Published by Feral House on September 16, 2016. Craig Smith was a 1960s golden boy – good looking, charismatic, outgoing; a preternaturally gifted musician and songwriter whose songs were recorde
By Doug Sheppard The musical, cultural and societal waves that Chuck Berry made by pioneering rock ’n’ roll could fill a book. And of course, there are so many great songs—brilliant
(Ace, UK) CD
During the two-year period covered here, Ike Turner was one hell of a busy mofo. He recorded in any studio he could find while his popular revue was out on the road, which by most accounts was around nine months of the year. From ‘63-‘65, Ike and Tina records came out on Sue, Kent, Warner Brothers, Sonja, Loma, and Modern Records. He also recorded members of his revue, leading to releases on Sputnik, Sony, Teena, and Modern. Sorting out those sessions is a particularly daunting task. Compiler Brian Nevill’s superb annotation manages to make sense of it all.
Then again, one could always forgo the details and simply surrender to Ike’s powerhouse groove, not a bad strategy when the music is as raw and funky as it is here. The performers are led by the magnificent Tina herself, turning in an impassioned “All In My Mind” that takes Maxine Brown’s familiar tune to a different place entirely. Her cover of Eddie Boyd’s “Five Long Years” is suitably rough and tumble. Ikette Jessie Smith adds down home grit to her New Orleans-styled “They Ain’t Lovin’ Ya,” a duet with fellow Revue member Vernon Guy. Another Ikette, Venetta Fields, contributes a smoldering piano blues called “Through With You.”
Jackie Brenston shows up on the bouncy soul number “In Love,” backed by the Ikettes, as well as a slow blues originally done by Billy Gayles on Federal, “I’m Tore Up.” Brenston and Turner had an off and on working relationship going all the way back to their classic “Rocket 88” hit back in 1951. The other singers and musicians all acquit themselves well throughout. The relative lack of polish and production hurt the commercial potential of these mostly unreleased recordings, which is exactly what makes them so appealing.
I like Ike! (Dave Gnerre)
Due to lucky circumstances one night back in the ‘80s, I found myself face to face with Del Shannon, my very first rock ‘n’ roll hero. I mentioned that when I was 10 years old, hearing “Runaway” for the first time had proved a life-changing experience. Although I knew he must have endured many variations of my story through the years, I found Del to be friendly, funny, enthusiastic, and genuinely down to earth. I saw him live a couple of times too, and he always tore the roof off the joint. The whole point of which is to give fair warning: this will not be a clear-headed, objective analysis of his rockingest Berlee and Amy sides. I love this stuff. It’s an amazing compilation, the first to focus solely on what I consider the renegade rocker’s peak period.
Once he freed himself from the clutches of the Big Top label, Del got to play rhythm guitar on all his records. Al Caiola had handled most of the guitar duties going all the way back to “Runaway,” although Del did play rhythm on “Little Town Flirt” and a few subsequent Big Top sessions. Hooking up with Detroit’s rockin’ Royaltones proved a tailor-made match for Del. During this time, he chose some perfectly suited covers in “Handy Man” and “Do You Wanna Dance,” whilst also penning some of his best originals.
His own “Keep Searchin’” tackled the British Invasion head on, hitting the Top 10 in late 1964. Its themes of persecution and paranoia were carried to even further extremes on “Stranger In Town,” which reached the Top 30 early the next year. Both of these atmospheric, superbly produced records feature Del’s piercing falsetto and rock like crazy. One follow up, “Break Up,” has a tough chord progression and is quite strong, although it barely made the charts at the time. Another one, the frenetic “Move It On Over,” features a scorching Dennis Coffey guitar solo but inexplicably failed to hit. There are so many other delights here, including the Link Wray-like instrumental “Torture,” which makes its vinyl debut.
To repeat: I love this stuff. (Dave Gnerre)
Review originally published in UGLY THINGS #33
(Munster, Spain) 7” single boxset/CD
The Cramps may have swept to attention in the wake of the ‘70s punk rock wave, but they were of a different species entirely. This otherness is what makes the Cramps so special. By accident, design or mutated genetic disposition they were able to tap directly into the deep India-ink-black essence that lies at the core of all primal rock’n’roll. What they created with their best music and their live performances—that otherness—was something that existed out-of-time with the rest of the world—and certainly the rest of the music scene. The Cramps’ unique vision spawned hundreds of imitators, hopping blindly, stupidly like so many fleas on the back of a big hairy dog. The wanna-fleas may have grokked the mad rockabilly pulse or the voodoo mystique, but the vital essence of it was beyond their understanding. Only the Cramps themselves fully grokked that secret, sacred magic.
If you’d forgotten or, god forbid, never knew just how great the Cramps were, this 10-single vinyl boxset (also available in the more boring CD format) will set you straight in a hurry. Some of the very best of their earliest primal goo-goo muck is here: “The Way I Walk,” “Human Fly,” “Mystery Plane,” “Garbage Man,” “TV Set,” “Goo Goo Muck,” “New Kind of Kick”—the list goes on. Six of these 10 discs are splendid repros of the original 1978-81 singles; four are new pairings with specially-designed cover art in keeping with the all-important original aesthetic. The vinyl box also includes a nifty envelope stuffed with picture postcards.
Liner notes by original Legion of the Cramped fanclub prez Lindsay Hutton seal the deal for this box of Uranium-infused rock’n’roll juice that’ll provide thrills and chills for a million years to come. Sacred. (Mike Stax)
Review originally published in Ugly Things #33.