Tuesday, March 15, 2011

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

    



 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!


Excellent collection from the true King of Louisiana Swamp Rockabilly. A real down-home boy, Al Ferrier has been recording in the Louisiana backwoods since 1955 and continues to record for the label that gave him his first break over half a century ago - Goldband Records. This chock-full compilation gathers together his 1950s recordings in all their glory including single sides and alternate takes. This is as authentic as Swamp-abilly gets!  Hot and humid, baby! 


Astounding collection from the Houston-based session guitar picker. This compilation contains all the 1950s recordings issued under his own name as well as a sparkling selection of his session work from those years; from his debut featured spot as one of Curley Williams' Georgia Peach Pickers through his career as house band-leader and guitarist-of-choice for Pappy Daily's stable of labels - Starday, Dixie and D Records - and his renaissance during the 1970s/1980s rockabilly revival when his exciting solos on those cherished records by Joe Clay, Thumper Jones, Sleepy La Beef, Link Davis, Rock Rogers and Bob Doss were a clarion call to pack the dance floors all over again. Highlights include “I Have Lived, Loved And Learned” (Curly Williams), “Won’t Tell You Her Name” (Al Urban), “Goodbye Goodbye” (Joe Clay) and Hal’s very own “I’m Comin’ Home”


2011 collection from this Rhythm & Blues vocal group that I’m all to familiar with.  In my personal time, I’ve transferred well over 500 LPs to the digital format. Amongst those was a Nolan Strong compilation called Fortune Of Hits.  But I digress.  That is neither here nor there…. Nolan Strong And The Diablos were one of the most popular, pre-Motown, Rhythm & Blues acts in Detroit during the mid 1950s through the early 1960s. Nolan Strong, the lead vocalist, had an ethereally high tenor. His smooth voice, influenced mainly by Clyde McPhatter, was, in turn, a primary influence on a young Smokey Robinson but The Diablos also influenced many other R&R bands. The group was inducted into the United In Group Harmony Hall of Fame in 2003 and into the Doo-Wop Hall of Fame of America In March 2008 . This album features all 24 sides released in their early years plus three bonus tracks in which the lead vocals were taken by Willie Hunter, Andre Williams and Gino Parks. I’ve always found Nolan and his devilish crew to be one of the most overlooked bands of the ‘50s and beyond. Sweet and gritty, this release can often be haunting and moving. Great stuff, Maynard!


Now, I’m a sucker for a good tune with great production, luscious harmonies and a melody that sticks in my head for days.  With that being said, I’m also a fan of honest-to-goodness Punk Rock of the ‘70s as well.  The Punk of that era didn’t always have great production or harmonies, but it was exciting and raw.  I feel the same about ‘50s Rock ‘n’ Roll.  While my fave artists of this time period are Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly, I also dig the glory of raw and primal Rock ‘n’ Roll, which is what can be found on many of El Toro Records’ releases.  This collection of ‘50s instrumentals fits the bill perfectly. From Link Wray to Santo & Johnny, from The Champs to The Rockin’ R’s, it’s all inspiring stuff. The tracks contained here are as sweaty and fun as Rock got back in the day… and they still sound friggin’ amazing today.


More to come over the next few days
...so stay tuned!

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