MY TOP 10 ROCKABILLY ALBUMS

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Supersonic Gal by Maryann & The Tri-Tones from 2015 on Rhythm Bomb Records.  I only just recently discovered Maryann & The Tri-Tones, a band from Estonia. The group formed after the break-up of The Jumpin’ Wheels when singer/songwriter Maryann Lants sent the group a demo in 2011.  Supersonic Gal is their debut album and was recorded in Berlin.  While a group like The Stray Cats or The Pole Cats add more of a modern groove to Rockabilly, here the sound is a faithful re-creation of just what it was like in the 1950’s.  The group has a jazzier tone more instep with Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps.  Supersonic Gal was first self released by the band and only a few hundreds copies were made, but was luckily discovered by Rhythm Bomb Records has been reissued to a larger audience.
Maryann has a great country twang to her voice (odd for someone from Estonia) and doesn’t fall into the bad habits of most female Rockabilly singers by doing a bad Wanda Jackson impression.  In fact, I would say she’s one of the best female Rockabillies I’ve ever heard.  Right up there with Janis Martin or Sparkle Moore.  My favorite track is the ballad Angel Of The Desert with its heavy cowboy feel it sounds like the Hank Williams song Ramblin’ Man.  There are some great rockers on here too!

 

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Blast Off! by The Stray Cats from 1989 on EMI Records.  The Stray Cats went their separate ways in 1986 with Slim Jim & Lee Rocker forming Phantom, Rocker & Slick and Brian Setzer trying his hand at heartland rock with his first solo album The Knife Feels Like Justice.  While both were good efforts, they failed to capture the magic that was The Stray Cats.  What else was there to do, but what they did best : ROCKABILLY! After Setzer, Phantom & Rocker produced 1986’s Rock Therapy themselves, they decided to bring back the great Dave Edmunds for Blast Off! Slim Jim Phantom said “It’s probably our most rockabilly effort” and he’s right. Blast Off! certainly has a modern edge, but still has the feel of the Rockabilly originals.  The album is composed mostly of originals with two cover songs: Eddie Bond’s Slip, Slip Slippin’ In and Eddie & The Subtitles Buddy Holly-inspired Gina. Every original on the album is great, but there are defiantly some stand outs. Gene & Eddie, pays loving tribute to Rockabilly royalty Gene Vincent & Eddie Cochran with riffs & lyrics that borrow from the masters.  My favorite track is Bring It Back Again, with its catchy three chord riff and great lyrics about trying to find your way back to better times.  If you’re looking for some great driving music, look no further!

 

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Elvis Presley by Elvis Presley from 1956 on RCA Records. After Elvis’ Sun Records contract was bought out by RCA for $40,000 the first thing they wanted to do was capture the sound Elvis was getting at Sun Studio.  Unfortunately, their equipment was too good, but the result is still excellent!  This was right before RCA started cleaning up Elvis’ image so we still get some great Rockabilly on this album.  Elvis is joined again by Scotty Moore & Bill Black, and for the first time drummer DJ Fontana and backing vocal group The Jordanairs. Here we get great Rockabilly renditions of Blue Suede Shoes, and I Got A Woman, country ballads like I’m Counting On You (later covered by Kitty Wells), and even a version of Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti.  Not all of the tracks were recorded for RCA however.  After the sale of Elvis’ contract some of the Sun Records leftovers are included here as well, but that’s certainly not a bad thing especially  with the King’s atmospheric version of Blue Moon included. My favorite track here is Elvis’ cover of The Drifters song Money Honey. An album so good, even what was considered filler is excellent!

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Singin’ To My Baby by Eddie Cochran from 1957 on Liberty Records. Singin’ To My Baby was the only Cochran album released during his lifetime (Eddie died in 1960 at the age of 21).  Most of the album was recorded during the summer of 1957 at Gold Star Studio B (later made famous by Phil Spector).  Liberty set out to market Eddie as a teen idol, so we get a few great rockers and lot of moody ballads.  The album cover really fits with the sound of the album, a little dark but with some great Gretsch guitar going on.  I would recommend starting with a “best of” though, as you won’t find the big hits here, for instance  Summertime Blues wouldn’t be released until the following year as a single. However, this album helps you to really dive in and see what this guy could do both as a musician and in many ways, his own producer.  It’s too hard for me to pick just one track on this one.  Listen to it all, it’s great!

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Rage Of The Teen-Age by Eddie Clendening from 2005 on Wormtone Records. From one Eddie to another.  I credit Rage Of The Teen-Age for introducing me to Eddie Clendening, a great guitar player and singer who once played Elvis on Broadway in Million Dollar Quartet. The album is composed mostly of covers, which in turn introduced me to other great 50’s artists like Jerry Arnold.  The feel on this album is a more traditional Rockabilly sound highlighted by Eddie’s vocal which sounds a bit like Sun-era Roy Orbison here.  My two favorite tracks are the crooner So Young and a cover of Jerry Arnold’s Can’t Do Without You.  Unfortunately, this album is out of print, but Eddie does have two new ones available on ITunes which I recommend as well!

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The Classic Carl Perkins by Carl Perkins from 1990 on Bear Family Records.  Ok! I’m cheating here as this is a box set, but seriously its Carl Perkins.  The thirteen tracks of Carl’s first album just doesn’t do it justice.  You need it all! Here we have all of his work from 1954 to 1965.  Work done at Sun Records, Columbia, & Decca are all included here.  This is Rockabilly with a heavy honky-tonk sound. My favorite track would probably be Dixie Fried, the story of a guy who brings a knife to a bar because “It’s almost dawn and the cops are gone. Let’s all get Dixie Fried!”

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Bluejean Bop! by Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps from 1956 on Capitol Records.  This was Gene’s first album, cut rather quickly in June 1956, and it’s still one of the best rock records ever! As a band you have the skilled jazzy rockabilly style playing of Cliff Gallup, and the youthful screaming and yelling of drummer Dickie Harrell.  Then of course there’s Gene with his hyperventilating vocal style on the rockers, and soft croon on the ballads. It is not an album without filler, but even tin pan alley standards such as Wedding Bells (Are Breaking Up That Ol’ Gang Of Mine) and Ain’t She Sweet sound great rocked up a little bit. The only track of note missing here would be Be-Bop A Lu La which most “best of” collections will have.  My favorite track is Jezebel where Gene sings about devil woman like a man possessed!

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Johnny Burnette & The Rock ‘N’ Roll Trio by Johnny Burnette & The Rock ‘N’ Roll Trio from 1956 on Coral Records. As Rockabilly bands go, it doesn’t get more essential than this! Johnny Burnette & The Rock ‘N’ Roll Trio is one of the hardest rocking albums not just of the 50’s, but of all time.  They loved to fight, drink, and play Rockabilly and all that energy is here.  Johnny eventually toned down his act and was quite successful as a teen heartthrob with hits like You’re 16, but this is where it all started! My favorite track is  Lonesome Train (On A Lonesome Track) which I first heard in the Rocksploitation flick Rock, Rock, Rock! Listening to this, I can kind of understand why parents were afraid of rock music, this track sounds like they’re all on speed (they probably were)…

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The Chirping Crickets by Buddy Holly & The Crickets from 1957 on Brunswick Records. A twelve song album in which four of the songs are not only the most well-known Buddy Holly songs, but are Rock & Roll classics.  Pretty good for a guy who sadly only had a two-year career! One of the tracks here even helped to usher in the British Invasion when Not Fade Away was covered by The Rolling Stones.  What’s even more amazing is that The Crickets were one of the first (if not THE first) fully contained band.  They wrote, and played most of their songs.  That’s not say we don’t have a few cover songs thrown in here.  Buddy does a very nice job with the Little Richard ballad Send Me Some Lovin’  and on the Chuck Willis tune It’s Too Late.  Musically speaking I’ve always felt that Buddy fell more into the Rhythm & Blues sound than Rockabilly with the exception of his early tracks at Decca, but there are some good Rockabilly tunes here.  I think my favorite would be Tell Me How which is a nice example of Buddy’s hiccupping vocal style.

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Elvis At Sun by Elvis Presley from 2004 on Sun Records. This isn’t just my favorite Rockabilly album, but my favorite album PERIOD!  There are many, many releases of Elvis’ Sun material to choose from. This particular collection is nice because the tracks are arranged in chronological order by recording date, and comes with some very informative liner about each session.  But what about the music?  This is the best example of what I call the “Tennessee style” of Rockabilly.  It’s Rockabilly in it purest form: an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar, and an upright slap bass- all dripping with echo! The songs go back and forth from having a blues influence to a more country-style like You’re A Heartbreaker. Scotty Moore practically wrote the book on Rockabilly guitar playing, and Bill Black’s bass ties it all together. Of course then there’s Elvis, at his most raw. He never sounded like this again. His voice is a little higher here as he’s only 19 on most of these tracks, and I think the only other time he sang with this kind of energy was on the ’68 comeback special.  My absolute favorite tracks have to be Mystery Train, and Milk Cow Blues Boogie. You just have to listen!

**I could probably just as easily do a top 500 favorite Rockabilly albums, but people might think that’s a bit much.  ‘Till next time:  “Well it’s a sound that’s around to stay
I said rock rock rockabilly rules. Okay!!”

Written By: Brian McTamaney 1/18/2017

 

 

 

 

 

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