Only Solitaire: G. Starostin's Record Reviews, Reloaded C Intro Notes Beyond this page the reader will find a bunch of superficial reviews of pop music records, spanning the chronological distance of about a century's worth of recording and of the tastes and judgements of one individual. If there is a primary purpose to all this writing, it can be described as inescapable egotistic self-assertion over one's record collection, something that each and every individual with a record collection, a computer, and an ability to string together a few coherent lines of text is entitled to as long as «freedom of speech» has any meaning.
Each review tends to consist of a small bundle of facts about the recording (for larger bundles of facts, please refer to specialized literature on the artist), a self-honest attempt to describe the music in accessible and meaningful terms, and a few subjective, but systematic, opinions on the overall value of the record. No «ratings» are given — rating the value of any record on a numeric scale is fun, but not necessarily harmless fun — except for an overall «thumbs up» or «thumbs down» decision, triggered by considerations of direct, irrational likeability (the «heart» reaction) or by more rational ideas of «artistic importance», «relevance», and «innovation» (the «brain» reaction). A record may be liked, but not respected, or vice versa. However, it does not necessarily need to be both liked and respected to get the thumbs in an upward position.
Reviews are separated in seven chronological categories — artists of the pre-Beatles era covering everything (mostly blues, R&B, and rockabilly) from the 1920s, then six more sections covering relatively distinct chronological periods. Within these, artists are slowly reviewed in alphabetic order. At the current rate, I may never get beyond the letter C, but I do not really care. This is not science, and getting anywhere is not the main purpose.
Potential readers are encouraged to browse through these texts, and, perhaps, even to follow certain recommendations (if they have not yet heard the record in question), provided they have at least a few points of intersection with the opinions offered below. If, on the other hand, it turns out that we come from different planets, there is no reason whatsoever for you, dear reader, to waste your time on what you will unquestionably label as «drivel». There may be other, better reviews waiting for you out there, or, perhaps, you would like to follow your own uninfluenced destiny in this matter. By all means, then, I welcome you to do just that.
Contra my past experience with the HTML version of Only Solitaire, I do not add any more reader comments to my reviews. However, I welcome additional or dissenting opinions on the forum, and I promise to correct any factual, grammatical, or stylistical mistakes and/or typos that you spot (fairly easy to do when it is all in a single file).
Last note: for fun and additional entertainment value, some of the songs in the track list preceding the review are hyperlinked to Youtube videos — but only in cases where there really is an accompanying video clip or live performance that I think is worth one's love (or hate), not when it's just an audio track over a bunch of boring photos. Enjoy — or don't enjoy.
The «Two Cents» Page.
For those who have no need of lengthy reviews, here's just one or two quick thoughts and summaries on all the artists I have covered. Do not forget, though, that even Britney Spears cannot be fully described in two sentences, so these should by no means be taken for final and definitive judgements. Build or burn at your own risk. Note: ☺ Smileys indicate artists well worth getting acquainted with; ○ blank circles are for okay ones who may have reasons to own fan bases but do not rise beyond "decent"; ☻ anti-smileys are just what they are — artists who are only here because of public notoriety and (perhaps) limited historical significance, but they can also be great fodder to make fun of. I'm sure they don't mind — they're supposed to be cool, understanding people in any case. 1920-1960 ☺Carl Perkins: The man behind ʽBlue Suede Shoesʼ and ʽHoney Don'tʼ needs little introduction... or does he? Although he is always listed in every list of great early rockers, he'd also always kept a low profile, and his lack of «flash» has always made him lurk somewhere in the background, way behind the huge shoulders of Elvis. But this also makes him a personal favorite for those music lovers who despise «flash», and prefer quiet, subtle charisma instead. Anyway, no collection is complete without a set of great Carl Perkins guitar licks — the man was perhaps the perfect epitome of «rock'n'roll as country-western's naughty kid» — and there might even be a reason to look into Carl's career beyond the obligatory mid-1950s hits: yes, it's been spotty, but not without its hidden charms, such as, e. g., On Top from 1969, where he actually tried to modernize his style with surprisingly fun results.
☺Charley Patton: A figure of almost as legendary status as Robert Johnson, but a little less familiar to the general public because, unlike Johnson, Patton has not been nearly as influential on the American and British electric blues and blues-rock scene — at least, not as immediately influential, what with his more archaic and «wild» style of Delta blues guitar playing, and his deep growling vocals being harder to authentically imitate and all. Additionally, most of his recordings suffer from really terrible sound quality. But don't let that stop you from listening: few pre-war artists have the kind of power to really transport you into the depths of the Delta that Patton has. There's just something about that voice... anyway, before I slip into any politically incorrect clichés, just remember that nobody's blues collection is ever complete without the complete (quite minuscule, actually, compared to gazillions of identical recordings by much lesser artists from the same period) output of Charley Patton on the shelf.
1960-1965 ○ Cher: Jury still out.
1965-1970 ☻Cactus: This band, formed out of the ashes of Vanilla Fudge and masterminded by the titanic rhythm section of Tim Bogart and Carmine Appice, is pretty much the spiritual predecessor of KISS — except that in their utmost reverence for the second S («stupid») they were known to slightly neglect the first S («simple»), and their brand of sludgy, cumbersome heavy rock can very easily get boring, which, in turn, leads to all their stupidity becoming irritating rather than a guilty pleasure. With no decent songwriting, no serious clues about how to overcome the limitations of 12-bar blues genericity, and a lead vocalist forever locked in the solitary state of «drunk and bawling», most of their studio records consist of one or two fun tracks (usually when they introduce speed into the formula) and heaps of forgettable throwaways. They were quite a kick-ass live band, though, adding lots of extra cheap thrills and musical kerosene when facing a demanding audience. Possible starting point: Fully Unleashed: The Live Gigs (2004) is seriously the only Cactus album worth hearing or owning — it has all their best songs on it, performed with extra energy, and if pure, undiluted brawn is what you're after, then their only competitor from the early Seventies is Slade.
☺Can: Along with Kraftwerk, Can are probably the most recognizable name on the «Krautrock» scene of the 1970s — and, unlike Kraftwerk, Can may actually be qualified as «rock» without reservations. Both bands started out as alumni of the experimental music scene (Stockhausen, etc.), but where Kraftwerk expanded from this into the music of the future (electronica), Can preferred to merge avantgardism with more «earthly» directions — blues-rock, R&B, and funk, making themselves more easily accessible for fans of guitar-based psychedelic jamming. Few bands in the 1970s could excel in groove-based (rather than free-form) jamming better than Can, but the best thing about the band is that it practiced the «quality check» principle — spontaneity and flight of imagination was valued above everything else, but only the truly inspired bits made it onto the mastertapes, with Holger Czukay splitting and splicing the material in post-production with the utmost craftsmanship. The band's unique approach to «carefully ordered improvisation» and, of course, their unmatched technical skills (all four core members were killer musicians) made them into true giants of the underground music scene — too far out there to achieve big commercial success even at the height of the popularity of progressive rock in the early 1970s, but an undying legend all the same, whose influence is pretty much unmeasurable and whose critical reputation only continues to grow decades after the end. Possible starting point: If you are afraid of too much sonic pressure at once, Soundtracks (1970) is the perfect introduction to the classic Can sound — you get to know both of their early vocalists with each one's individual style of crazy, and you get short catchy «odd-pop» songs and lengthy mind-blowing jams organically integrated with each other. But if you are not afraid of anything, stick to the general critical recommendation of Tago Mago (1971), which is like this band's equivalent of the Missa Solemnis — a multi-part ritual for communication with... the other side.
○ Canned Heat: Jury still out.
1970-1976 ☺Camel: Maybe the quintessential «second generation progressive rock» band in all of Britain, Camel pretty much epitomized the genre's evolution around 1973-76: intelligent, inobtrusive, relatively unpretentious, rather quiet and reserved music, equally steeped in blues, folk, and jazz (but not a lot of true symphonic influence). Andy Latimer, the band's heart and soul (although in those early years, keyboardist Pete Bardens played almost as big a role), is a cool blues guitarist with some real juicy tones at his disposal (somewhat derivative of David Gilmour, but much more than just a copycat) and songwriting talent to burn; most of it, unfortunately, had been burnt in less than a decade (1973-1981), after which the band was largely reduced to Latimer solo and turned into a tasteful, but boring New-Age-adult-contemporary-synth-prog. (The last two albums were a pretty decent comeback, though). Anyway, Camel are perfect when you're in that quiet brooding mood — solitary late evenings with the rest of the world completely shut out is a perfect setting for Latimer and company to transport you to an ideal fantasy world of noble loners, unfortunate idealists and that one perfect romance that never comes to be. Possible starting point: The Snow Goose (1975) is typically considered the band's early, completely instrumental, conceptual masterpiece, but I've always been slightly more partial to Nude (1981).
○ Captain Beyond: A «quasi-super-group», formed in the early 1970s by outcasts from and remnants of various B-level psychedelic conglomerations from the end of the previous decade (Mark I Deep Purple, Iron Butterfly, Johnny Winter's original band, etc.), these guys did not last very long, but still managed to secure themselves a few square inches of burial ground in the pantheon. Theirs was a pretty decent merger of contemporary heavy rock with contemporary progressive influences, all the while retaining the old idealistic hippie spirit, and everything about it was decent — modestly strong songwriting, good musicianship, and a lead singer (Rod Evans) who could sound passionate and serious without succumbing to the inflated pomp that often goes hand in hand with such seriousness. Unfortunately, they arrived on the scene a little too late to capture a special niche for themselves, and their noble, but suicidal refusal to go in the direction of commercial pop pretty much sealed their fate in a few years. Possible starting point: Captain Beyond (1972) is the obvious place to go first — the second album would not rock so hard, and the third «reunion» album from 1977 suffers from the replacement of Evans by a much more pompously awful singer, although it still has a few nice moments.
○ Carole King: Jury still out.
1976-1989 ○ Cabaret Voltaire: Led by grim Sheffield kids Stephan Mallinder and Richard H. Kirk, these guys began as radical avantgarde experimentators, busily constructing one corner of the industrial scene next to Throbbing Gristle; then, placing themselves somewhere at the meeting point between «radical avantgarde» and «intelligent mainstream», they unleashed a never-ending series of albums that wove industrial, electronic, and minimalist threads into rhythmic patterns, so that young people all over the planet could happily dance their way to the end of the world. The music sometimes compromised with pop values, but never embraced them properly, the same way that dozens of other New Wave-era groups could stake their claim to fame and fortune — on the other hand, the «danceability» of the music could also alienate «serious» crowds, so the Cabaret Voltaire fanbase was always limited. Over two decades of work, they gradually made the transition from a more guitar-based, dreary, cavernous sound to fully electronic textures in the realms of house and techno music, sometimes sounding one step ahead of their competition and sometimes one step behind, but almost never embarrassing themselves (except for some missteps in the late Eighties when the music became «too happy» for its own good). Nevertheless, this is definitely one band I'd rather prefer to quietly «respect» than actively «enjoy». Possible starting point: This one is a real stumper — they have so many albums out of the same comparable quality. The first of those that made more than just an average impression on me was 2x45 (1982), so this is the one I'd probably go along with, but it's so much a matter of taste (if not random luck) that... well, pretty much anything up to Micro-Phonies (1984) represents the «classic» period, and pretty much any of their 1990s albums is in the IDM camp, if you really need guidelines.
○ Carcass: The Foul Four of Liverpool, these guys took extreme metal to new heights when, inspired by the success of Napalm Death, they invented a new variety of grindcore — the morgue variety, painting verbal and visual portraits of utter grossness to go along with the brutal minimalistic riffage, insane tempos, laconic running length, and growling vocals. Although many others followed in their footsteps, trying with verve to upstage their progenitors (and at the same time cloning them so much that many of them even began with the same letter, like Cadaver or Cannibal Corpse), Carcass still managed to remain ahead of the pack — largely because they would significantly shift their image from album to album, until, by the mid-Nineties, they'd almost come close to turning into a «classic rock» band, at which point they thought it wise to stop and just disbanded, leaving behind a relatively small legacy that is worth exploring from top to bottom, unless you happen to be pathologically afraid of words like putrefaction and uterogestation. Possible starting point: This depends on how well you are pre-adapted to this kind of music — Heartwork (1993) is more sparing in terms of melodicity, and does not revolve entirely around cadaverous matters, but for the strong-hearted, the band's debut Reek Of Putrefaction (1988) should be the obvious point of entry, since they would never be more extreme than on this arch-dirty collection of 22 brief bursts of insane macabre energy.
☺Cars, The: Probably the best example of the missing link between «classic» and «modern» pop/rock, at their best these Bostonian guys were more than just a talented pop band with a knack for vocal and instrumental hooks — there's an air of melancholy and world-weariness that permeates most of their career and makes even the most upbeat of their songs soak in a happy/sad, psychologically non-trivial atmosphere. If anything, their main problem was that the first album came out too perfect to allow them to continue a steady journey upwards: pretty much their entire agenda was uncovered in about thirty minutes, and no matter how hard they tried (either by darkening the atmosphere on Panorama, or going synth-pop almost all the way on Heartbeat City), they never really evolved beyond the respectably tasteful, but small niche that they carved out for themselves from the very beginning. Possible starting point: The Cars (1978) unarguably remains their highest point — it's like a greatest hits package all by itself —the rest of the band's catalog deserves further study depending on how much you like the first album.
○ Cheap Trick: Jury still out.
1989-1998 ○ Cardiacs: One of the craziest, if not the craziest band to appear on British soil in the 1980s — and that is not necessarily a compliment. Specially to describe Tim Smith's music, the critical establishment had to come up with the term «pronk» — «progressive punk» — and the same establishment used to actively put it down for committing atrocious sacrileges against the classic sacred values of punk. In reality, Cardiacs were «mashers»: they would take just about anything urbanistic (pop, blues rock, punk, ska, symphonic rock, etc.), chop it up, mix the ingredients in the most unusual combinations and release the results as convoluted artistic statements that seem like perfect illustrations for the statement «art is what you make of it». In their defense, they truly sound like nobody else (particularly in the Eighties), and the sheer complexity and unpredictability of Smith's approach to the pop music formula can sometimes baffle the mind more than it may be baffled by the likes of Zappa or Beefheart. But personally, I find it very difficult to «mentally visualize» 9 out of 10 of their ideas, or to make them come alive with meaning — admire and respect the form, yes, but failing to perceive (not to mention describe) the substance behind their tonal labyrinths. That said, I would agree that no Big Picture is complete without hearing and trying to digest at least one Cardiacs album; and they do get far more belated recognition these days than they did in their prime, so it's not just some obscure act from out of nowhere that you'd be producing to boost your indie credo. Possible starting point: A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window (1988) arguably has the deepest and catchiest songs of their career (as well as the closest they ever came to a bona fide commercial pop hit), but on the whole, the band had remained highly consistent over two decades, and aside from the earliest cassette tape-only recordings that suffer from hideous sound quality (but still contain some of their best written material), it really makes no difference where to start. Actually, an even better choice might be Cardiacs Live (1988) from that same year — somehow, all those crazy songs end up sounding much better with doubled energy onstage, not to mention that it also works as a «best-of» package.
☺Cardigans: This Swedish band seems to be pursued by the post-ABBA curse: people are too wary around their brand of soft pop, centered around two male songwriters and (in this case) one female singer, even if the melodic skills of The Cardigans are quite favorably comparable not only to the ABBA songwriters, but to any non-Swedish pop band of the 1990s. With their early records, they pretty much invented a special subgenre, a sweet mix of lounge jazz and folk-pop, seasoned with intelligent and slightly surrealistic melancholia of Nina Persson's vocal delivery — and then they ended up doing Black Sabbath covers in that style! If that alone does not stimulate your curiosity, then how about there being three distinct stages to the Cardigans — the sweet early one (probably the best), the «commercial» dance-oriented middle one, and the «mature», more conventional-adult-pop-tinged one that still has its benefits? At the very least, in retrospect they honestly deserve to be better known and remembered than, say, Oasis. Possible starting point: Emmerdale (1994), their debut, already exposes all of their best sides — raise up some love for this one before moving on to the rest of the catalog.
○ Cat Power: Jury still out.
1998-2016 ☺Camera Obscura: In limited dosage, this band (actually, more of a vehicle for the talents and personal charm of bandleader Tracyanne Campbell) is a kicker — delightful twee-pop and chamber-pop that comes across as a lighter, whiffier, a little less morose (though still pretty icy) version of Belle & Sebastian (no big surprise, since Camera Obscura also come from Glasgow and owe much of their popularity to Stuart Murdoch taking them under their wing). There is one problem, though: neither Tracyanne nor anyone else in the band have a good understanding of what it is that separates a «nice moody tune» from an «unforgettable classic». When they accidentally stumble upon a great hook (ʽLloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbrokenʼ or ʽFrench Navyʼ are prime examples), for that one brief moment they become the greatest pop band of the 21st century. Then it's back to pleasant boredom for the rest of the album. Life can be so unjust, but then, maybe God just didn't have it in his masterplan to let Glasgow take over the world in the 21st century. They're not ready. Yet. Possible starting point: No idea. This is one band that really doesn't need the LP as their medium of choice. Just find those songs I mentioned and start from there (although, most likely, you won't find any better ones anyway).
☺Carbon Based Lifeforms: A couple of Swedes (Johannes Hedberg and Daniel Segerstad) who specialize in, arguably, a kind of electronic music that would be most pleasing to the ears of «old school» fans who'd rather have Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Vangelis, and Eno over more modern reinventions of the electronic paradigm. Described by the somewhat vague and misleading term «psy-bient», their music does indeed heavily lean into the direction of ambient soundscapes, but it is typically more complex and sonically deep than most ambient, and it can stimulate rather than relax the imagination as well. As well befits their name, the duo constantly strives for realism, painting musical equivalents of the living universe rather than completely imaginary worlds or geometric abstractions, and although they do not always succeed (and sometimes give in to more conventional ways of music-making, as when they add superflous danceable grooves to their compositions), on the whole they produce the impression of one of the more pensive and serious electronic acts of the 21st century. Possible starting point: They hit their stride with Hydroponic Garden (2003) and have not really produced a bad record ever since, although the more recent ones are kind of running out of fresh ideas.
☺Caribou: A pseudonym for Canadian maverick Dan Snaith (who used to go by the name of Manitoba first, before another Manitoba — lead singer of The Dictators — threatened him with a silly lawsuit). The guy is really talented, with his music largely being a mix of electronica, jazz-pop, and sunny psychedelia; on his best albums, he does a great job combining the spirit of idealistic Sixties' art-pop à la Brian Wilson and Rod Argent with modern digital technologies, although the vibe can sometimes get a tad monotonous — typically of most modern artists, he is more interested in zooming in on one particular area and micro-managing it to exhaustion. That said, when he does try to branch out, the results may be underwhelming: after an initial «jazzy» period and what may have been his «golden years» of merging electronica with art-pop, recently he has gone too far in the direction of generic IDM, losing much of the original appeal in the process. Still, he's definitely not a phony or anything, and it's pretty safe to try him out regardless of whether you're hunting for Sixties nostalgia or live entirely in the 21st century. Possible starting point: Andorra (2007) is my obvious favorite, but it is also the most retro-oriented of his albums, with acoustic instrumentation taking precedence over the electronics and vocal melodies taken almost directly from the Love / Zombies / Beach Boys textbook, so if you want something a little more futuristic, The Milk Of Human Kindness (2005) might be a better place to start.
Part 1. Before The Rock'n'Roll Band Era (1920-1960)
DANCE ALBUM OF CARL PERKINS (1958) 1) Blue Suede Shoes; 2) Movie Magg; 3) Sure To Fall; 4) Gone, Gone, Gone; 5) Honey Don't; 6) Only You; 7) Tennessee; 8) Right String, Wrong Yo-Yo; 9) Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby; 10) Matchbox; 11) Your True Love; 12) Boppin' The Blues; 13*) All Mama's Children.
Carl Perkins' only «original» LP from his four-year tenure with Sun Records, like most LPs from that period, is really just a chaotic compilation of A-side, B-side, and outtake material. But even in this form, or, actually, because of this form, it still counts as one of the most impressive and fun-filled LPs from the rockabilly era. Influential, too — which other single LP from the era could boast a whole three songs to be officially covered by the Beatles?
The important thing about Carl Perkins is that, of all the notorious rockabilly people of the era, he was the one to most tightly preserve the «simple country boy» essence in his music. Bill Haley probably came close, but Haley didn't have much of an individual personality, and his backing band, The Comets, was at least as important as its frontman, blending a touch of country-western with a Louis Jordan-esque big-band jump-blues entertainment approach. Perkins, on the other hand, wrote his own songs (or radically reinvented traditional ones), sang his own melodies, played his own lead guitar, and, overall, made it so that we rarely ever remember anything about his sidemen during the recording sessions. Quick, name the bass player and the drummer on ʽBlue Suede Shoesʼ without googling! Yeah, right. Not even Google can help that easily.
Thus, Carl is essentially a «loner», and in that status, gets the right to his own influences and no other's — and chief among those influences is The Grand Ole Opry, with Bill Monroe, Gene Autry, and Hank Williams as his major idols. The good news for those who, like me, feel a bit iffy when it comes to «pure» country music, is that Carl obviously preferred his country with a sharper edge, and if anything, his rockabilly style is a direct continuation of Hank's faster-paced, boogie-based material like ʽMove It On Overʼ. Although Carl's own spirit was never as tempestuous or torturous as Hank's (not a single Perkins song shows any signs of acute bitterness), he always had a thing for raw excitement, energy, speed, humor, good-natured irony — anything that would put a smile on your face and an itch in your feet.
Most importantly, Carl's «lonerism» is responsible for making ʽBlue Suede Shoesʼ into one of the coolest songs of its era — and the lyrics had a lot to do with it: "Don't you step on MY blue suede shoes...", sung in a friendly enough tone but with a very clear hint of a threat. This is really where all the Gene Vincents of this world come from: the «rebels» were inspired by the individualistic cockiness of a plain, harmless, friendly «country bumpkin» who inadvertently tapped right into the spinal cord of his era. ʽRock Around The Clockʼ was a good enough count-off for the rock revolution, but it was a general fun party song. ʽBlue Suede Shoesʼ takes us into one particular corner of that party, where one particularly self-consciously hip guy is busy protecting his own particular interests against the whole world, and backing them with sharp bluesy lead guitar licks that sound like a bunch of slaps in the face of whoever has been unlucky enough to step on the protagonist's lucky footwear.
There is a myth going around that Elvis «stole» the song from Carl while the latter was recuperating in the hospital after a car accident, and that this effectively put an end to Carl's career as a pop star. In reality, Carl never had the makings of a star, and the image of a «teen idol» would have probably never sat too well with him in the first place — he was, first and foremost, a songwriter and a guitar player — none of which, however, prevented ʽBlue Suede Shoesʼ from going all the way to the top of the charts, while Presley's version (a classic in its own right, no doubt about that) stuck at No. 20 (admittedly, RCA people agreed to hold back the release until Carl's version lost its original freshness — see, there was a time when record industry people could occasionally show signs of gentlemanly conduct).
Already ʽBoppin' The Bluesʼ, the folow-up to ʽBlue Suede Shoesʼ, did not chart as high (No. 7 was its peak) — and it wasn't Elvis that had anything to do with it, but rather the fact that the song was comparatively toothless in comparison, a fairly formulaic rockabilly creation describing the simple joys of rock'n'roll dancing with little challenge or defiance. In the hot, tense competitive air of early 1956, Carl soon lost the lead, and although the next three years would see him reeling between inspiration and repetition, the record-buying public pretty much wrote him off as a one-hit wonder and focused on Elvis instead. In addition, Carl loyally stuck with Sun Records through those years, meaning that he couldn't even begin to hope for the kind of promotion that Elvis got (on the positive side, Carl never got to have his own Colonel Parker).
It is a doggone shame, though, that such fate also prevented a great tune like ʽMatchboxʼ from charting — without the Beatles' support, it might have altogether sunk into oblivion, but really, few pop songs sounded as harshly serious and deep-reaching in 1957 as that particular reincarnation of an old, old, old blues song by Blind Lemon Jefferson. When those echoing, distant-thunder-like boogie chords start rattling around the room, it's as if you were being prepared for some important social statement, and, in a way, you are, since Carl preserves many of the original lyrics, infusing the song with a blues-based sense of outcast loneliness instead of the usual get-up-and-dance stuff. In a way, «socially conscious rock'n'roll music» starts somewhere around this bend, even if Carl himself probably never intended it to be this way.
On a personal note, I must say that ʽHoney Don'tʼ feels to me as one of the very few rock and pop songs by other artists that the Beatles did not manage to improve upon — and not because Ringo is a worse singer than Carl (he actually did a fine job to preserve the tune's humor), but because George Harrison never really got around to learning all the tricks in Carl's playing bag: as rough as the production is on the original, Perkins compensates for it with a series of improvised «muffled» licks that George did not even try to copy, playing in a «cleaner» style that left less room for rock'n'roll excitement. (On the other hand, George did get the upper hand on ʽEverybody's Trying To Be My Babyʼ by managing to raise the tension on the lengthy second instrumental break, whereas in Carl's version it pretty much stays the same throughout).
Of the twelve songs assembled here, only a couple are relative clunkers; ʽTennesseeʼ, in particular, sounds as silly as it is sincere, a heartfelt tribute to Carl's native state with a hillbillyish chorus and somewhat uncomfortable lyrics that, among other things, urge us to give credit to the fact that "they made the first atomic tomb in Tennessee" (a somewhat inaccurate reference to Oak Ridge, but even if it were accurate, I'm not sure I would want to boast about it even at the height of the Cold War). Pompous, vocally demanding ballads are also not one of Carl's fortes (ʽOnly Youʼ), but he can come up with a highly catchy homely, simple country ballad when he puts his heart into it — ʽSure To Fallʼ, with its melody almost completely based on serenading trills, is quite a beautiful little piece.
One of the most interesting things about comparing old rockabilly records from the mid-to-late 1950s is the relative proportion of their ingredients. Some veer closer to R&B, some to electric blues, some to «whitebread» pop, some are jazzier, some vaudevillian. From that point of view, Dance Album Of Carl Perkins is a curious mix of something very highly conservative with an explosive energy that is nevertheless kept under strict control, like a fire burning steady and brightly, but only within a rigidly set limit. Had all rock'n'roll looked like Carl Perkins in the 1950s, it would probably have taken us a much, much longer way to get where we are right now — but, on the other hand, maybe we wouldn't already be wondering where exactly is it possible to go from here. Ah well, enough speculation; here is the expectable thumbs up, and we will be moving on.