The real reason why we are here is for the music, and rightly so, as it seems unlikely that the UK’s Alleycats will be strutting their wares up on the catwalk any time soon. By combing a mixture of covers with original material, ‘Up To Scratch!’ is a qualified title as these wise rockin’ cats show how it’s done with vocals revealing faint resemblances to Jackie Brenston, and a sound that brings together rock ‘n’ roll with rhythm and blues. Having found a safe haven to record the album in two stints at Roundel Studios in Kent that stretched over a vast chasm of seven years, it’s not difficult to comprehend why such a lengthy gestation period took place as the end results are beaming like a Cheshire cat, such is their overall quality. The lynchpin holding all of this together appears to be longstanding member Drew Spikes, who not only produced ‘Up To Scratch!’ but knows how to pen a tune or two considering the wealth of original songs littering its contents. First of an impressive bunch is the up-tempo swing of ‘Daffy’ that opens a door to some fine guitar by way of Mick Murphy. The change in lifestyle from the remote countryside to the bright city lights is communicated compellingly by the impressively named Johnny Valentino during the contagious rhythm of ‘Born & Raised In Hicksville’. Elsewhere ’88 Keys’ drives at some pace with top-notch piano from former Matchbox member Rusty Lupton as the song conveys its frustration with the memorable line, “I got 88 keys but I can’t unlock your heart”. As a collective, the Alleycats really pull together as each and every song provides more or less equal billing as far as the instrumentation is concerned. With Butch Evarts (sax) and Jerry Bart (drums) completing the six-piece line-up, such a demonstration of this equal billing is displayed during an imposing rendition of Huey ‘Piano’ Smith’s ‘Roberta’ and a rockin’ ‘I Ain’t The Marrying Kind’. Stretching out their creative boundaries further is the slight country twang of ‘In The Doghouse Again’ that is peppered with some wonderful sax and possesses a lyrical content of a cryptic nature regarding the ‘hero’ at the centre of this song. There’s no tomfoolery as far as Alleycats is concerned as ‘Up To Scratch!’ is a qualified success that is jam-packed full of goodness.