Following the release of On The Dancefloor With Joey Dee & The Starlighters, the second entry takes a dive into the world of an iconic and fondly remembered craze of the early sixties. Originally recorded by Hank Ballard before becoming a huge worldwide hit for Chubby Checker, The Twist was a song that married Rock and Roll & RnB to a new dance. It spawned a short-lived moment that saw many artists trying to capitalise on its success.
The album begins with the band that started it all, Hank Ballard & The Midnighters, with an interpretation of a Roy Brown track called Good Twistin’ Tonight. I was surprised Bear Family Records chose to open the album with this track instead of The Twist, considering its significance. However, I can only assume it was to demonstrate the more obscure side of the Twist phenomenon, and so they could include Dale Hawkins’ live version.
Looking down the tracklisting, there are a bunch of instantly familiar names; Jerry Lee Lewis, Gary U.S. Bonds, The Marvelettes, Danny & The Juniors, Dale Hawkins & The Escapades and The Isley Brothers all getting their twist on! The real gems of this compilation are offerings from less well-known names.
While much of the tracklisting is obscure, many of the artists and underlying tunes will be familiar; Compositions injected with a Twist theme for relevancy. Two such examples are The Champs’ re-interpretation of Tequila entitled Tequila Twist. Hearing reinventions, some marginal and others radically different, is always a delight.
- The Top Notes’ original version of Twist and Shout, features a different melody and arrangement than more well-known interpretations. The general vibe is topped off by the groovy saxophone solo.
- The instrumental side of the Twist, is represented by The Champs, The Ventures, the Gee Cees, Paul Livert & The Lions and Dee Page & His Western Allstars. Even without words and the twist connection, those tunes are memorable.
- The soulful interplay between vocalists on Slow Twistin’ by The Marvelettes.
- The simple yet effective instrumentation on Eddy Clearwater’s Twist Like This.
- The Zircons’ catchy No Twistin’ On Sunday. Why have I never heard this on a film soundtrack?
- The Teen Pop styling of Jo-Ann Campbell’s Mama Don’t Want No Twistin’. That Country infused vocal that reminds me of Brenda Lee, along with the horn section, lifts the track to become an earworm.
- Dale Hawkins’ cover version of the Twist, entitled Do The Twist. What it lacks in fidelity, it more than makes up for in energy.
- The pleasing beat on The Chavis Brothers’ The Ivory Twist.
The album ends with Paul Livert & The Lions’ Chicken Twist – Part 1, a whopping twenty-minute instrumental twist-a-thon. Performed at an energetic yet leisurely pace, this sounds like an organised jam between musicians. Organs, guitars, saxophones, harmonica! This track has everything! Correcting the notion that indulgent long songs were perfected in the 1970s, this chunk of twist history needs to be heard to be believed.
Being that many of these tracks derive from different sources, the sound varies. Some sound like transfers from the master tapes, others like old 45s. However, it must be said that Bear Family Records definitely put the work in to ensure high-quality tracks. Given the obscurity of some of them, it’s a marvel some of them even still exist! I often think the audible artefacts are part of a time machine and give recordings sone of their character; An example is Stomp, Shake and Twist Billy Barnette & The Searchers.
A Little Something Extra…
The CD comes in a well-printed digipak featuring high-quality images. I love the consistency of the design when compared with the first one, this one features an attractive orange, white and red cover. Also included is a 38-page booklet. compiled by Nico Feuerbach, featuring biographies and interview excerpts by Bill Dahl. Just like the previous release, the booklet appears to be attached inside the digipak.
- Hank Ballard & The Midnighters – Good Twistin’ Tonight
- Dr. Feelgood & The Interns – The Double Twist
- The Top Notes – Twist And Shout
- The Champs – Tequilla Twist
- Jerry Lee Lewis – I’ve Been Twistin’
- Dee Page & His Western Allstars – Steelball Twist
- Billy Barnette & The Searchers – Stomp, Shake And Twist
- Gary U.S. Bonds – Twist Twist Senora
- The Marvelettes – Slow Twistin’
- Billy Nix – Moon Twist
- Eddy Clearwater – Twist Like This
- Danny & The Juniors – Twistin’ U.S.A
- The Zircons – No Twistin’ On Sunday
- Jo Ann Campbell – Mama Don’t Want No Twistin’
- The Ventures – Guitar Twist
- Kirby Ladner – Tail End Twist
- Buddy Miller – Teem Twist
- Dale Hawkins & The Escapades – Do The Twist (Live)
- The Miller-Olsen Combo – Twist All Wrong
- The Chavis Brothers – The Ivory Twist
- The Gee-Cees – Buzz Saw Twist
- June ‘Bug’ Bailey – Louisiana Twist
- The Marcels – Twistin Fever
- The Isley Brothers – Twistin’ With Linda
- Paul Livert & The Lions – Chicken Twist – Part 1
It is always difficult to follow up on the first entry in a new series, I feel they have achieved this well. It strays slightly from the first, featuring several acts rather than just one, but it fits nicely alongside it. If anyone was under the impression that the Twist was nothing more than two songs sung by Chubby Checker, this album proves them wrong. For an obscure dive into the phenomenon that will get you twisting, this comes highly recommended.