Friday, August 28, 2009

Various - Just About As Good As It Gets!
Great Rock'n'Roll Instrumentals
Great British Rock'n'Roll Vol.3
Great Rockabilly Vol.3
Great British Skiffle Vol.3
Smith & Co

This third volume of a thorough Dutch dressing up and dusting down of old brilliantined brilliance and greased up good times shows no signs of letting up on the glistening grade A crystals, at seventy plus songs a set. Well, with the backwards exclusion of the British Rock'n'Roll one which, though a vast improvement on the earlier installments of ultra mundane polite tea and scones pastiching prattles, due to the gradual improvement of the old guard of trad jazzers who made up most of the early Brit rock'n'roll at passing themselves off as rockers till payday, that improvement serves to show how aimless the earlier ones were, meaning the British volumes of this series should be called 'Oh and some weedy attempts at Rock'n'Roll by Britain, Could Do Better'. As is well known, Britain couldn't rock for shit, it's like rationing carried on into limp versions, very ordinary renditions indeeds, of the sorta mean-eyed, wild haired rockin' found on the Rockabilly volumes, which are ridiculously crammed with such gleaming classics - Gene Vincent's Blue Jean Bop, Elvis' Good Rockin' Tonight, Billy Lee Riley's Red Hot or Johnny Burnette's Honey Hush turn up on vol.3, if you wanted proof of how much rock has been papered over - they turn Morris Minor's into rickshaws running on cringing, hand-wringing chauffeurs. There's the famous Cliff vs Elvis paradox of course - though wet-wipe Cliff's early stuff is absorbent enough - similarly Alma Cogan ain't no Wanda Jackson and Adam Faith vainly attempting Jerry Lee's High School Confidential or Hal Burton's Rave On would make the hardest drill sergeant show pity. The then unappreciated Vince Taylor (the dude who part inspired Ziggy Stardust) fought a valiant rearguard action, though debatably benefitted from being raised in Texas.
However, the UK skiffle craze kick-a-boomed by Lonnie Donegan is rightly fabled and not just for historical note-taking, or featuring the interestingly named Original Barnstormers Spasm Band. Like a historical re-enactment society these heroes - also featuring two names pivotal to music as a whole, not just the soon to come UK R&B and Blues boom Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies - took up acoustic guitar, washboard, kazoo and homemade (custom built for Americans) broom-handle bass with the spirit of the Battle Of Britain and applied it to the recent past of American folk song, and undoubtedly, well, did, set the path for younger acolytes yet to end up in The Stones, Kinks, Who and Beatles to follow. Bravo!
Likewise, the instrumentals set does the job of documenting the nascent space age where you can rum amok from behind smokescreens of large-finned twang and Russki-scalping sax as your house redecorates itself, your shirts get brighter and your walk gets somewhat looser. From evading the invading monsters creature feature jams to cool sax-riddled siren calls like a stampede of in season elks to street-racing ramrodders and wild west serenades and proto-punk brawlers this is a opulent oil-spurt of slinky sonic delights from the likes of Duane Eddy, Ritchie Valens, Sonny Burgess, Chuck 'n' Fats and of course The Champs (ie Tequila) alongside Merle Travis' wondrously bonkers Cannonball Rag, Chet Atkins technical string-balladry and Les Paul & Mary Floyd's How High The Moon (which, erm, features that weird new invention that came to be called singing). With but one Link Wray song there seems room for further volumes too. Keep your eyes on the road, James.
Stu Gibson
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