and ORIGINAL COOL MAGAZINE presents the
By Ken Burke
Reprinted with permission from Original Cool
The Hightone Reissues
According to Ron Weiser, Hightone has released "maybe 20 to 30 percent of
Rollin' Rock's masters." Though these reissues represent the cream of his
label's early output, comprehensive sets on some equally fine, lesser known
artists such as the Magnetics and Ezra Charles remain in the can. As of this
writing, all of the following discs are still in print.
The Blasters - American Music
The Blasters' original 1980 Rollin' Rock LP is reissued here in it's
entirety along with several previously unreleased tracks. Dave Alvin's two
most recognizable tunes - "Marie Marie" and the title track Ò are included,
along with several other originals and some gritty blues-rock covers; nearly
two decades later they all sound better than ever. Less rockabilly than a
tough, electric r&b band embracing the rockabilly feel, the Blasters made
their contemporaries sound like they were only foolin' around. Johnny Legend
tells us Ron Weiser had the legal right to keep the group at Rollin' Rock
when Slash records came calling, but he didn't want to stand in the way of
their potential success. It's interesting to note that while the Blasters
achieved their greatest commercial success with Slash, this disc is the only
one still in print featuring the group's original lineup.
Jackie Lee Cochran - Rockabilly Music
Cochran's Rollin' Rock recordings are his finest, most enduring works.
This 20-song compilation mixes the country blues and boogie of "Swamp Fox,"
"I Musta Drove My Mules Too Hard" and "They Oughta Call You Miss Heartbreak"
with such catchy, driving anthems as "Rockabilly Legend" and "That Gal's
Wicked," along with tough remakes of "Hip-Shakin' Mama" and "Mama Don't You
Think I Know." Roots music doesn't get much better than this.
Johnny Carroll - Texabilly
Nearly all of Carroll's '70s Rollin' Rock output is collected on this
solid disc which represents his last shining moments as a recording artist.
Carroll's voice is gravelly and deeper than on his '50s Decca classics, but
he's in fine rockin' form on such boppers as "Teenage Sweetie," "Her
Throbbing Lips" and "Bowlegged Woman." This one is worth getting if only to
hear Carroll's brilliant imitation of Gene Vincent on "Gene Vincent Rock."
Mac Curtis - Rockabilly Uprising
The cream of Curtis' late-'70s work is represented by this 19-track
collection of bass-slappin' rockabilly, country and flat-out rock'n'roll.
Billy Zoom plays sax on one track and fellow Rollin' Rocker Ray Campi
provides heavy support. Curtis is especially hot on such numbers as "Good
Rockin' Tomorrow," "Wild, Wild Women" and commanding remakes of "If I Had A
Woman" and "Grandaddy's Rockin'." This is a fine introduction to Mac Curtis,
an underrated singer/songwriter and major bopcat.
The Best Of Johnny Legend, Volume None
Boasting the most stylish production of Rollin' Rock's early years,
Legend's work walks the fine line between rockabilly parody ("Are You Hip To
It?," "Guess Who Ain't Getting Laid Tonight"), propagandist schlock
("Stalin Kicked The Bucket," "The South Is Gonna Rise Again,") and honest
tribute (Bo Diddley's "Crackin' Up," Hank Williams' "Ramblin Man"). In
addition, the creation of his own seriously weird mythology through song
("Soakin' The Bone," "The Holy Beat," "Rockabilly Bastard," "Rockabilly
Bughouse") really brings this disc together as a true artistic statement.
Ray Campi - Rockabilly Rebellion
Campi's style really came of age at Rollin' Rock, where he overdubbed
acoustic and electric guitars, dobro, steel guitars, and his trademark
slappin' standup bass on a seemingly endless series of stellar roots rock
recordings. Campi routinely crosses musical genres with puckish good-humor
on such tracks as "Rockin' At the Ritz," "Pinball Millionaire," "Don't Come
Knockin'" and Gene Snowden's "Quit Your Triflin'." Subtitled The Best Of
Ray Campi Vol. 1, you can bet there's enough top-class material for a few
more 20-song sets like this one. More of Campi's sides with Weiser can be
found on collections assembled by Bear Family, Rounder, Part and Magnum
Jimmie Lee Maslon - Salacious Rockabilly Cat
20 tracks of '70s roughhouse rockabilly, many recorded when Maslon was
still a teenager! The burbling big beat of true rock'n'roll runs through his
versions of "Please Give Me Something," "The Drag," "Bip Bop Boom" and the
remarkable title track. Moreover, Maslon's best originals "The Haunt You
Baby Rock," "Rockhouse Blues" and "Your Wildcat Ways" cook with authenticity.
Rollin' Rock - Got The Sock Vol. 1 (1997)
Rollin' Rock - Got The Sock, Vol. 2 (1998)
Cat Music (1998)
You can't go wrong with a selection of great songs by Ray Campi, Jimmy
Lee Maslon, Col. Jim Silvers, Mac Curtis, Jackie Lee Cochran, Johnny Carroll,
Tony Conn, Johnny Legend and the Magnetics. Among the three disc's 59
tracks are performances from such '50s legends as Gene Vincent, Bob Luman,
Merle Travis and Charlie Feathers. There is some song repetition with the
solo sets; however, there are also performances included by those artists you
won't find anywhere else. The tune selection is really quite unique to the
point where even the off-numbers have an interesting feel to them. All three
are great starter sets for those new to the Rollin' Rock sound.
Mack Stevens At Rollin' Rock
Stevens is the quintessential Rollin' Rock artist. He sounds absolutely
authentic like Ray Campi, he sings with real Mac Curtis authority, he writes
great songs in a variety of genres ala Jackie Lee Cochran, and his persona is
almost as bugfuck crazy as Johnny Legend's. If you don't believe '50s styled
rock'n'roll and country can raise goosebumps in the modern age, just take a
listen to "Diet Pill Boogie," "The Las Vegas Stomp," "Daddy's Goin' Mad" and
"Momma Stop Me Before I Kill Again." Great album.
Mack Stevens - Hardcore Texas Cat Music!
(Rollin' Rock, 1999)
The Psychotic King Of Western Bop returns for the first U.S. disc
featuring the Rollin' Rock imprint in 17 years. Stevens crafts some real gems
in "I May Be Right But I Hope I Am Wrong," "I'll Die Alone" and "Women
Crawlin' All Over Me." There's a tense western feel ala Twin Peaks on many
tracks, and on such rockers as "Peckerwood Rock" and "Rockabilly Barbecue,
Stevens sounds like a man trying to jump straight out of his skin.
Dragstrip 77 - Sin City Hotrods
The Las Vegas-based Dragstrip 77 brings a lot of cowpunk energy to their
big beat rockabilly sounds. Lead guitarist Jorge Harada inventively
incorporates Link Wray, Dick Dale, Chuck Berr, and Stevie Ray into his own
style with snarl and chickie-run sass. No matter how hard Harada and bassist
Randy Casanova push the rhythm, lead singer Andy Lopez delivers with dramatic
vocal precision. Overall they sound like Rubber Rodeo via the Zantees. On top
of which, they write most of their own tunes. The best rockers? "Daisy Duke,"
"Marylou," "Blue Shadows" and "Rock'n'Roll Zombies." A nice raw debut.
Rip Carson & the Twilight Trio
(Rollin' Rock, 1999)
Blessed with snaky tremolo, Rip Carson's vocals embody the youthful,
rockabilly edge of Johnny Carroll and Jackie Lee Cochran, without ever
resorting to self-conscious imitation. Danny Angulo, Reece Linely and Charles
Henning conjure a much fuller sound than their band's size would suggest and
their playing is pleasingly rudimentary and atmospheric. Carson writes or
cowrites all the songs, the snazziest of which are "Two-Timin' Woman," "I'm
Gonna Drink," "Don't Hold My Baby" and "Come Green In my Pocket." There's
some rough spots, but this is a very promising, authentic sounding band and
they're well worth a listen.
The Original Band - Still Rockin' Around The Clock
(Rollin' Rock, 1999)
Unavailable for review at press time, this disc features new recordings
by members of Bill Haley's original band, the Comets. Someone else owns the
Comet name and has legally enjoined the most important members of Haley's
original group from using it. However, if the upcoming disc is half as good
as the word-of-mouth on their live shows, it's sure to be a first-rate
example of true rock'n'roll by some of the genres founding fathers. Look for
a complete review in an upcoming issue of Original Cool.
Many thanks to Ron Weiser for his time and input. Want to e-mail Ron Weiser? Do so at
RockRonny@aol.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out a complete Rollin' Rock discography
at www.rockabillymusic.com and Weiser's column at www.rockabillyhall.com/colrockron.html.
Snail mail requests for catalogs, CDs and other information to Ron Weiser at
2460 Casey Dr., Las Vegas, NV 89120. Tell him Original Cool sent you!
Original Cool is a bimonthly fanzine featuring rockabilly, swing and rock ' n' roll -
vintage to cutting edge - from around the world. Check out the Original Cool
website at http://members.aol.com/OrigCool/ochome.html.
Ken Burke can be reached at: