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Wet Side Stories

Jaguar & The Savanas

El Toro

El Toro Records is really turning up the heat with latest release from Jaguar & The Savanas with its occasionally wild, but more often controlled ride of surf-inspired instrumentals. Coming equipped with the self-proclamation of ‘Dedicated to all obscure surf bands like us’, Jaguar & The Savanas is probably under the illusion that their music is restricted to a limited audience, which may have been the case prior to the official launch of ‘Wet Side Stories’, but no doubt the tide has turned in their favour with the eight tracks complied here because there is simply no resistance against the infectious rhythms on offer. By creating a certain amount of mystery regarding the band – the comic book imagery for starters, as well as adopting the title of a popular musical and renaming it with a suggestive and insalubrious substitute – is the stuff rock ‘n’ roll was designed for, and something Jaguar & The Savanas certainly make the most of during their brief stay via ‘Wet Side Stories’. The impact of ‘The Ride of May Gray’ is immediate with its tough and gritty rhythm coming by way of some Dick Dale inspired surf guitar, which happens to follow suit with the equally engrossing ‘Castaway’. There is a measured tempo to ‘After The Ray Storm’, appropriately setting the mood for this song as there appears to be a genuine amount of contemplation occurring before finding its answer via the strolling beat of ‘Gator Rescue’. Such variations in style and pace is the key to Jaguar & The Savanas longevity because as it stands, ‘Wet Side Stories’ is a wonderfully  executed series of instrumentals that fit their billing accurately by maintaining a sense of ambiguity and level of excitement that never outstay their welcome.


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True Love Highway

The Shadowmen

Rhythm Bomb

From the high-altitude city of Albuquerque, New Mexico comes a rockabilly sound by way of The Shadowmen. Composed of sixteen tracks, ‘True Love Highway’ possesses a great deal of talent and one that is not shy when it comes to letting the creative strings fly. Such evidence can be gleaned from the real zip and zest of ‘Revenoor Man’ with its interesting choice of subject matter referring to the prohibition of a certain substance brewed locally. Elsewhere, The Shadowmen turn in genuine slices of 50s rockabilly with such examples as the magnificent ‘Ain’t That A Dilly’ and equally convincing ‘Oh Sally’. There is great guitar work punctuating throughout this album whether spiralling down the scales during the introduction of ‘Sleep Rock – A –Roll Rock – A – Baby’ or dominating the tempo of laidback, ‘True Love Highway’. This, however, is but one component which makes ‘True Love Highway’ the album it is, whereby this five piece manage to make things sound simple when, in fact, there are many subtle layers lurking beneath the surface and where their true craft lies. A clever album and one that will have you glued to its contents from the off, The Shadowmen has provided a suitable ally to accompany the trip along ‘True Love Highway’.


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Goin’ Old School

The Rob Ryan Roadshow

Rhythm Bomb

Fourth album in for Rob Ryan and his Roadshow that shows no signs of letting up, such is the heady mix of rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll, hillbilly and country sounds which explains the majority of this latest album’s contents, but it should also be noted that there are one or two deviations from this formula. The first indication that other influences are at work here can be heard from the album’s introduction ‘Stay In Bed’, as it snuggles up close to a rhythm and blues sound with Rob Ryan’s vocal sounding light and soulful. The next surprise comes in the form of a cover song, and one that is not selected from the customary vault of 1950’s goodness because this one is taken from a more recent decade with The Eurhythmics ‘Missionary Man’. Despite not being a fan of the original composition, the translation of this Eurythmics hit is a far grittier version, complete with impassioned vocal and side support coming by way of harmonica that manages to receive the unanimous thumbs up. The ‘Goin’ Old School’ of its title really makes itself known with the mid-tempo country ‘Long Gone Day’, then applying its foot on the gas for the rockabilly infused ‘Catwalk Baby’ with Rob Ryan’s vocal impressing throughout. There is time for reflection once ‘When I Found You’ makes its entrance, with its nimble rhythm implying the joy felt as this is one song with a happy ending after years in the doldrums. Further jovialities ensue once the Jerry Lee Lewis inspired wildness of ‘Monkey Beat City’ clambers over the entire contents of this album, letting its presence known via some white-hot rock ‘n’ roll, only to be given a run for its money by way of ‘Not Good Enough’. If only all roadshows were as compelling as the one Rob Ryan is promoting because ‘Goin’ Old School’ is a lesson in how to achieve a finely tuned balance between a choice selection of genres and making it work as a cohesive whole.


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Drinkin Wine

Spo-Dee-O-Dee

Rhythm Bomb

Longstanding German rockabilly band Spo-Dee-O-Dee enter the fray once more with brand new long player ‘Drinkin Wine’. With lead vocalist and guitarist Andy Warner penning eight of the twelve tracks listed, Spo-Dee-O-Dee set about their task admirably with a forceful set of rockabilly numbers. Starting things off is the combined vocals of ‘Little Baby of Mine’ that will have you rockin’ in no time such are the addictive qualities of its main rhythm. Man behind the album’s mastering, Axel Praefke shows his hand at song writing by coming up with ‘Jeannie Come A Running’, which chugs along at a nice pace and is complemented by another Warner effort, ‘I Told A Lie’ that is handled with the upmost care considering its delicate rhythm. The Harlan Howard written, and covered by numerous artists, ‘Sally Was A Good Ole Girl’ is competent in its delivery and likely to remain lodged in the memory bank long after its conclusion due to its catchy lyrics. The vocals are put on hold for the surf inspired instrumental ‘Los Calimuchos’, offering another side to Spo-Dee-O-Dee, before opting for another cover in the form of ‘Messin’ With The Kid’, but this time adding their own personal touches by toning down the adrenalin a notch or two in comparison with the rocket fuelled rendition by Baby Huey & the Baby Sitters.  Great guitar work and an eager vocal really bring to life the emotions felt in ‘Black Slacks Pink Skirt’, which again shows itself during the strolling ‘Let’s Walk Walk Walk’ with Andy Warner injecting much character into the song’s narrative as one can sense the glee in his vocal as he glides down the avenue in question. The taste of wine this four-piece band is brewing is definitely of a sweeter nature as Spo-Dee-O-Dee hold a great passion for their song writing and one that is not afraid to reveal a romantic centre, which this latest album clearly demonstrates.


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Rock & Roll Time

Jerry Lee Lewis

Caroline

The rock ‘n’ roll legend that is Jerry Lee Lewis returns with a new album, ‘Rock & Roll Time’. Having enlisted the creative help of a few well-known musicians including Keith Richards, Nils Lofgren, Neil Young, Robbie Robertson and Shelby Lynne, the songs recorded pay their respects to other legendary artists by covering such songs as Chuck Berry’s ‘Little Queenie’, Johnny Cash with ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ and ‘Stepchild’ by Bob Dylan to name but a small sample. The album was recorded at the House of Blues in Memphis and finds Jerry Lee Lewis in fine form from the off with the barroom melody, and title track, ‘Rock & Roll Time’; a song that was originally co-written and recorded by Kris Kristofferson during the seventies. While there are no embarrassing attempts to re-enact those wild rock ‘n’ roll years, Jerry Lee Lewis belies his years with an energized performance of said Chuck Berry record ‘Little Queenie’, suitably aided by fellow wild rockers Keith Richards and Ron Wood. The following version of Bob Dylan’s ‘Stepchild’ is given a blues workout, expertly handled by Daniel Lanois and Doyle Bramhall II, then swiftly followed by the more rockin’ ‘Sick And Tired’, this time with support coming from Jon Brion. For those eager to hear the latest take on ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ (Johnny Cash) it will not leave you disappointed with its more spacious arrangement allowing itself to pick up an assortment of instruments along the way, which adds a sense of spontaneity to the recording due to sounding as if the various instruments are trying to pull in different directions but somehow managing to combine and provide a genuine alternative cover of this classic song. There is also a country flavour to ‘Rock & Roll Time’, mingling with the rock ‘n’ roll numbers, with the rather dreamy ‘Keep Me In Mind’ and storytelling thread shared by Shelby Lynne during ‘Here Comes That Rainbow Again’. ‘Rock & Roll Time’ is highly commendable for its enthusiasm, inventiveness and warm nature when recreating a number of original compositions that could have easily fallen into the category of going through the motions. As it stands, one of the original rock ‘n’ rollers is not about to call time on his career, and long may that continue.


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Cut Out To Rock

The Backseat Boogie

Rhythm Bomb

It’s time for more Backseat Boogie with their latest release ‘Cut Out To Rock’. Continuing their affiliation with rockabilly and adding much saxophone to the recordings, these rockin’ cats from Italy never take the easy route as latest album ‘Cut Out To Rock’ is jam-packed with much detail and running to a full fourteen tracks! With the title track setting out its intentions from the start, there is clearly one thing on its mind and that is to rock! Following number ‘The Worst And The Best’ reflects two sides of a personality yet retains a clear vision musically with its infectious rhythm containing some sharp guitar and bursts of saxophone that provides this song with a real attitude. ‘Water Out Of Stone’ really stumps up a miracle by transporting the listener back to a bygone era where rhythm and blues and swing dominated for a period, considering the quick footed and relentless pace created by The Backseat Boogie during this particular song. There is a genuine swagger to ‘First To Come (Last To Leave)’ that also reveals The Backseat Boogie’s attention to detail when it comes to the song’s instrumentation. Such is the strength in depth here, that other songs allow for experimentation with ‘Hit The Iron’ letting in the blues with an enthusiastic harmonica firing its engine, and with another twist materialising with the country inspired ‘I Can’t Take It Anymore’ that makes use of the harmonica once more and comes complete with rowdy whistling supplied in the background. Another string to The Backseat Boogie’s bow is their ability to tackle other issues whether speaking out on hardships of city dwelling (‘In The City’), repeating this social commentary via instruments only with ‘Postcard From Zombieville’, or revealing much anxiety about the pains of losing one’s barnet; wonderfully portrayed in a humorous style that searches for answers with an out-of-date bottle of shampoo coming under scrutiny as one possible cause! Nearing the end of ‘Cut Out To Rock’ is quite possibly the standout track under the intriguing heading ‘Long And Silent Drive Back Home’. By utilising drum brushes to exemplify the late-night feel of this pared back song, and containing some fine lyrics to illustrate its heavy heart, ‘Long And Silent Drive Back Home’ is a perfect example of a band at the top of their trade. If you haven’t managed to take a ride with The Backseat Boogie yet, then now is the time to jump on board as this is one band not to be missed!


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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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