1981 – Arista
The second album from rockabilly revival band Stray Cats is a boppin’, hoppin’ ode to the wonderful music of the fifties. The whole thing kicks off with the wonderfully energetic cover of the Johnny Burnette song Baby Blue Eyes and from here the double bass slap and wild guitar riffs don’t slow down one iota which makes for a record that really works to reinvigorate one’s love for the classic artists of the rockabilly scene.
The record, however, isn’t merely some clichéd rip off of the masters. Tracks like Little Miss Prissy and Wicked Whisky serve well to show off the band’s sensibilities for the modern in their punk injected stylistic flair and solid grungy beats. I’m not talking about any kind of Cramps styled creep-show mockery of rock and roll either; no, Stray Cats have simply taken the energy of both the London punk scene and thrown it in with the real gone wildness of artists like Gene Vincent to make a form of rockabilly that is well suited to the modern age, and this really is a treat to hear. I mean, tracks like Cryin’ Shame and Gonna Ball are almost impossible to not dance to just that little bit and they just sound so fresh and new despite the fact that they are little more than updated versions of the twelve bar blues.
The real downside with this album, however, comes from the fact that when you come down to the bare bones of it Stray Cats are nothing other than a rockabilly band which leaves very little room for variation in their music. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a great fan of rockabilly as a genre, but in terms of musical variation Gonna Ball can be a bit of a letdown. Each track moves along practically the same line as the last and the lyrical preoccupations of the record also conform to the standard lines of love and loss. This is not necessarily a bad thing in itself, but I did find myself thinking at points that it would be nice to hear something with just a little difference to it.
I also have to say that some of the tracks on this record don’t really pack the punch that they should. I mean, (She’ll Stay Just) One More Day and You Don’t Believe Me would be wonderful if they worked themselves up into the frenzy of someone like Gene Summers, but instead they come across as rather subdued which leaves the listener with little else to do but listen to the same guitar riff that dominates the entire album. Really, I would have liked to have a little bit more of the band’s punk inspirations shining through and less of their attention to historical detail, more Wicked Whisky and less Wasn’t That Good. This being said, most of the record is sufficiently energetic to make up for these lulls, but nevertheless it was a bit disappointing.
Overall I’d have to say that despite its issues Gonna Ball really is a wonderful album. None of the tracks are forgettable and everything sounds exactly like it should if you were to play it in your Cadillac convertible on the way to pick up your baby for the sock-hop. It’s the kind of record that is just perfect to thrown on at almost any hour and just rock out in that old-fashioned way that makes you forget all your troubles and revel in the sound of an accentuated back beat. I would say that it might actually be one of the best records ever to come out of the rockabilly revival movement of the eighties and for that if nothing else does it deserve a rating of incredibly worthwhile.
I suppose if rockabilly really isn’t your cup of tea this record might be a bit dull, but even then I would think that there is enough great music and wild energy on this record to get you up on your feet and dancing. Indeed, I would highly recommend this record to everyone and anyone who has a bone of rhythm in their body.
And here is the track Little Miss Prissy. One of the deliciously punked up rockabilly tunes from the album.
- First Stop On The Rockabilly Roadtrip (ljfacesthemusic.wordpress.com)
- Lee Rocker; A Stray Cat Through and Through … (keenemusic.wordpress.com)
- Songs The Lord Taught Us – The Cramps (ljfacesthemusic.wordpress.com)
- Stop Three On The Rockabilly Roadtrip (ljfacesthemusic.wordpress.com)
- The Wild and Wonderful Brian Setzer (christatoneill.wordpress.com)
- Lee Rocker – Strays From the Cats … (keenemusic.wordpress.com)