Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy.
Buckle up for a healthy dose of hip.
One of the world’s greatest living guitarists turned 60 this week. In 1979 Brian Setzer, drummer Jimmy McDonnell (a.k.a. Slim Jim Phantom), and upright double bass player Lee Rocker formed the rockabilly trio the Stray Cats.
“Forty years ago, us three teenagers started a little band to play a musical style that had long since passed and most folks had never heard of,” said Setzer.
That song is from 1981 before the band broke up in 1984. The Stray Cats reunited in 1986, but eventually split up again in the early 90s. Setzer then decided to resurrect another genre: swing as he fronted a multi-piece ensemble that continues performing today.
This week get ready to have your socks blown off by the Brian Setzer Orchestra.
We always like to start with a rousing opener if we can so let’s begin with this rendition that won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance Duo/Group.
Our next tune dates all the way back to 1928, written and sung then by Al Jolson who was a huge star at the time. That wouldn’t be the case today since Jolson often performed in blackface.
This is a great song, from the orchestra’s first album in 1994.
Time for a breather. Time to slow it down.
In 2009 Setzer and the Orchestra released their eighth studio album. “Songs From Lonely Avenue” was described in one review as a “soundtrack to an unwritten film, an album equally inspired by ’50s film noirs, R&B, and rock & roll, a conceptual stroll through smoky clubs and dimly lit back alleys.”
For the very first time Setzer turned in his first collection of all-original material.
The cool continues.
More than occasionally we include an Elvis tie-in. Already done in this segment with a reference to Setzer’s early career tribute to rockabilly. The King’s influence is clear.
We have more.
Next month marks the 55th anniversary of the release of “Viva Las Vegas.”
Race car driver Lucky Jackson (Elvis) wants to compete in the Las Vegas Grand Prix. But his engine goes bad. So he gets a job and meets part-time lifeguard/singer/dancer Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret). The couple flirts, fights, dances and sings. Their chemistry is electrifying.
Some dialogue from the movie:
Lucky Jackson: “Look Rusty, I thought maybe you and I could go dancing or something.”
Rusty Martin: “So you wanna go dancing?”
Lucky Jackson: “Or something.”
The two stars recorded a duet that eventually was cut from the film, but released for the first time in 1991.
As you listen to Setzer sing with Gwen Stefani I’m sure you’ll recognize what a perfect number this was for Lucky and Rusty.
A reviewer in 2009 had this to say:
Brian Setzer doesn’t want your money. That’s the only possible explanation for all the banjo-plucking, yodeling, classical noodling and other activities guaranteed to keep his songs off the radio, not to mention most other places where people find music these days.
Setzer could have disappeared into the sunset after the Stray Cats went to that great feline rescue center in the sky, but he succeeded against all odds with his Brian Setzer Orchestra
Here’s a perfect example. Two years prior to that article Setzer and the band did a complete album of their takes on classical music pieces. In an appearance on the NBC Today Show Setzer said classical composers were anything but stuffy, calling them the rock stars of their time hundreds of years ago.
“Wolfgang’s Big Night Out” features Setzer blaring out versions of Rossini’s “William Tell Overture,” Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight Of The Bumblebee,” Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” Wagner’s “Lohengrin” and Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer’s Night Dream.”
The album’s title track is based on Mozart’s familiar “Eine Kleine Nachtmusic.”
Incidentally the album’s arranger is Frank Comstock who composed the theme to Rocky and Bullwinkle’s cartoon show.
The Stray Cats will mark their 40th anniversary in 2019 with a new album and tour. Brian Setzer, Lee Rocker and Slim Jim Phantom, original founding members of the acclaimed American rock and roll trio, are heading into a studio in Nashville to record their first new album in 25 years.
The band will head out on tour this summer, playing concerts and festivals in the U.K. and Europe through June and July, with a nine-date U.S. run following that in August.
That’s it for this week.
Have a great weekend.