Album review: BRIAN SETZER – Gotta Have The Rumble

Surfdog Records [Release date 27.08.21]

The 70’s and 80’s were a glorious time for music. Whilst that may smack of rose-tinted spectacles and the purposeful forgetting of several horrific ‘novelty’ records that came out in those decades, few can argue that the variety of music in the charts was diverse compared to what we see these days. Instead of the recent constant merry go round of interchangeable singer songwriters and bland dance tracks, those around in the era never knew quite what was going to be played on the radio or who would appear on seminal programme ‘Top of the Pops’, Judas Priest rubbing shoulders with Glen Campbell, the Bee Gees or some film theme (more often than not accompanied by dance troupe Pans People).

From this melting pot of popular culture emerged the singular talent that was Long Island natives Stray Cats, their formation at the fag end of the 70’s seeing them hone their rockabilly style and instantly winning plaudits from fans and a bidding war amongst record companies. Key to their success was hooking up with legendary musician and producer Dave Edmonds and by 1981 the band had three consecutive top twenty singles within the space of six months. Whilst this collaboration between the two talents was the thing that broke them into the mainstream, one thing that everyone agreed on was the outstanding musicianship displayed by the trio and their knack of writing great material that tapped into the authenticity and nostalgia of artists like Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent whilst sounding cutting edge.

The plaudits rightly rained down on the band but special praise was poured onto the head of singer/guitarist Brian Setzer, his nuanced and characterful vocals and fiery guitar playing catching the imagination of both fans and peers. Whilst the Cats have seen their career come and go, with break-ups and reunions a feature of the past few years, solo albums by the band members are as eagerly awaited as group releases and in ‘Gotta Have The Rumble’ Setzer proves once more that he’s the cat who’s got the cream.

Displaying his range from the full-blooded grandstanding powerhouse of opener ‘Checkered Flag’ (sic) all the way through to the Americana of Bluegrass blast ‘Rockabilly Banjo’ that closes the album, here is something that is shot through with class and a real verve. You get the sense of a genuine storyteller here, each song painting a vivid picture and bringing to life living and breathing characters. This picture painting is enhanced by some subtle touches, the whiff of the mystic East in ‘Smash Up On The Highway’, the muscular guitarwork of ‘Turn You On, Turn Me On’ and the spare, lean fury of ‘One Bad Habit’ all adding to the fireworks.

Whilst the fun, but throwaway, 50’s/60’s pastiche ‘Drip Drop’ is a little light, it’s more than made up for by the magnificent ‘The Wrong Side Of The Tracks’, its lush arrangement and strings expertly mixed with rockabilly making it a definite highlight of the album. Given the different styles displayed here, ‘Gotta Have The Rumble’ is something that can be equally enjoyed as something to dip into as well as a feast to be enjoyed in one sitting, letting the needle or shuffle function drop where it may. His reputation intact and glowing, once more Setzer displays exactly why he is so feted and this eleven track blast of hot-rodding rock ‘n’ roll is an exhilarating ride that’s hard to beat. ****

Review by Paul Monkhouse

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 12 September 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at for that week.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020 and 2021 Finalist) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 14 September 2021.

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