The 46th edition of Bear Family Records’ long-running Rocks series has landed! This time, the focus is on Rockabilly Rock ‘n’ Roll from the vaults of Chess and its subsidiaries Checker and Argo Records. Fans of the relevant genres will be familiar with Chess as the home for artists such as Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and many others. This is Bear Family’s second foray into the vaults of Chess, the first was in 2000 with volume ten of the series. Containing thirty-three tracks on one disc; Is this album worth picking up?
The album begins with Dale Hawkins performing Four Letter Word; A simple Rock ‘n’ Roll composition that (in its own way) introduces the theme of the compilation. For labels that specialised in so many genres, this start is just the track to set the mood for the listener. The next track. This is Rock and Roll by The Galaxies serves the same purpose; It’s a short but loud, raw recording packed with Rock energy. The same can be said for their other outing on this CD, 6:15. This band, along with Hawkins, Bobby Charles and Ray Stanley, make multiple appearances on the compilation.
The beauty of these albums is the amount of obscure Rock ‘n’ Roll compositions that get an airing. Highlights of this kind include Rod Bernard’s catchy Pardon Mr Gordon, Jackie Cannon’s Proof Of Your Love, Gene Simmons’ (No not that one) Goin’ Back To Memphis and Don & Bob’s vocal delay-infused Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl. I’d also like to give a shoutout to Steve Alaimo & The Red Coates’ She’s My Baby, a soulful RnB number with an extremely moody edge.
One of Chess’ biggest exports, Chuck Berry, is featured here via his lesser-known alternative takes (15/16) of the eventual single Beautiful Delilah. The inclusion of this track serves to prove the compiler’s intention to focus on the obscure side. It would have been easy to include Johnny B Goode or School Days, but they wisely opted for something different. The Story Of My Life, written by David and Bacharach, is featured here in a recording by Big Al Downing; A Bluesy reading that shakes off the usual easy listening associations; the harmonica and Downing’s vocals a highlight. The way he just touches those high notes before coming down again is magic.
The album ends with two songs themed around goodbyes. J.C. Hill’s So Long – Goodbye is a penultimate Rock-y climax that will stick in my mind for some time. I love the way it builds up the anticipation between verses through a simple drum roll and horns, before launching into a driving 4/4 rhythm. The final track, Dickie & The Gee’s Baby Bye, Bye, is a vocal-focused recording with a simple backing. Taking the flow of the album into account, I would have liked to have seen the last two tracks swapped around. The positivity of Hill’s track just encompasses everything I love about this era, and Chess Records in general.
As is the case with these releases, the quality should be judged on a case-by-case basis. A fair few of the tracks sound like they originate from the master tapes, and so sound as crisp as the day they were recorded; Any audible ‘eccentricities’ are the result of the conditions of the original recording process. Other tracks, such as Tony March’s Cousin Rockin’ Roll Blues and Ray Stanley’s Over A Coke, appear to have been sourced from an existing vinyl copy. Although not the greatest sounding, vinyl rips with a bit of restoration at least mean the recording can be heard once again; This is something Bear Family does particularly well.
A Little Something Extra…
Inside a nicely printed digipak, is a thirty-four-page booklet with liner notes by Bill Dahl. Alongside information about each of the artists and the included tracks, are rare photographs and illustrations. If you’ve bought previous editions of this series, you will know what to expect.
Bear Family Records have compiled an excellent album that digs once again into the vaults of Chess and its subsidiaries. The focus on the obscure is much welcome and shows another side. There are clear references to Chess’ core genres here, which really rocks along nicely. For a label that lasted over twenty-five years in its original incarnation, it never ceases to amaze me how much quality music it churned out in such a relatively small period. As with other editions, this album has introduced me to so much music I wouldn’t have heard otherwise. Yes, a lot of the recordings sound a bit rough around the edges, but I think of that as the heart and soul. It’s what you would have heard coming out of the jukebox, and that’s good enough for me. That’ll Flat Git It! Volume 46 is available to order from Bear Family Records.
- Dale Hawkins – Four Letter Word
- The Galaxies – This is Rock And Roll
- Ray Stanley – I Can’t Wait
- Bobby Dean – Dime Store Pony Tail
- Pardon Mr. Gordon
- Bobby Charles – Take It Easy Greasy
- Terry & The Pirates – What Did He Say
- Steve Alaimo & The Red Coates – She’s My Baby
- Jackie Cannon – Proof Of Your Love
- Dale Hawkins – Take My Heart
- Freddy Fender – You’re Something Else For Me
- Tony March – Cousin Rockin’ Roll Blues
- Jack Ford – That’s All You Gotta Do
- Bobby Charles – Watch It Sprocket
- Bobby Tuggle – The $64,000 Question
- Cool Off Baby
- Bobby Dean – Go Mr. Dillon
- Gene Simmons – Going Back To Memphis
- Terry & The Pirates – Talk About The GIrl
- Bobby Charles – No More (I Ain’t Gonna Love You No More)
- Dale Hawkins – See You Soon Baboon
- The Kents – I Found My Girl
- Dick Glasser – Make Believe Wedding Bells
- Ray Stanley – Over A Coke
- The Galaxies – 6:15
- Bobby Dean – I Am Ready
- Billy Miranda – Run Rose
- Bette Laine – Rock-A-Bye Rock
- Don & Bob – Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl
- Big Al Downing – The Story Of My Life
- Chuck Berry – Beautiful Delilah (alt. Takes 15/16)
- J. C. Hill – So Long – Goodbye
- Dickie & The Gee’s – Baby Bye, Bye