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On The Great River Road

Chris Almoada

Tessy Records

Having been a part of the rockin’ scene recording and performing live since the late 70s and therefore one of the ‘…first generation of European artists to embrace rockabilly’, Chris Almoada is poised with his latest project, ‘On The Great River Road’. This current album has not been a short ride as the initial ideas began as far back as 2010, and finally concluding at some point in 2013. Having composed all of the melodies himself, but with additional help in terms of the lyrics coming from Las Vegas-based David E. Miller, Chris Almoada relays a collection of tales stemming the length of this Great River Road with a backing that is largely rockabilly. There is a great old-time quality about this whole package from the artwork and most definitely from a number of the contents inside. Right from the off the album’s title song drums up imagery of a torrid landscape, but it is not something to be overly fixated with as the aforementioned rockabilly sound takes hold rather than this being a straight country album. More to the point, ‘On The Great River Road’ has more in common with the country pioneers and assortment of hillbilly musicians who turned their attention to rockabilly once this genre started to take hold during the 50s. The blustery and catchy chorus of ‘Maiden Rock’ is one such example bringing to mind Marvin Rainwater, only to be given a good run for its money by the gripping rhythm of ‘The Gem From Illinois’ that shares a passion for a long-lost sweetheart. The tempo steps down a few notches during the piano ballad ‘Palmyra Lane’ that sees Chris Almoada in reflective mood and spinning out this yarn to the remaining customers propping up the bar in some remote town. There’s no let up once ‘The Falcon’ digs its talons in deep as it’s something of a wild ditty with a guitar itching to take centre stage such is its restlessness. There is a return to a more authentic country sound illustrated greatly by the truly grainy style of ‘Memphis Odyssey’, before the almost epic, by these standards, ‘Rabbits May Be Dancing’ introduces itself and then suitably followed by the galloping rhythm and occasional yodelling vocal of ‘Patch Of Green’. With much to consume here, ‘On The Great River Road’ is clearly a labour of love considering the time spent honing and crafting these songs into a cohesive unit in order to recount this great journey. Therefore, just like the artist at the centre of these songs, this is a journey that is well worth discovering and one that is deserved of much attention.


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Surfin’ NSA

Bang! Mustang!

Rhythm Bomb

Not completely unfamiliar terrain for Rhythm Bomb Records having previously issued the instrumental album ‘Surfing Hootenanny’ by the Surfin’ Gorillas as next in line is the new surfin’ instrumental from Germany’s Bang! Mustang! Having formed from the remnants of previously successful international acts including Los Twang! Marvels, Messer Chups and The Rob Ryan Roadshow, Bang! Mustang! tear through a succession of guitar powered instrumentals that will leave you breathless after first hearing. With a penchant for films and usage of samples, the obvious choice is the guitar instrumental for this four-piece band as any number of these sixteen tracks could slot into the background of a fifties or sixties inspired feature film. Concentrating on the contents of ‘Surfin’ NSA’, the opening gesture is a rolling, tumbling mixture of drums and drilled guitar sounds with a definite Mescalero flavour as the song travels at considerable speed. The guitar surfin’ delights do not stop at this juncture either as there is a seemingly endless flow ranging from the exceedingly raw to the layered depths of ‘King Kahuna’ for example, and a change of tactic with the Latin spiced ’58 Degrees’ suggesting that the influences inspiring Bang! Mustang! are numerous. Instrumentals seem to be a hot ticket when it comes to the rockin’ scene at the moment and Bang! Mustang! can definitely include themselves as one of those hot prospects as most likely to cause a breakthrough judging by the quality shown throughout ‘Surfin’ NSA’.


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Monster Mash: 20 Vintage Halloween Hits

Various Artists

Union Square Music

In time for the Halloween festivities Union Square Music has compiled a twenty-track collection of the weird and wonderful from the vaults of a long-lost era. Despite this being a ‘themed’ release, the songs complied here are suitable for any occasion as there is much comedic value between the layers rather than anything to cause sleepless nights. In fact, the breadth of originality presented throughout is the most frightening aspect, due to such inventiveness being in short supply nowadays and something to be truly envied. Early indicators set by Bobby “Boris” Pickett with his witty and charming ‘Monster Mash’ and back-to-back contributions via Sheb Wooley’s ‘The Purple People Eater’ and David Seville’s ‘Witch Doctor’, each containing the added bonus of helium filled supporting vocals, reveals such depth in the creativity department. The subject of purple people eaters resurfaces with the familiar opening guitar signature of Bo Diddley when he confronts his nemesis during ‘Bo Meets The Monster’, and the Big Bopper offers a rockin’ slice with a difference by means of a toy instrument to portray the rock ‘n’ roll wannabe from outer space. In between the more playful moments the earthmoving vocal of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins classic ‘I Put A Spell On You’, Kip Tyler’s mean and moody ‘She’s My Witch’ and more straightforward rockin’ tune for this particular compilation from Elroy Dietzel & The Rhythm Bandits with ‘Rock-N-Bones’ levels the playing field and provides the perfect balance for an utterly absorbing set that should remain spinning long after the assortment of spectres have departed until next year’s Halloween festivities.


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Rock ‘N’ Roll Guitar Greats

Various Artists

Union Square Music

An interesting compilation from Union Square Music featuring a whole host of ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Guitar Greats’ nicely packaged and one that is set at an affordable price. Starting things off with more than an air of familiarity about it due to Quentin Tarantino’s inclusion of Dick Dale’s surf-rock masterpiece ‘Miserlou’ in his film Pulp Fiction, ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Guitar Greats’ maintains the consistency with Duane Eddy’s guitar twanging ‘Shazam’, instrumental smash ‘Rumble’ from Link Wary, and other guitar greats from Scotty Moore ‘Have Guitar, Will Travel’; The Shadows superb ‘F.B.I.’ and The Ventures classic ‘Walk, Don’t Run’. Where this compilation would have served itself better, however, is if it had adhered to a strictly instrumental collection of rock ‘n’ roll guitar hits from the 50s and 60s and not included the overused names of Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent to cite but two examples. While such names are rock ‘n’ roll legends in their own right, and with several of them more than adept when it comes to guitar playing, their inclusion sounds out of place due to this album being a predominantly instrumental affair. Small gripes for sure, but when you have the likes of Link Wray tearing up the house on more than one occasion; The Fireballs western ramble through ‘Vaquero’, and the dreamy ‘Sleepwalk’ provided by Santo and Johnny, the idea of a straight, guitar only instrumental really makes sense overall.


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Up To Scratch!

Alleycats

APM

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.


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Speechless: Half A Ton Of Rockin’ Instrumentals

Various Artists

Western Star

The clamour for instrumental compilations appears to be the current trend on the rockin’ circuit, with Western Star being the latest record label to serve up a sizeable amount of rockin’ instrumentals by the name of ‘Speechless: Half A Ton Of Rockin’ Instrumentals’. Where this double album release differs, however, is due to the fact that mingling with the various covers is a vast number of original compositions issued by a matching number of modern rock ‘n roll bands. The cast list is impressive with the likes of Rudy La Crioux & The All-Stars, Jack Rabbit Slim, The Sharks, The Wolftones, The Bullets, Pete Hutton & The Beyonders, The Bonneville Barons to name but a small sample. In addition, ‘Speechless: Half A Ton Of Rockin’ Instrumentals’ serves as a reminder of just how exhilaratingly good a few chords of a guitar with additional percussive trimmings can sound judging by the variety of songs on offer. Speaking of which…compiled of fifty instrumentals, this two-disc set offers great value, but more importantly the quality is consistently high with a number of bands weighing in with more than one creative effort. Pick of the bunch, bearing in mind this is likely to change day-by-day due to the sheer amount of material to choose from, is The Sharks’ Hell Riders’, due to being a tough guitar stroller punctuated with brass instrumentation. The Wolftones reveal their song writing prowess with the far from icy guitar ride that is ‘Siberian Surfer’. Everything and the kitchen sink is cast into the air once The Bonneville Barons make their entrance with the aptly named ‘Mexican Wildfire’, before eventually settling into a calmer rhythm only to let fly once more. Kill Van Helsing do their best at setting the speakers ablaze with the searing guitar noise ‘Quatermass’, leaving it to Jack Rabbit Slim to finally tear things up with ‘Dragstrip’. ‘Speechless: Half A Ton Of Rockin’ Instrumentals’ also benefits from the different perspectives given on the overall instrumental theme. Look no further than the slower tempo and heavy guitar twang of ‘Hawaiian Thang’ by Chuck & The Hulas or the massive surge of power sax that fuels ‘Chucks Mambo’ courtesy of The Frantic Flintstones. But if your ears are craving something further leftfield, then ‘Hot Dang Hee Haw’ should satisfy any such desires as it’s loaded full of eccentricities with its use of samples interwoven with pummelling bass and drums and some darn fine guitar work. Restoring order, but maintaining the general wildness, is the likes of The Cheaterslicks’ magnificent ‘Gasolina’ with Henry ‘Ruzz’ Evans taking centre stage, and the cutting inside rhythm before heading back out to the outer edges of ‘Daggertrap’ by the Kings Of Outer Space. It’s simple, everything you need to know about ‘Speechless: Half A Ton Of Rockin’ Instrumentals’ is given by its title because rockin’ instrumental albums do not come much better than this!


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Go Man Go

The Bullets

Western Star

Hot on the heels of last year’s smash success ‘Sons Of The Gun’, The Bullets make a welcome return with their brand new long player ‘Go Man Go’. Taking no prisoners with their rumbling, tumbling beat played at a frenetic pace, it’s business as usual once the opening bars of ‘Party Like Me’ makes its entrance with its collar turned skywards that suggests real intent. ‘Real King Bee’ follows suit in equally confident manner as it puffs out its chest and pays reference to the King himself with numerous “Uh-huh, oh yeah(s)”, with man behind the drums Gary Griffin hammering out a beat that more or less steers this song to its conclusion. The lip-curling attitude continues once ‘Kicks Like ’56’ kick-starts (sorry) in hip-swinging fashion and then sees a three-way contest, and eventual tie, between slap bass, guitar and drums all vying for attention, such is their voracious appetite throughout this rebel rouser of a song. As was the case with its predecessor, The Bullets continue to exhibit a real flair for conveying genuine menace in their songs when it comes to ‘Go Man Go’. ‘While You Were Sleeping’ provides one such example as it’s shrouded by an ominous atmosphere, given credence by lead vocalist Brett Waters’ sense of peering over his mic with eyes locked on its target in a foreboding manner, before the revved up guitar and no-holds-barred commentary of ‘Bitch’ provides further evidence to this trio’s creative capabilities. There are several departures in sound as The Bullets tone it down during ‘Can I Take You Home’, which is full of yearning and seen through the eyes of a lonely protagonist wandering the streets at night expertly handled by Brett Waters who extends his vocal range with a bout of crooning which, along with his comrades, delivers this song to the stars as its truly magnificent. The best, however, is saved until last with the other deviation in sound springing from the western flavoured ‘Movin’ On’. By sounding epic in scope with its (almost) perpetual, galloping rhythm that is given a pep up during the final hurdle with the return of James ‘Jaz’ Lambeth on brass duties, ‘Movin’ On’ deserves high praise for its aforementioned vision but, at a guess, for accurately portraying the initial creative ideas as this song runs a close example to a definition of perfection. In addition, extra Brownie points are awarded for the memorable line, “I found a girl with a tattooed chest” due to being only the second time of hearing such a reference outside of The Pixies’ ‘No. 13 Baby’. While serving as a gateway to the past with the album’s title track revealing a penchant for Link Wray, ‘Go Man Go’ is very much concerned with living for the moment and, more precisely, in the present. Therefore, despite any references to rock ‘n’ roll’s past, The Bullets remain thoroughly ensconced in a modern framework which, on the evidence of ‘Go Man Go’, is working to their favour and likely to appeal to a broad base of music lovers. We make that 2 – 0 to The Bullets.


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Rockabilly Dinosaur

Vince Eager & The Western All-Stars

Western Star

Vince Eager, one of the pioneers of the UK’s response to the rock ‘n’ roll sounds emanating from the United States, is back with an album that pays tribute to a number of performers from the fields of rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll. The knowing wink of the album title is, in fact, far wide of the mark for anyone fortunate enough to have seen Vince Eager perform at last year’s tenth anniversary celebrations of Western Star Records, as he peeled back the years with a standout performance. The title of the record also alludes to the reputation a lot of the original rockers held when wreaking havoc with their wild sounds and blooming popularity that was driving the local populace in any given town wild with excitement or cause for concern, depending on which side of the fence one was situated. With a nifty primal beat and sharpness of lyrics, ‘Rockabilly Dinosaur’ recollects this emerging sound and the impact felt to great effect. Much respect is given to the original compositions throughout ‘Rockabilly Dinosaur’, and there is a real sense of enjoyment from each and every song through to the memories recollected by Vince Eager in the accompanying booklet that makes for fascinating reading for those less familiar with his exploits. All of this, however, would not have been possible without the Western All-Stars (Alan Wilson, Steve Whitehouse, Liz Avent, Geoff Barker et al) adding their backing to such engaging renditions of Don Gibson’s ‘Don’t Tell Me Your Troubles’, Tommy Sand’s ‘The Worrying Kind’, Hank Snow’s ‘I’m Movin’ On’ and Peanut Wilson’s ‘Cast Iron Arm’ complete with stonking sax via Rachel Hutchinson. ‘Rockabilly Dinosaur’ is a reminder of the legend that is Vince Eager, but also one that pays homage to a variety of former artists and their songs admirably.

 


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Lotsa Rhythm

Gone Hepsville

Rhythm Bomb

With the Czech Republic currently Europe’s mecca for all-things musically landing somewhere between the forties and the fifties, Gone Hepsville is another addition to this growing band of artists hell-bent on recreating such bygone and golden passages in music’s rich history. The sheer quality of the musicianship, coupled with a breadth of influences stemming from the six band of brothers that make up Gone Hepsville is something to be marvelled at because what’s on offer with ‘Lotsa Rhythm’ is an album crammed full of big band, jump, swing, jive and rock ‘n’ roll cooked to an often pulsating rhythm that will have your limbs swinging in no time at all. If you want proof of life in these very songs, which stretches to an incredible 18 tracks, then the lively brass instrumentation and enthusiasm held in the vocal of the album’s title track, paired with the equally sparky ‘Hip As I Can Be’ are two clear indicators that these Hepsville cats are here to rock! ‘Lazy Town’ is a call to arms to kick-start the nondescript settlement into life with a compelling vocal nicely supported with a harmonious backing and then a powerhouse of brass, rolling drums and rollicking piano that gives this town a fresh lease of life. The ensuing ‘She Won’t Shut Up’ is a punchy number greatly exemplified by pounding keys and additional handclaps that really drills home its message by way of yet more proficiency in the musicianship. Great credit must also go to the production duties of Axel Praefcke at Lightning Recorders for the manner in which ‘Lotsa Rhythm’ is handled by capturing an inch perfect authentic sound because the entire album sounds like a genuine slab of 40s/50s nostalgia. With such careful precision and with great dedication to their overall work and sound, Gone Hepsville have created a long player that puts many to shame not only in terms of its inventiveness, but for the sheer energy and enthusiasm coming from all corners of this marvellous album that’s definitely not short of rhythm.


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Running Wild

Ruby Ann

Rhythm Bomb

Back with her new album ‘Running Wild’, Stateside resident Ruby Ann continues where top seller ‘Mama’s Back’ left off as far as quality control is concerned and, of course, an abundance of great tunes. It’s there in the details, having set up camp at Chicago’s Hi-Style studio and enlisted the help of such fellow rockin’ musicians as Eddie Clendening (‘The Rage of the Teen-Age!’) and Joel Patterson, as well as a number of the songs included in this latest release being penned by other songwriters including Mark Winchester, Big Sandy et al that sit nicely with several, carefully selected cover versions. There is a real sense of nostalgia every time Ms Ann steps up to the mic and opens up the vocal chords with an authentic take on a 50s sound, which is not simply about up-tempo rockin’ numbers but mid-paced setters (‘You Gotta Pay’) and others that incorporate elements of country or presented in the style of soulful balladry. With ‘Running Wild’ appealing to an established fan base, as well as acquiring a considerable number of new followers, Ruby Ann marks her return with a variation of musical styles that is finely tuned to a perfect twelve that consists of nothing but the highest quality. Mama’s definitely back, and back with style!


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Bring It On Home!

Twisted Rod

Rhythm Bomb

Weaving their way through the streets of Praha with every intention of bringing their authentic 50s rockin’ beats home to roost is Czech Republic outfit Twisted Rod. By issuing a clear warning that the contents of the band’s latest album comes with added oomph that may be too hot to handle for some listeners, Twisted Rod certainly live up to their cautionary notice by delivering a searing set of rockabilly numbers. Consisting of 15 tracks, ‘Bring It On Home!’ blazes a hot trail from its start-up song ‘Twisted Rod’, through to its concluding number ‘When I Watch You’ that reveals a tale full of obsession and wonderfully portrayed by some edgy vocals and a frantic rhythm. Bustling forward in a confident manner is ‘I Love You My Way’ that applies distortion on the vocals and works wonders, especially when vocalist Phil stutters his lines, “B-b-b-b-baby I love you my way” as if to reinforce his intentions. ‘Down The Line’ is of similar ilk to its predecessor, only this time reflecting on a derailed relationship that’s expertly conveyed by an enflamed vocal and tight rhythm section that keeps a respectful distance so that this ball of raw emotions is allowed to truly express itself. Two covers are given the Twisted Rod treatment with an exhilarating performance of Charlie Feathers’ ‘Stutterin’ Cindy’ and a vocally deep rendition of Benny Joy’s ‘Wild Wild Lover’ that’s as wild as its title suggests. Despite the majority of ‘Bring It On Home!’ being performed at a rapid pace, Twisted Rod shuffle their rhythm slightly to allow for a reduced tempo that reveals not only one of the album’s highlights, but another side to their armoury by way of ‘Tijuana 45’. It’s a song with nothing but revenge on its mind as the dark narrative takes notes from Nick Cave before setting out on its journey to the accompaniment of a shimmery guitar that sparks into life once our assailant reaches their destination.  If that wasn’t enough to suggest ideas for future directions, then the bluesy ‘Ridin Down The Highway’ answers any such concerns with an animated harmonica and throaty yell that definitely brings it on home for this Czech three-piece. By the time Twisted Rod arrive at their terminus, you will be clamouring for a repeat performance of this exhilarating ride because ‘Bring It On Home!’ is really that good.


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Red Light Blues

The Wolftones

Western Star

Describing The Wolftones as the real deal is an accurate description as they remain a unit that is emotionally driven which, as a result, can produce some of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll music one is likely to experience depending, however, on which mood decides to reveal itself on any one particular occasion. There is no doubting that The Wolftones rockin’ blues is best served up in a live setting, as when this five-piece are on their game there are not too many contenders. Such a description can be applied to the band’s current album ‘Red Light Blues’, due to moments that really enthral whereas on other occasions the band sounds lacklustre when they should be soaring. Such occasions can be gleaned from the album’s title track and next in line ‘Only You’, as both numbers give the impression of a band warming up for the main event rather than an explosive force considering their entry in the pecking order. Fortunately, salvation arrives once the dynamic guitar intro of ‘Blues On My Mind’ presents itself and The Wolftones jolt into action with a rumblin’, red-hot number that is captured to great effect as it goes someway to realising their live, raw sound. ‘Shake It Baby’ teases the senses with its initial guitar pickin’ and one can sense the emergence of something special beginning to edge its way out of the speakers, which duly arrives via James Jimbob Sullivan’s harmonica and Sully’s directional guitar playing. The duo of ‘The Stooge’ and ’21 Nights In Jail’ offer more of the same as far as the rhythmic blues mingling with rock edges goes, before taking a darker twist with the intriguing gothic tinges of ‘Devil Prowler’ that positions The Wolftones in slightly unfamiliar territory and all the better for it. Lead singer Jay Bircumshaw definitely preserves his vocal chords until the final cluster of songs – namely ‘Rooster Blues’, ‘Insane’, ‘Shot Down’ and ‘No Matter’ – by providing a commanding presence throughout as one can hear the frontman loosening up and letting his emotions pour out. It would appear The Wolftones is balancing a delicate combination of emotions that on one hand can provide moments of inspiration that propels them to greatness, but on the other hand there are occasions where they appear to epitomise the very sentiments of one of their songs (‘Blues On My Mind’) that hampers their progress with less inspired works. If The Wolftones can channel the positives of ‘Red Light Blues’, then their next creative venture could be the album that realises their full potential.



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