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Boss Black Rockers: Just Rockin’ & Rollin’ Vol.5

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

At the fifth stage in what has been a highly consistent series of albums so far featuring many exciting rock ‘n’ roll tracks from various black artists from the “Golden Age” of American music comes ‘Boss Black Rockers: Just Rockin’ & Rollin’ Vol.5’. Packed with another twenty-eight songs carefully selected by the Mojo Man (aka Little Victor), the tracks chosen feature a number of artists that will be unfamiliar to many except for the diehard rock ‘n’ rollers who managed to tap into this particular corner of rock ‘n’ roll first time around. It must be said that elements of traditional rhythm and blues mingle with the first shoots of rock ‘n’ roll throughout this album and clearly heard via opening track ‘A Real Good Time’ by Eddie Clearwater. Following on is Frankie Lucas and the addictive ‘I Want To Rock You Baby’ with a steady flow of brass instrumentation bubbling underneath throughout. Next up is Bobby Flare and ‘Variety’ where the song has a habit of providing plenty of variety in terms of style as do the vocals with a tendency to flare up on occasion. It’s a thrilling listen and good starting point if looking for an instant fix of rock ‘n’ roll. The name Brook Benton crops up once more (See Koko Mojo album ‘Elvis Stole My Job’) with ‘Hurtin’ Inside’ and good example to see where Elvis adopted part of his vocal style. Further accusations of “borrowing” can be levelled at the white artists who made rock ‘n’ roll very popular once the singular Harvey and song ‘Da Da Goo Goo’ makes its entrance and speaks in eccentricities with Purple People Eaters among the topics. Volume five lives up to it predecessors where the rock ‘n’ roll is free flowing from top to bottom whether it’s coming from the excellent ‘(I Do The) Shimmy Shimmy’ from Bobby Freeman or The Corvairs ‘Hey, Sally Mae’ and, not forgetting, top version of ‘Lucille’ by Ike Haley & The Red Blazers concluding another compelling set.


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Elvis Stole My Job

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

For those who thought Elvis Presley came first when considering the genre of rock ‘n’ roll, then you would be mistaken. Fresh from the vaults of Koko Mojo is the album ‘Elvis Stole My Job’. The idea behind this latest collection of artists from blues and rhythm and blues backgrounds, is to highlight the important roles and influences these artists had when it came to the King of rock ‘n’ roll. Largely taking inspiration from musicians Elvis held much admiration and respect for such as Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, Roy Brown, Lloyd Price and Clyde McPhatter by imitating their styles whether vocally or physically when it came to his live persona. At the helm of this new album is Little Victor (aka The Mojo Man) who compiled all tracks, in addition to writing the liner notes for ‘Elvis Stole My Job’. The selection of songs earmarks the greatness that came before Elvis with, leading the way, the formerly mentioned Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup and ‘My Baby Left Me’, to rhythm and blues of Wynonie Harris ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’. To Elvis’s credit and the writers involved in terms of his recorded output, it wasn’t simply a question of repeating identical versions because history shows that was never the case, but the King certainly added much to these former records, in addition to raising the profiles of these black musicians to wider audiences, especially those of white ethnicity. With this album being concerned with music and not politics, the choices selected are top level with, by now, more familiar names and tracks featured such as Smiley Lewis and ‘One Night’, The Orioles ‘Crying In The Chapel’, Jackie Wilson (‘Right Now’) and Otis Blackwell (‘Make Ready For Love’). What stands out, however, and mentioned by The Mojo Man, is the fact that several of these songs are less familiar when it comes to similar compilations. Therefore, ‘Elvis Stole My Job’ also includes artists with no direct connections to the King yet their resemblance to the artist is clear. With Elvis revealing influences ranging from rhythm and blues to doo wop and ballads such as those by key influence on his career, Roy Hamilton, featured here with the song ‘Don’t Let Go’, the music and inspirations fuelling Elvis Presley were definitely not blinkered choices. Great album and selection of artists where Elvis was guilty of stealing the limelight, but not without confessing his love and admiration that created a wider platform in terms of recognition of these former great artists.


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Let’s Throw A Rockin’ Soul Party

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Drumming up ideas for new series is all in a day’s work when it comes to the folks at Koko Mojo Records. Fresh out of the stable is latest series ‘Let’s Throw A Rockin’ Soul Party’. Consisting of various artists from the 50s and early 60s, the attention to details is ever-present where music of the blues was transforming, and rhythm and blues really took hold and continued evolving to the point where the early stages of soul music were beginning to show. The compilation ‘Let’s Throw A Rockin’ Soul Party’ focuses on these musical developments with “soul” being the emphasis here, albeit in its early stages. Bringing together an interesting mix of major players within the genres of blues, rhythm and blues and early foundations of soul music you will find well-established artists and tracks. Such examples can be cited from the album’s initial stages with none other than John Lee Hooker’s utterly compelling ‘Boom Boom’, Little Eva with ‘The Loco-Motion’ and probably two of the clearest definitions of early soul music via J.J. Jackson (‘Oh My Liddy’) and Bobby Lewis (‘Tossin’ And Turnin’) where bright rays of sunlight were beginning to break through.  The golden tones of Sam Cooke during ‘I’ll Come Running Back To You’ cement such feelings, albeit at a much calmer pace and, likewise, the ubiquitous airplay of the song ‘Stand By Me’ from Ben E King. Packed therefore with established names from Marvin Gaye (‘Pride And Joy’), Jackie Wilson (‘Baby Workout’), Gino Parks (‘Don’t Say Goodbye’) and Etta James (‘Somethings Got A Hold On Me’), it’s testament to the irresistible charms of soul music where a lot of these tracks lie deep in the psyches of many people where, for example, The Mar-Keys instrumental ‘Last Night’ reminds of a certain BBC comedy and fond memories associated with this. That is the power and popularity of this genre of music because it will last for a lifetime.


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Let’s Throw A Pajama Party Vol.3

Various Artists

Atomicat

This is the series that has a habit of throwing together some real hard rockin’ delights with equally exciting results from numerous teenage-light rock ‘n’ roll combined with plenty of teen-pop, doo-wop and rhythm and blues. ‘Let’s Throw A Pajama Party Vol.3’ makes no exception from this formula and its previous two volumes in what is proving an excellent series. The Rockin Rebels ‘Wild Weekend’ kickstarts this party with a tough instrumental and therefore living up to both titles. From there, the mood swings between teen-pop numbers ‘Your Love Is A Good Love’ via smooth vocals of Jimmy Edwards, to upping the tempo ever so slightly of ‘Zig Zag’ (Bobby Comstock), and then notching it up further during considerably wilder ‘Boppin’ Bobby’ from Jean King Victor. Well-known hits from the likes of Bobby Darin and ‘Dream Lover’ add further quality as do rhythm and blues/rock ‘n’ roll numbers from Larry Williams ‘Slow Down’ and Screamin Jay Hawkins ‘Take Me Back To My Boots And Saddle’, before diverting down another alley and coming up with much drama from the vocals of Ray Peterson (‘Tell Laura I Love Her’), to The Valentines ‘The Woo Woo Train’ where the saxophone is fuelling this particular train. RED HOT! With homework done and the recipient, Atomicat, receiving an A+ for their efforts regarding this latest compilation where the listener and, more significantly, partygoer will experience a breadth of tracks that all good compilation albums should contain, especially if they want to keep the party rockin’, ‘Let’s Throw A Pajama Party Vol.3’ will have no such problems once the needle drops on this record because it fulfils all such expectations.


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Thunder & Lightning

Fireball Steven

Rhythm Bomb

The cogs are turning once more at Rhythm Bomb Records with a brand-new release issued this month. Marking the comeback is Fireball Steven with an authentic take on rockabilly via new long player ‘Thunder & Lightning’. From a fresh faced and youthful appearance adorning the cover of his latest album, concerns of growing old seem to be impacting the song writing of Fireball Steven. An example of this can be heard during the only self-penned track of the album, ‘Rheumatism Baby’, which is a crying shame considering its addictive shuffling rhythm and cool vocals that would have seen its songwriter firmly at home with the original pioneers of 50’s rockabilly. That said, the choice of covers is given careful consideration with either less obvious artists chosen or those who are more familiar it’s often a less obvious song selected for ‘Thunder & Lightning’. Paying much homage therefore, but not without adding very subtle traits of his own, Fireball Steven reinvigorates such great and interesting choices as Ronnie Self’s ‘Black Night Blues’ where piano certainly dominates, to a very live sounding ‘Everybody’s Body’ via George Hamilton IV with some great pickin’ on the guitar. The straight out of Memphis interpretation of Larry Manuel’s ‘Comanche Rock ‘n’ Roll’ sees Fireball Steven slipping comfortably into the former songwriter’s rockin’ shoes with much respect given as its inch perfect. Additionally, ditto Luke McDaniel’s ‘Huh Babe’, albeit with the smallest of margins when it comes to energy during Fireball Steven’s version. It’s more than a solid comeback from both artist and record label where Fireball Steven proves his knowledge and worth when recreating a 50’s rockabilly sound that shows great respect to former recording artists of the era, but with added bonuses where Swedish enters the vocabulary of ‘Thunder & Lightning’ (‘Söderns Son’), and the formerly mentioned own composition ‘Rheumatism Baby’ revealing a genuine song writing talent in his own right.

 


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If There Wasn’t Any Sinners The Saints Wouldn’t Look So Good (Single)

Doc & the Headshrinkers

HSM

A contender for longest song title in the history of rock ‘n’ roll music is Doc & the Headshrinkers (last?) single release from their album ‘Crashland’. To provide some insight, ‘If There Wasn’t Any Sinners The Saints Wouldn’t Look So Good’ lands on vinyl and was recorded at Studio Fflach, Cadigan, Wales with production and artwork left to the band’s frontman Dave ‘Doc’ Cutter.  Despite the lengthy title of this single release, the actual song is an altogether catchy affair that’s full of short sharp hooks, as it is filled with an abundance of details where the guitar genuinely leads this song but only made possible via support from experienced upright bass and textured drumming joining up the rest of the dots. Add to the mix a throaty roar from the vocals department that gives the impression of having experienced plenty of rumbles not to mention heartbreak over the years given its worn(out) feel, in addition to the occasional chants from spectators in the background, then ‘If There Wasn’t Any Sinners The Saints Wouldn’t Look So Good’ is nothing short of an utterly thrilling ride of rock ‘n’ roll that is smart in its thinking as it is in its musicianship.


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Crashland

Doc & the Headshrinkers

HSM

Arriving late to this particular party, Famous Last Words caught wind of the wild rock ‘n’ roll antics of Wales based rock ‘n’ rollers, Dave & the Headshrinkers, via a live festival performance that appeared to shake the very foundations it was staged, in addition to waking up the local neighbourhood. Fast forward a year or two and the band’s sophomore album ‘Crashland’ has firmly established them as talented songwriters and a force to be reckoned with. Given the three year gap it has taken FLW to catchup with this branch of rock ‘n’ roll, any concerns regarding time lost is instantly forgotten once the opening salvo of ‘Mrs Tolley’, ‘I’ve Got Something Good For You’ and ‘High School Reject’ unleash their raw rockin’ sounds and lyrics that veer between revenge and steely determination. It makes for an impressive start  where Tchaikovsky is mentioned in the same breath as Chuck Berry (‘Mrs Tolley’) and traditional elements of rockabilly, spliced with rock ‘n’ roll, can be heard (‘I’ve Got Something…’), in addition to Doc & the Headshrinkers own take on these genres and best highlighted by the bruised yet still bustling ‘High School Reject’. It’s rock ‘n’ roll at its fullest attitude. Such feelings continue apace via the combined mouthful of words and frantic rhythm of ‘It Got In The Way’ that sees the band swinging from the chandeliers which, had it been a recent single release, could have been the party anthem to end this turbulent year given its punk-a-billy feel and open interpretation of its title that certainly applies in the present. As ‘Crashland’ continues to unravel its contents, the impression given is one of an album that improves with each and every layer where songs become even more considered ‘I’ll See You In Hell’, ‘Love Lies Lost’ and the tightly knitted rhythm and vocals of ‘Dig A Bone’ to cite a few. The influences are wide (Rockabilly, country (& spaghetti western), rock ‘n’ roll, punk, etc.) but often expressed subtly throughout ‘Crashland’. Therefore, accusations of straying from its main source (i.e. rock ‘n’ roll) is unwarranted, more that Doc & the Headshrinkers is a band open to ideas and free of fear when it comes to writing their own compositions. Long may that continue as the second album is a raging success with plenty of creative threads to pursue if the trio decide to undertake album number three.


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Glass Island

Richard Luke

Moderna Records

Happening purely by chance only recently, the artist and compositions of Richard Luke entered the office at FLW via news of a remix of last year’s ‘Glass Island’ recording. With 2019’s ‘Glass Island’ also being a fresh set of recordings to this very music paper, a request was wired to the pianist/instrumentalist for a chance to experience, first-hand, the tracks making up this sophomore album. With ‘Glass Island’ displaying the singular name Richard Luke, the truth unveils, once liner notes are perused, a second and yet equal main staple of this recording by the name of Amira Bedrush-McDonald. Providing plenty of bittersweet moments and added tension by means of violin and partnering the chief vehicle of piano driving this long player, immediate impressions suggest ‘Glass Island’ is a record filled with much melancholy. That said, it is a beautiful sadness and deeply touching as it grips the senses between its teeth from the initial notes of ‘Everything A Reason’ to the concluding steps of ‘Breathe’. It’s cinematic in its visions as well as intimate where songs build brick by brick and provide optimism via such delights as ‘Silent Story’ and the all-to-brief ‘Last Call’, which captivates via a weaving spell of strings and piano. However, this short moment of beauty flowers into something far greater (‘Freda’) where tears cascade in unision to the delicate sounds peddled by the two musicians at work here, giving way to much reflection and bring to mind Scotland’s romantic poets’ The Bathers circa ‘Sunpowder’ minus the vocals on this occasion of course. There is simply no fault with the second offering coming from the stable that is Richard Luke (and Amira Bedrush-McDonald) because ‘Glass Island’ is an album to break the strongest of hearts yet also provide reasons for optimism that all is not lost. A true work of art.


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Less One Knows

Benjamin Finger

Dead Definition

Appropriate really considering the title of Norwegian Benjamin Finger’s album ‘Less One Knows’ that there is no press information accompanying this latest release and, therefore, leaving any theories and conclusions solely at the feet of the individual. An album wide open to interpretation therefore, and leap into a blackened wilderness, but most certainly not into the unknown considering Famous Last Words’ previous commentary on the works of Benjamin Finger. That said, ‘Less One Knows’ removes those comfy slippers Mr Finger was becoming accustomed with and immediately throws a U-turn where sounds were previously ethereal, wispy and largely communicating in electronic jargon, and replaced by such examples as the opening cacophony of noise illustrated by ‘Open Phase’. It is the start of this journey and it is one trying to remove itself from the confined space it finds itself in. It is the sound of a traffic jam in rush hour largely demonstrated by use of guitar. It is this very instrument that shapes and steers this new record and sounds somewhat alien when considering previous albums of Benjamin Finger. It is an angry record in several places given the hardened, charcoaled textures of ‘Screaming Mind’ where one can visualise sheets of rain beating down, to one that has been listening to and taking notes of post-rock and shoegaze. More specifically, the ghost of Joy Division is a reference point given the heavy melancholy of captivating ‘Bothered Earwaves’. Something has certainly shifted in the sea of sounds when it comes to Benjamin Finger because ‘Less One Knows’, in all of its details, is a record attempting to make sense of an episode that provides no comfort, only sadness, where memories surface and fade from thought and illustrated compellingly from start to finish via mainly electric guitar and, more or less, a first on this very manor, strong(ER) use of vocals where direct commentary between artist and audience is almost given, but then that would be a disservice to the title and overall context of this magnificent body of work. Sometimes in life, ‘Less One Knows’ really does provide more consolation.


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Up and Down

Ramblin Bandits

Rhythm Bomb

With the occasional exception, it has been something of an age since Rhythm Bomb issued an album from a band with most of their wares showing life of new and original material. Good to see therefore, the record label back on familiar territory promoting an album by the lively and energetic combo The Ramblin Bandits. With ‘Up and Down’ being album number two after debut ‘On A Hill’ from the Danish rockabilly trio, the latest release reveals similar traits to its well-received debut. With beards completely shorn or noticeably trimmer, The Ramblin Bandits continue their combined use of influences of rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll and a hefty dose of blues where their sound can be compellingly gruff and raw as depicted by the album’s title track. Such is the brooding, menacing ferocity of this opening song that had it been released during the outset of 50’s rockin’ music, it would have instantly received a banning order. From such tension and where this album differs, albeit slightly to its predecessor, is the variation in tempo of one or two tracks. This makes for a welcome feature as it’s not all foot-to-the-floor belters with an inspiring and intriguing turn, partially explained by its delivery of near-threadbare instrumentation of ‘Four Ounce Bobby’ where the holler from this side of the fence is, “More of this please!” Delta blues plays its part with noticeable use of slide guitar during ‘Crazy Little Mama’ and ‘Squeeze You In’, the latter of which sounds more contemporary purely for reminding of Seasick Steve. However, rioting is part of their game and something The Ramblin Bandits do best with team attitude and effort in abundance during ‘We Are The Ramblin Bandits’ and, next in line, ‘Rough Enough’ which, again, contains much tension judging by its revengeful sounding chorus that barks out its feelings. As far as second albums go, The Ramblin Bandits show no signs of fatigue during ‘Up and Down’ because it’s simply engaging from start to finish, and contains shoots of creativity with clear indicators of future directions if the band choose to pursue such avenues.


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Boss Black Rockers Vol.4 – Slow Down

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

A series that is raising a holler due to not only its excellent content but also for providing a piece of history that is not highlighted enough regarding the many “ACE” black musicians who laid the foundations for what became rock ‘n’ roll. With volume four in this recent series from Koko Mojo, the twenty-eight tracks on offer provide enough glimpses of the talent of the time but also for the energy and inventiveness of the rockin’ tracks. By introducing a few names that will be familiar to some i.e. Jimmy McCracklin, Lloyd Price, Otis Redding with, on this occasion The Pinetoppers and others such as Joe Tex, Gene and Eunice and Larry Williams, the inclusion of a few lesser known artists adds extra spice to the series and therefore a worthy addition to anyone’s record collection. From the very definition of “wild” rock ‘n’ roll that is the severe guitar straining number ‘Wail Baby Wail’ from Tommy Louis With Marshall And The Versatiles, to more rhythmically tight ‘Such A Mess’ but nonetheless rock ‘n’ roll given the power expressed by Lloyd Price’s voice, volume four of this series has no intention of slowing down. With so much expressed via the rhythm and blues/doo wop crossover of the vocals and rock ‘n’ roll of its guitar of The El Venos’ ‘Geraldine’ providing such a deeply textured song yet sounding free of clutter, to other tracks where the rock ‘n’ roll is absolutely flying such as the fantastic ‘Papa Lou And Gran’ supplied by Little Victor. Only four albums in and the series ‘Boss Black Rockers’ has already offered more than enough great rockin’ tracks and, even greater news, there’s still more to come!


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Boss Black Rockers Vol.3 – Rockin’ Shoes

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Keeping the rock ‘n’ roll flame well and truly alive is volume three of the current series on Koko Mojo ‘Boss Black Rockers – Rockin’ Shoes’. With the emphasis of the album title on the appropriate footwear when it comes to these latest twenty-eight slices of rock ‘n’ roll in this hot new series, “rockin’ shoes” are definitely required from the off. Such attire soon becomes apparent once the opening trio of songs from Big Al Downing and ‘Yes I’m Loving You’ opens this particular account with its straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll, to the next in line and scorching heat emanating from track ‘Itchy Twitchy Feeling’ by The Swallows, to equally thrilling Roy Gaines and ‘Skippy Is A Sissy (If This Ain’t Love). Phew! Take a breather, no chance! This is rock ‘n’ roll at its finest where the beat never lets up as evidenced by frantic rhythm of the compilation’s title track via Tony Allan. Following on from that is the powerhouse saxophone steering ‘Ain’t You Glad Nature Did It’ (Joe Perkins & The Rookies), to similar effect via the vocal of Bobby Davis and really rather prickly rock ‘n’ roll of ‘Damper Down’. Take a breather, no chance! Time to sit back and relax is not an option as ‘Boss Black Rockers Vol.3 – Rockin’ Shoes’ is simply irresistible whether slippin’ ‘n’ slidin’ to charismatic vocals and lively rhythm of Larry Birdsong and ‘Somebody Somewhere’, or strollin’ via The Titans’ ‘Don’t You Just Know It’, or simply cutting loose to Etta James and ‘What I Say’, there’s no finer compilation to put the listener in the mood for some serious “Rockin’ Shoes” with volume three of ‘Boss Black Rockers’.



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