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Various - Go Cat Go! The Essential Rockabilly Collection

  by Fiona Hutchings

published: 23 / 10 / 2015

Various - Go Cat Go! The Essential Rockabilly Collection
Label: Salvo Music
Format: CD Box


Appealing collection of rockabilly classic and rare cuts, which while rough aaroudn the edges, still is worthy of time and attention

Described as "100 classic and rare delinquent stompers", this box set lives up to it's billing. Well, half of it does for sure, but as I wasn't sent the other 50% to review I can only confidently give you the low down on the first two discs. Apparently the set also includes a fully illustrated booklet with extended liner notes by rockabilly expert Max Decharne, author of 'A Rocket in My Pocket' but as they were also missing from the promo copy I can't tell you anything about that either. So what do I have? Well each disc of the set is titled. CD 1 is 'Hall of Fame' and CD 2 is 'Kittens and Hillbilly Hepcats' (CD 3 is 'The Cool and the Crazy' and CD 4 'Tear Up That Dance Floor'). Whether you recognise the song title or not, there are plenty of fabulously named acts you'll remember here. I love rockabilly, as much for the iconic style as the music I admit, but it's accessible because the beats are quite primal. This isn't jazz. You don't have to learn to appreciate it. You can dance to it on a first hearing or the hundreth. CD 1 certainly lives up to it's billing from 'Be-Bop-a-Lula' by Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps to 'Rumble' by Link Wray and His Ray Men to 'Woo Hoo' by Rock-A-Teens, not forgetting the timeless 'Great Balls of Fire' courtesy of Jerry Lee Lewis and His Pumping Piano. These songs still stand up decades after it first excited the newly christened teenagers and offended their parents in equal measure. The sound quality isn't crystal but as Sun Records founder Sam Phillips once said, "I don't go for overdubbing. I understand all the techniques and all the bullshit but I just don't see the spontaneity... (there's a) lack of real soul that has to come from knowing 'this is it!'". The growls, groans and yelps certainly sound authentic and mean, the ducktails are still freshly greased and the grittiness sounds just as raw as ever. Disc two purrs, screeches and there is more than the odd country twang. The fabulous Wanda Jackson opens with the explosive 'Fujiyama Mama'. She's the friend your own mama would try and ban you from seeing and you'd sneak out anyway. "I've got a rocket in my pocket and the fuse is lit," sings Jimmy Lloyd, neatly summing up the plethora of cheeky innuendos and knowing winks this collection is over flowing with. You can keep the modern necessity to beep out certain words from the radio version of the latest songs on the hit parade. A little imagination and a decent vocabulary means you can be rude in plain sight. And, yes, okay, so some of the subjects are less comfortable than others. In the mid 1950s the Sex Discrimination Act was still 20 years away, but taken in context there's nothing too shocking here. I also am willing to bet you'll do the same as me and recheck the tracklist more than once to see if that really is Elvis singing. It isn't, I promise. He gets a name check by Janis Martin, but other than that it's other swivel-hipped sneering boys doing their best to sound like the King. None of the songs from the first half of the set get near the three minute perfect pop length we would later come to expect. Instead it takes around an hour to tear through twenty-five blistering tracks one after another. If the other half of the box set is as well selected and ordered, then this is well worth picking up. So many of the more modern artists you love today had their first lessons in music from the guys and gals featured here, so even if you don't think this is for you you're probably wrong.

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