guess) Deadly Combination is their first full length featuring 13 originals and only two covers. The opening track, a My Baby Left Me/That’s Allright type of rockabilly, didn’t impress me that much: good but not very original. Things went drastically better with “I’ve Got Rhythm In My Soul”, a hot boppin’ neo-rockabilly number. The rest of the records confirmed that the first song was just an exception. The main core of their music is rockabilly with a modern twist and melodies. But one will also find a western tinged ballad (Cinnamon Kid) and some wild numbers with saxophones (She’ll Rock Your World and the excellent Jessica Rabbit that features a honkin’ Las vegas solo at the end). Liquor and Las Pistolas is a Diddley beat blues with harmonica, tambourine, maracas, distortion on the voice and slide guitar. If you like Wild Billy Childish this one is for you (I only regret they don’t do more in that style). Like any decent rock’n’roll record, Deadly Combination features a nice ballad. This one is called “Lost It All” and even features Alan Wilson on piano. The playing is great, the solos are inventive and the recording as usual with Western Star is top notch. Strongly recommended.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Restless

in Albums/Contemporary artists/R/Reviews

Restless live in TokyoRestless – Live in Tokyo 1989


Foot Tapping Records

Intro-Ghost Town / People Love A Show / Radar Love / All By Myself / Roll Your Monkey Maker / Vanish Without A Trace / That’s Alright / Neutron Dance / Ice Cold / 16 Tons / Baby Please Don’t Go / Edge On You / Money Honey / Little Pig / Long Black Shiny Car / Mr. Blues

This album, with the Sharks‘ Live in Japan and Frenzy‘s Live in Japan tends to make me believe that the best live albums are recorded in Japan with Steve Whitehouse slapping the double bass. If the Meteors Hell in the Pacific could easily prove me wrong on the first point, the Blue Cats’ On A Live Mission certainly confirms the second.

In 1989 Jeff baily left Restless and the band considered calling it quit. But with a tour of Japan scheduled, Ben Cooper and Mark Harman decided to hire a temporary bassist, namely Steve Whitehouse, to honor the booking. As Mark said in an interview to Deathrow “If Steve had said no, then if would have almost certainly been the end of Restless. Thankfully he said yes and after five minutes of rehearsing we went to Japan.”

The result as I said is an excellent live album with a surprinsigly tight band – considering the condition this line-up embarked to the tour – that plays all the classics (you can check, they’re all here) with carefully choosen covers and more unusual stuff like People Love A Show, a song that previously appeared on the b-side of Ice Cold.

Recorded by Pete Gage and mastered with the help of Alan Wilson you can’t go wrong in term of sound. Most of all this recording perfectly completes the other live albums released by Restless.

The choice of Whitehouse proved to me a pretty good one since the band recorded three studio albums, including the excellent Movin’ On, with him.


Restless - Live at the Klub Foot
Restless – Live at the Klub Foot

Restless – Live at the Klub Foot

Trophy Records TR002
Roll Your Money Maker – Fools Gold – Last Chance Baby – Baby Please Don’t Go – Bottle On The Beach – Long Black Shiny Car – Girl On Death Row – Live A Lie – Ghost Town – Ice Cold – Edge On You – Love Me – Mr Blues

Recently Alan Wilson (of Western Star and the Sharks fame) found a box full of tapes recorded at the Klub Foot, the mecca of Psychobilly and Neo-rockabilly in the mid-80’s. These tapes needed to be restored and cleaned, a very costly process and two of these shows (Batmobile and Sting Rays) were released on Anagram/Cherry Red Records. Sadly the sales weren’t enough for the label and they called it quit. Knowing he had history in his hands, Wilson created a sub-label to his own Western Star to keep on releasing this stuff.
The second release in the serie concerns another well established name on the scene: Restless. I don’t think it’s possible to find someone who doesn’t like “Why Don’t You Just Rock?” or “Do You Feel Restless?” They made a name on both rockabilly and psychobilly scenes. When this gig was recorded in September 1984 they were at their finest, the line-up being original members Mark Harman on guitar and Ben Cooper on drums plus bassist Jeff Baily and, freshly recruited, Mick Malone on second guitar. The quartet plays killer tunes one after another (with the exception of the Phantom’s Love Me which doesn’t fit them well – sorry Mark you’re not a wildman). This set even features an original that never appeared on a studio album and written by Malone.
Buy it at Western Star


Restless - After Midnight
Restless – After Midnight

Restless – After Midnight

ABC [1986]
What Can You Say – Somebody Told Me – Do You Really Need To know? – Trouble rides A Fast Horse – Bye B B By By Bye – How Can I Find You? – You Lose – After Midnight – Dark Blue Sea – The Face – Just A Friend

Shortly after the release of Do You Feel Restless, the band’s second album, Paul Harman left Restless to be replaced by Jeff Bayly. Around the same time they added Mick Malone on second guitar.
In 1985 the ep Vanish Without A Trace announced a slight change in the band’s sound, slowly moving from neo-rockabilly to modern-rockabilly, sometimes bordering on psychobilly but their fans couldn’t imagine that their sound would change so drastically. “After Midnight” took everybody by surprise with its radio friendly production, synthethic drums sound, keyboards and horns. In trying to gain a wider audience, which they never really did, Restless had lost its personnality. The rockabillies ignored the album and so did Top Of The Pops, a typical case of a no winners situation. “After Midnight” was a total waste of talent comparable to Frenzy’s Sally’s Pink Bedroom.


Restless - Why Don't You… Just rock!
Restless – Why Don’t You… Just rock!

Restless – Why Don’t You Just Rock

Nervous records Ner004 [1982]
It’s A Scam – Ice Cold – Why Don’t You Just Rock! – High Time – Last Chance Baby – Tag Man Tag – Long Black Shiny Car – Face In My Gin – Yellow Cab To Midnight – Morning Comes Slowly – Black Cat – Travellin’ – High Time 2* – Later* – That’s Alright* (*cd only)

Restless have a problem: their first album was perfect. One could argue that this is not such a big problem and many bands would like to have such a problem. It became a problem for them when they never managed to recapture the magic of that first album (though Do You Feel… came close).
Why Don’t You Just Rock was like a lightning in a bottle. The band had it all: the songs (mostly penned by singer and guitar player Mark Harman), the talent (with Harman’s guitar everywhere but also a tight rhythm section made of his brother Paul and Ben Cooper on drums)  but also the freshness and some form of carefree attitude that you have when you’re a teenager and you play that kind of music. Thus, they brought something new to the genre, making a lively album that rocks, bops, swings and rolls. A 80’s equivalent to Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps (a huge influence on the band).
There’s no need to do a song by song review, each number here is almost a classic: the title track, Ice Cold, Yellow Cab to Midnight, High Time (with its crazy jazzy guitar), Long Black Shiny Car. Unlike many they’re not afraid to play a ballad (Morning Comes Slowly) seriously.
And if you still need to be convinced, just count the numerous band this particular album influenced. They are legions. Restless, with Why Don’t You Just Rock, almost define, with the Blue Cats and a couple more bands, what neo-rockabilly is.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Restless
Resless (Mark Harman, Paul Harman, Ben Cooper)

Resless (Mark Harman, Paul Harman, Ben Cooper)
Resless (Mark Harman, Paul Harman, Ben Cooper)

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