THE ALLSTARS (Plus Special Guests)
‘…BE OUR GUEST’
Allstars ASR 8000.2 Playing Time: 58.16 minutes
Be My Guest/Be My Baby (featuring Joan Mifsud)/I’m Walking/Hard Times/Rockin’ Robin (featuring Rick Diamond)/Sugar Shack/Paralysed/Sweet Little Sixteen (featuring Johnny Preston)/ Take Your Time/Dim Dim The Lights/ABC Boogie (featuring Lucky Starr)/I’m Feeling Sorry/Riot In Cell Block #9 (featuring Betty McQuade)/Till I Kissed You/Gonzales/La Bamba & Twist And Shout (featuring Chan Romero)/Why Do They Doubt Our Love/Tear me Up/Hey Baby/Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On (featuring Rick Diamond)/Dance with the Guitar Man/Baby That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll.
The Allstars were one of the very first Australian rock ‘n’ roll bands, originally known as The Henri Bource Allstars in the Melbourne area back in the fifties. After Henri left to join The Thunderbirds (whose instrumental recordings for the W&G label often rivalled the rockin’ sounds originating from the USA and UK), the group temporarily parked up until the eighties, when they reformed and have kept going to this very day.
I am presuming that this is a ’road’ album produced by the band to sell at their various gigs. It demonstrates that they are a professional and competent outfit and of equal musicianship to many of the groups on the current UK rock ‘n’ roll club circuit. As will be seen from the above track listing, the guys have – in the main - elected to record their versions of rock ‘n’ roll standards. As such, they make for pleasant listening, get the foot tapping and are ideal for dancing to. Unfortunately, they do not (with some notable exceptions) make the rock ‘n’ roll corpuscles charge through the body.
Of the exceptions, I single out their treatment of Bill Haley’s ‘Dim Dim The Lights’ and Ricky Nelson’s ‘Tear Me Up’, both of which are first rate. They really capture the spirit of the music that was Haley & His Comets and Nelson. In fact, with regard to ‘Tear Me Up’, this is one of the best covers of a tune by Ricky Nelson that I can recall hearing.
The Allstars really do well on the two instrumentals ‘Hard Times’ and ‘Gonzales’. On the former, originally by Noble Thin Man Watts, they fully realise the bump ‘n’ grid feel of the original and is perfect for doing a slow stroll to. On their cover of the Shadow’s ‘Gonzales’, their musicianship is well to the fore.
A feature of this disc is that seven tracks feature special guests. Chan Romero, he of the original ‘Hippy Hippy Shake’ fame, should not really have bothered as he does nothing for ‘La Bamba/Twist And Shout’. He almost succeeds in turning them into supermarket music. However, Johnny Preston rocks out like tomorrow on ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’, baby that is rock ‘n’ roll.
The other guests are Australian. Lucky Starr had the big Oz hit with ‘I’ve been Everywhere’ that Hank Snow covered and turned into one of his big country hits. For this album, Lucky has worked up a great version of Bill Haley’s ‘ABC Boogie’ and comes across as the down under answer to Wee Willie Harris. I really enjoyed this track and classify it as one of the highlights of the CD. Joan Mifsud is a new name to myself, but she possesses a great singing voice and really gets under the skin of The Ronette’s ‘Be My Baby’.
That leaves us with Rick Diamond and Betty McQuade. Rick, who from the unfortunate photograph chosen for the album cover bears a passing resemblance to Herman Munster, was lead singer of the Oz group The Henchmen in the mid sixties and scored big with a cover of Bobby Day’s ‘Rockin’ Robin’. For this album, he has recorded a new version and it works. However, his other inclusion of ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ is a trifle pedestrian. The final guest is Betty McQuade and her workout on ‘Riot In Cell Block #9’ is outstanding, worth getting the CD for this track alone. Her vocals are firmly in the Wanda Jackson mould and The Allstars really cut loose on the backing. Good breathtaking rock ‘n’ roll music. This lady has to be one of the top rock ‘n’ roll femme singers, and is a crying shame she has not recorded more.
© Tony Wilkinson