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Ace (CDCHD473)

MEL ROBBINS: Save It, Are You With Me? WALLY JEFFREY: Oh Yeah. CHUCK WILEY: I Wanna Dance All Night, It's Love, Times Is Tough, Door To Door, Why Worry About Me?, I Love You So Much, CLIFF NASH & THE ROCKAWAYS: Tell Me Baby, Bandstand (2 versions). CLIFF NASH: Explosion, No Time For Sister, Jenny Lou. CURTIS HOBOCK: I Wanna Shake It. THE EMBERS: The Thump, I Walked All Night. JIMMY HURT & THE DEL-RIOS: I Love You Dearly. HERBIE SMITH: Baby Moon. HOUSTON TURNER & THE DIXIELANDERS: Best Dressed Beggar In Town. THE IMPS Uh Oh, That'll Get It. CHUCK HOWARD: Out Of Gas.

Just as it did in the seventies revival, rockabilly is currently having some kind of re-birth. Anthologies are springing up on all kinds of record labels and the music shines through like a breath of fresh air amongst some of the dross being issued these days.

Rockabilly is the perfect form of 50's and 60's Americana; hillbillys and hicks from the sticks mixing hard blues ideas with rollicking country rhythms and attempting to follow in Elvis's footsteps. Some made it if they got with labels like Sun or Chess or Capitol but for the most part, the virtual unknowns headed for a one horse recording studio, played their asses off and then disappeared, failed and forgotten, back into the obscurity from whence they came. That is until re-issue companies like Ace came along fifty years later to unearth the music and give us the opportunity to find out just how wonderful those tinpot rockers really were. The truth of the matter is that rockabilly musicians took the music by the scruff of the neck and went for it wholesale, generating a degree of electrifying excitement and craziness that just isn't there in today's jaded music. Someone at Ace christened this stuff El Primitivo and they got it right. It is primitive as well as being hyper-active, over-the-top and at times just pure crazy.

The demented, panting laugh that opens Mel Robbin's Save It says it all. He doesn't know if he wants to be Elvis or Jerry Lee and he doesn't care either because all he wants to do is rock big time just like he does on the nervous hiccupping manic Are You With Me? Music buffs will be aware that Mel Robbins is the blind keyboard player Hargus ‘Pig' Robbins, one of the 60s session geniuses in Nashville who were so important to stars like Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, Bob Dylan and a thousand others. He was probably also a member of The Embers because he wrote one of their songs on this CD. Their wonderfully vibrant I Walked All Night For You is an absolute gem - one of the best songs I've heard all year. It opens with a guitar sound that sounds like The Beatles on rye mash and a singer who slides in with half-singing-half-talking vocals with Dylan phrasing all supported with a beat that you just don't want to ignore. Fabulous - play this at full volume.

Cliff Nash's Explosion is a full-steam-ahead stomper with zinging guitar, jittering, shuddering sax and a drummer who no doubt needed aspirins and a lie down after attacking this track and then Cliff is back again with The Rockaways on one of the out-and-out killers tracks Tell Me Baby - a song that crashes along with an Eddie Cochran beat fuelled by a Chuck Berry guitar style that just never lets up. Stupendous is the word that comes to mind! Chuck Wiley continues the Cochran feel on I Wanna Dance All Night with its twanging guitar and big fat beat while his New Orleans flavoured Times Is Tough belches along with a full-fat sax sound, pulsating piano and some gorgeous chord changes and Chuck Howard brings the Coasters to rockabilly on his honking slice of horniness Out Of Gas which has a great horn sound but the guitar is even better!

But for me the pinnacle, the absolute thriller of all the music on this CD comes from The Imps. My jaw dropped when I heard the first notes of the dynamite instrumental That'll Get It with its rasping horns that just failed to overcome the rampant, clanging Stratocaster, how ever hard they tried - and then another guitar led classic instrumental Uh Oh which inspired Poison Ivy of The Cramps, when she heard this record, to say that she reckoned The Imps "must have overdosed on Link Wray and Krazy Glue, to come up with the filthiest guitar sound in history. Essential depravity from the land of the pioneers".  I couldn't have put it any better than that!


Review Date: October 2010

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