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"Urged on by his Blue Caps, Gene rocks-and-rolls",
This review is from: Gene Vincent And His Blue Caps (World) (Audio CD)I commented in my review of the first album from Gene and the Blue Caps, "The first six Gene Vincent albums on Capitol formed a body of work as impressive as any in rock'n'roll. Almost every one of those albums had an identity of its own". That first album was strictly half rock'n'roll and half ballads, and relatively tame ballads at that, not what you'd term rock-a-ballads. Perhaps it was viewed as a false start because on this one they nail it completely and the eponymous title rather suggests it could have been their first album. Even the cover is better. The pastel shades and Vincent's sweet smile have been replaced by darker tones, lots of shadow and a grimace from Gene.
The album was recorded in October `56 very shortly after Gene`s debut album. Cliff Gallup had gone back to his previous job as a plumber but was persuaded to rejoin on lead guitar with new member, Paul Peek taking rhythm guitar duty. The sound is not dissimilar to the rockers on "Bluejean Bop" - if anything it had gone up a gear or two. The impact of this album is much stronger - the occasional ballad merely gives a modicum of release from the overall frenetic pace, very much like the odd smoochie at a dance. In fact there are three ballads. "Unchained Melody" needs no introduction. It was as near to a contemporary ballad as Gene had recorded to date. Several versions of the ballad had been around in 1955 including one in the UK from Jimmy Young which went to number one. Gene's version is a true rock-a-ballad and was to define much of his style on his next album. The other two, "Blues stay away from me" and "I sure miss you" are country with the latter sounding very much like Elvis on, say, "I forgot to remember to forget". It doesn't quite reach Presley's heights but it's not far off.
The rockers are again excellent, with most sticking to the rockabilly template of the first album - "Cruisin' with massive Gallup break and "Pink Thunderbird" are standouts. But some changes do creep in. A Bo Diddley beat is introduced on the minor key (and excellent), "Cat Man" which comes across with menace and aggression reminiscent of the much better known "Who do you love". Also backing vocals (in addition to rebel yells that is) are present on a few tracks, most noticeably on "You better believe" (which also boasts a stormer from Cliff). The addition of vocals was something that Gene had heard in black music and he was to hear more from black doowop groups who would appear on rock tours with him. A great example, "Five days, five days" with full-on doowop styling appears in the extra tracks.
Which takes me on to the extras. They're all rockers apart from "Important Words", a rock ballad similar in sound to "Unchained Melody", and they're all great. The self penned "B I Bickey Bi, Bo Bo Go" with great nonsense lyrics - "We danced down the aisle, just a ziggin' an' a zaggin'" - is probably the standout but the aforementioned "Five days, five days" with bluesy melody and and backing wop bops is a favourite of mine.
This one has to be Gene's best out and out rock'n'roll album; never would he be this consistently hot again. For me it's up there in that short list of all-time rock'n'roll classics.