The power and the passion of vintage rockabilly, revealed in Rockin Bones for the pure punk and roots-country fusion it was, packing a considerable wallop with its steady dangerous backbeat of rhythm and blues. In all its electric guitar-twanging, pop culture-changing glory, it is music born and bred in the USA and universal in its hell-bent, hip swiveling spirit. Rockabilly's inherent 'garage' aesthetic and rebellious underground cred have influenced alternative music since the mid-'50s. . . and it sounds better than ever on Rhino's unprecedented new boxed set.
The rawest '50s rock retains an irresistible pop culture gravity: indeed, the farther one moves away from it in time, the more compelling--and often intoxicatingly alien--it can seem. Produced with fervent devotion by Rhino roots-rock veteran James Austin and featuring a detailed, track-by-track annotation by rockabilly guru Colin Escott, the 101 tracks on these four discs (fully a third of them making their American CD debut) reinforce that notion at every turn. The oft-dizzy, lust-crazed music here argues that the set's "punk" appellation is but marketing-driven redundancy, even as the range of its rockabilly riches gratifyingly defies the attempts of the set's contributing pundits and musicians (including James Burton, the legendary axeman on many of the tracks, as well as Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Rev. Horton Heat, and The Blasters' Dave Alvin) to define the genre.
The set shrewdly uses expected contributions from Elvis, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, Link Wray, Jerry Lee, the Burnette brothers, and Gene Vincent as but familiar anchor points for a journey that bounces from coast to coast (and the UK, courtesy of Johnny Kidd's great "Shakin' All Over"), fueled by a high-octane brew of folk, country, and R&B on its ever-manic, guitar-driven thrill ride. Underappreciated pioneers like Bob Luman and Wanda Jackson are showcased along the way, as are early efforts by eventual stars in other genres (including Buck "Corky Jones" Owens, George "Thumper" Jones, and Canadian Ronnie Hawkins, later to become the Band). But it's the loopy, reverb and echo-drenched side of one-hit (and no-hit) wonders like Freddie and the Hitchikers' theremin-crazed "Sinners," sex romps like the Caraways' "Ballin' Keen," and John & Jackie's downright heated "Little Girl"--not to mention a virtual parking lot full of Cadillac tributes from Vince Taylor, Sonny Fisher, Larry Dowd, and Joyce Green--that are the true treasures of the set's pop archaeology.
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