Wednesday, March 9, 2011

EL TORO RECORDS: Where Rock 'n' Roll lives! Part TWO


 I’ve always found it interesting that the record labels that are most dedicated to preserving the rich heritage of American music are usually based in Europe. From the ‘40s to the ‘60s, from Country to Rock ‘n’ Roll, it seems that U.S. based labels have all but forgotten most of the music that graced the airwaves (and filled the record bins) all those years ago.  But for every legend like Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry or Buddy Holly, there are hundreds of also-rans and never-weres that may have had oodles of talent and charisma to make it big but just didn’t have the luck. Some made it big locally while others spent most of their days on the lower end of the charts. Sadly, these artists have slipped into obscurity and have gone unnoticed for four, five and even six decades.  But that is where labels like El Toro Records comes in…
     For 15 years, Spain's El Toro Records has been one of Europe's leading independent labels specializing in American roots music, from ‘50s Rock ‘n’ Roll to Rockabilly, Western Swing, Rhythm & Blues and Instrumental Surf.  Not only does the label specialize in glorious reissues, but they’ve got a few modern bands that sound so authentic that they fit comfortably in the label’s amazing catalog.
     When going through their catalog, it becomes apparent that every generation has its lost musical heroes but with El Toro’s help, it’s never too late to discover (or rediscover) these once-forgotten gems from one of the most exciting times in recorded music history. While my own personal collection of El Toro releases is far from complete (but it’s growing), I wanted to share some of their most recent and exciting releases. If you love early Rock ‘n’ Roll, Jump Blues, Western Swing, Rockabilly and everything in between, then you should start clicking on the following links and buy, buy, buy!

The unsung Crescent City bandleader Paul Gayten made the first New Orleans R&B recordings of the post war era and had the first local hits there in 1947. As a producer, he was responsible for grooming hit singers such as Annie Laurie, Larry Darnell, Chubby Newsome, Bobby Charles and Clarence "Frogman" Henry and became an important individual in the Chess empire before forming his own label in the late 1960s. This thirty-track compilation traces the first half of his high-voltage career in the recording business and proves how necessary he was to the birth and development of New Orleans R&B and Rock 'n' Roll. This disc features 30 mouth-watering Jump Blues nuggets that not only have all the right notes to send shivers up your spine, they also are pretty much guaranteed to quicken your pulse and add some sweat to your brow!  Features performances from Annie Laurie, Mr. Google Eyes, Lee Allen, and Charles ‘Hungry’ Williams as well as Gayten himself.

This fascinating and downright exciting triple CD set is a MUST HAVE for Buddy Holly fans. Disc One gathers all of the commercial recordings which featured Buddy as session-musician-cum-producer from his golden years of 1957-58. Disc Two features artists with whom Buddy crossed paths in the 1950s (but may not have actually recorded with) while Disc Three collects all the remaining radio/TV interviews and the live radio/TV/promo clips from 1958 that hadn't been featured in El Toro’s previous Buddy Holly releases. While Buddy may not be front and center in every recording on the first disc, his presence can be felt (as well as his unique guitar jangle).  Even Waylon Jennings, a latter day Cricket, has Buddy’s patient musical support on various takes of his “When Sin Stops”.  Disc Two is a solid Rock ‘n’ Roll collection that could very well stand on it’s own.  It’s great to hear the rare TV appearances, radio jingles and interviews with Buddy on Disc Three, although it does get a bit eerie with the news broadcasts of Buddy’s death.  All in all, a brilliant collection of great Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Next to Phil and Don Everly, Dorsey and Johnny Burnette were the most important brotherly duo in the history of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Having told the story of the Burnettes' legendary Rock 'n' Roll Trio from beginning to acrimonious end (ETDVD 10010), El Toro Records takes the story of the talented Memphis-born brothers forward from the parting of the ways in 1956 through their separate relocation to the West Coast and their happy reconciliation a year later, and on to their subsequent fine recordings both individually and collaboratively until they each began to enjoy national chart success in the early 1960s. Every one of these early Rock and Rockabilly recordings are filled with blood, sweat and tears (and I don’t mean the David Clayton-Thomas kind!). Most folks may not realize just how important the duo was, but one listen to this double CD set will convince anyone and everyone that The Burnette Bros need to be thrust to the top of the Rock ‘n’ Roll heap and be remembered as true pioneers.

Wayne Walker straddled the line between pure Country & Western and raw Rockabilly.  As a performer, he was passionate and sincere, but he will forever be known as a highly-successful songwriter in the country and pop fields during the 1950s and 1960s. Since his death in the late 1970s, however, he became something of a Rockabilly hero in Europe with such obscure recordings as “All I Can Do Is Cry”, “Love Me”, “Bo-Bo Ska Diddle Daddle”, “You’ve Got Me” and “Little Ole You” which have kept the dance floors of many Rock ‘n’ Roll clubs filled. Strangely, those thirty-odd years that have since elapsed have never seen a complete Wayne Walker reissue…until now! This is Wayne Walker – The singer and his songs. More than half of the tracks here are Wayne’s solo recordings while the rest of the disc is filled with artists performing Walker’s glorious tracks (including Andy Williams’ hit version of the classic “Are You Sincere?”, which many artists, including Elvis Presley, later recorded).  Once again, another amazing trip through Rock ‘n’ Roll, Rockabilly and Country Music’s finest recordings.  

More to come over the next few days stay tuned!

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