OneDay have released this off shoot from their London American Story series. The intent, I assume, is to give a broad overview of the rockabilly that came out on the label. Given the resources that London American had - access to independents like Imperial, Chess, Dot, Atlantic, Specialty, Fraternity and of course, Sun - you would expect the content of this set to be pretty strong. And it is. I'm sure there's enough for another set too.
The problem is that it's up against a crowded field of entries in the rockabilly release stakes. Wisely the compiler has at least partially avoided many of the more obvious inclusions and often gone for lesser known tracks from several of the bigger names At the same time there are still plenty of classics in here - what are "Honey Don't", "Matchbox", "The Fool", "Believe what you say", "Down the Line", Susie Q" and "Lonely Weekends" if not classics? Maybe not all strictly rockabilly but great rock'n'roll just the same.
In terms of lesser known tracks from "names" we get "Don't Treat me this way" from Dale Hawkins, "My Bucket's got a hole in it" from Ricky Nelson and "Lonesome for a Letter" from Sanford Clark which are the B sides respectively of "Susie Q", "Believe what you say" and "The Fool". Great tracks all of them and plenty of guitar from James Burton and Al Casey. We also get a couple of nice Jack Scott tracks rather than the usual "Leroy".
There are three tracks from Eddie Cochran, all from his early time at Liberty before he'd really broken through. All are second generation rock'n'roll with vocal chorus rather than straight rockabilly, but since this was Cochran they're imaginatively done and well worth having. We get a couple from Jerry Lee, both great, but in his Sun days everything he touched was great. On the Sun side generally all four of the Carl Perkins tracks are up to his normal high standard, as indeed are the three cuts from the lesser known but still excellent, Carl Mann. There's more Sun material from Johnny Cash - the well known "Big River", Charlie Rich - the aforementioned "Lonely Weekends", Sonny Burgess, Ray Smith and Ernie Chaffin.
There are a couple of cult classics present in the shape of Jody Reynolds' atmospheric "Endless Sleep" and Ray Sharpe's "Linda Lu". And Eddie Fontaine's "Nothin' Shapin" gets into that same category for a goodly number of people.
After that and I guess for about a third of the set, we're into more obscure territory though several of the tracks have some familiarity from appearances in other comps. Nearly all of these come up trumps in terms of delivering rockabilly or something darn close. There's the odd meander into more hillbilly material like the early George Hamilton IV track, or teen stuff like Charlie Gracie's "Cool Baby" but these are rare and in my eyes at least, there's not a duff track present. I should digress here and state that neither of these guys is really obscure but they're probably not known to a younger audience. There were several guys I'd never heard of before, of which my favourite was Chuck Sims with "My Pigeon", and I was happy to make their acquaintance.
Is this OneDay milking their London American gravy train? Will this set do well? More importantly should you buy it? If you haven't already invested in loads of rockabilly and you can see from the track listing that there are a fair number of tracks that you don't have, then at the current price, I'd be inclined to say, yes you should.
And in terms of value it's got to be five stars. What would we have done without London American back in those grey days of the 50's? Rockabilly from the indies was one of the best reasons to be alive then and in the UK, London American was our only source of US indie music. The majors spent all their time trying to catch up.