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 Reviews of Rock Therapy & Blast Off Reissues

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Gloria

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PostSubject: Reviews of Rock Therapy & Blast Off Reissues   Tue May 13, 2008 7:15 pm

From: http://blogcritics.org/archives/2008/05/12/155643.php

Music Review: Stray Cats - Rock Therapy and Blast Off Reissues

Written by Jon Sobel

Published May 12, 2008

Brian Setzer, Lee Rocker, and Slim Jim Phantom hit it big in the early 1980s as the Stray Cats. But the rockabilly revival spearheaded by the three boys from Long Island didn't translate into a long life on the charts for the band, and they broke up, amid some bad blood, in 1984.

The reunion albums they've made since then have made relatively little splash. While Setzer's swing-revival Brian Setzer Orchestra and Rocker's solo work have garnered success, the Stray Cats themselves have come to seem a band restricted to a moment in time: in the US, that's the early days of MTV, when their videos for "Rock This Town" and "Stray Cat Strut" were inescapable.

The Stray Cats have reunited a number of times, however, and not just to cash in on touring. They made two solid albums in the late 1980s. Rock Therapy (1986) and Blast Off (1989) have been unavailable for some time, but Hep Cat Records has just reissued them with new liner notes by Lee Rocker. These discs, the Cats' fifth and sixth studio efforts, are definitely worth a listen.

I'm not sure why the band chose to open Rock Therapy with their heavy-handed arrangement of the title track. The album's energy really gets going with the second tune, "Reckless," a Setzer-penned garage-y rocker that could have been a hit single in a more receptive period. Gene Vincent's "Race With the Devil," Buddy Holly's "Looking for Someone to Love," and Chuck Berry's "Beautiful Delilah" pay accomplished tribute to some of the band's important influences.

Rocker and Phantom's "I Wanna Cry" has a harder, dirtier, Joe Walsh type of sound, but side two starts with "I'm a Rocker" and Setzer's trademark lightning-fingered guitar solos. He later demonstrates his facility on the banjo in the countryish "Broken Man." Musically, this album ranks with the band's best work.

Three years later, with Blast Off, the Stray Cats hooked into - or, as Rocker claims, ignited - the harsher, punk-influenced psychobilly movement. While psychobilly had roots earlier than this, there's no doubt the early Stray Cats albums had a significant influence on the style, which persists today. Produced by the Cats' original helmsman, Dave Edmunds, Blast Off has a harder and darker spirit than anything the band had done before. This was explicit in the forceful, scowling title track, but evident also in songs with more earthbound and harmless-sounding themes like "Everybody Needs Rock 'n' Roll."

"Gene and Eddie" is a weird, nicely crunchy pastiche of Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran lines and licks. The band was bringing those seminal sounds into a new, harder era. "The slamming bass, cave man drumbeats and stinging guitar," writes bassist Rocker in his new liner notes about the album, "were as raw, powerful and dangerous as anything we had ever done... psychobilly was born. I hear a lot of the bands that have come after us regurgitating bits of this record."

Everything old is new. "Gina" with its rolling drums looks back to Buddy Holly. The record was full of nostalgia and musical self-awareness even as it reflected its own time and broke new ground for the band. Song titles tell the story: "Rockabilly Rules," "Bring It Back Again," "Rockabilly World." It closes with the slinky "Nine Lives," a throwback to the early hit "Stray Cat Strut" but at the same time a showcase for a jazzy Setzer solo that looked ahead to the Brian Setzer Orchestra, which he was probably already contemplating; he formed the big band the following year.

Lee Rocker, for his part, has continued a steady output of very good solo albums that have helped carried the rockabilly revival into the 21st century. I saw him in Nashville two years ago and he seriously rocked the house.

Rockabilly aficionados and fans of the Stray Cats will want to pick up these nicely produced reissues. Blast Off will be of interest also to the cowboy-hats-and-piercings crowd. It's good to have these albums back in circulation.
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juice3



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PostSubject: Re: Reviews of Rock Therapy & Blast Off Reissues   Wed May 14, 2008 5:37 am

I`ll have to say I was bit disappointed with Rock therapy re release,if it was remastered I didnīt noticed it...they should have raised the volume a little bit,now it doesnīt sound very powerfull etc etc...artwork is fine .
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rickabilly

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PostSubject: Re: Reviews of Rock Therapy & Blast Off Reissues   Wed May 14, 2008 1:48 pm

Lee made it clear on his website that these were only reissues, not remasters. I think the mix on the original albums was fine, but I agree that the volume on the CDs is a bit low. I thought something happened to my CD player, they were that quiet.

It's good to see these albums again, and Lee's liner notes are a nice touch.

10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 Blast Off-a-billy
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SwanseaCity

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PostSubject: Re: Reviews of Rock Therapy & Blast Off Reissues   Tue May 20, 2008 2:01 pm

I've just read this review(s) properly today for the first time, and I have to admit that it is a bit weird. Firstly,and I am listening to it as I type (albeit not on the reissue version), but I cannot see any way that "Rock Therapy" can be decsribed as "heavy handed" and secondly, I am curious as to why Lee Rocker would talk about Psychobilly in the way he does. Not only do I think that "Blast Off" is not Psycho in the slightest, but even it it was - what is all this about "Psychobilly was born"??????????? I'm sure that The Meteors and The Cramps (to my mind, the first two proper Psycho bands) would diswagree becasue they had been doing it for years! Also, Blast Off came after Klub Foot was at it's height. The world was full of Psycho bands, long before this album.

Or am I wrong?
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rickabilly

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PostSubject: Re: Reviews of Rock Therapy & Blast Off Reissues   Tue May 20, 2008 4:07 pm

The first two chords of Rock Therapy are pretty heavy-duty, but the
rest of the song is stripped-down rockabilly, with nary a sign of the
"heavy handed"-ness described by the reviewer. It's as if he heard
"Don't need a doctor, don't need a pill" and then pressed "skip" on his
CD player without bothering to listen to the rest of the song.

Now for the rest of the folly:

Gloria wrote:

(W)ith Blast Off, the Stray Cats hooked into - or, as Rocker claims, ignited - the harsher, punk-influenced psychobilly movement. While psychobilly had roots earlier than this, there's no doubt the early Stray Cats albums had a significant influence on the style, which persists today. Produced by the Cats' original helmsman, Dave Edmunds, Blast Off has a harder and darker spirit than anything the band had done before. This was explicit in the forceful, scowling title track, but evident also in songs with more earthbound and harmless-sounding themes like "Everybody Needs Rock 'n' Roll."

"Gene and Eddie" is a weird, nicely crunchy pastiche of Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran lines and licks. The band was bringing those seminal sounds into a new, harder era. "The slamming bass, cave man drumbeats and stinging guitar," writes bassist Rocker in his new liner notes about the album, "were as raw, powerful and dangerous as anything we had ever done... psychobilly was born. I hear a lot of the bands that have come after us regurgitating bits of this record."

I think the reviewer may have a more appropriate assessment of the situation when he says the Stray Cats "hooked into" psychobilly. "Ignited?" I'm not sure I'd go there. And as for Lee's "psychobilly was born" quote, I just don't know how you can make such a statement, let alone put it in print. I know what he's trying to say - that Blast Off may have influenced some post-1989 psychobillies - but that "birth of psychobilly" hyperbole is a little like attributing the birth of punk to Green Day.

Also, the word "pastiche" should never appear in the same paragraph as the word "psychobilly".

American Idiot-billy
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TommyM
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PostSubject: "New RE-issues   Tue May 20, 2008 5:02 pm

I don't know why Lee would write liner notes for records that the band will receive virtually NO royalties on. I love Lee and the original records but EMI- Hepcat- whatever records only release these albums when the Stray Cats or Brian are planning a tour.

REPEAT>>> The Stray Cats receive almost NOTHING on these albums! This is just EMI Scraping the floors of their vaults again without the bands consent, input, or even a courtesy phone call.

I'm sure Brian would rather you bootleg, copy, borrow, or steal these albums, rather than line some fat cat's pocket at EMI.

Don't forget to buy EMI's next release "Stray Cats Rock this Alley Runaway Strut Vol. 647!!!"
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Pirate Paul

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PostSubject: Re: Reviews of Rock Therapy & Blast Off Reissues   Tue May 20, 2008 5:39 pm

TommyM wrote:
Don't forget to buy EMI's next release "Stray Cats Rock this Alley Runaway Strut Vol. 647!!!"
I think I have "Stray Cats Rock this Alley Runaway Strut Vol. 646" but it has a wooden background not the tiger print background Laughing Laughing Laughing

I wonder how much thats worth Rolling Eyes

EMI robbing a**holes!! Suspect

Cheers PP pirat
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Pompado'er

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PostSubject: Re: Reviews of Rock Therapy & Blast Off Reissues   Tue May 20, 2008 5:48 pm

Thanks for the heads up about the re-issue fiasco Tommy. I will make sure to stay clear of buying 'em. Maybe even put up some EMI contact info so we can bitch them out....probably won't have any effect but at least they know we are here haha!
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Gloria

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PostSubject: Re: Reviews of Rock Therapy & Blast Off Reissues   Tue May 20, 2008 7:17 pm

Oops. Guess I shouldn't have posted the reviews in the first place. Sorry 'bout that guys. pale

Oh well, I don't own either of the reissues if that matters....
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TommyM
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PostSubject: Re: Reviews of Rock Therapy & Blast Off Reissues   Tue May 20, 2008 7:53 pm

No No!

It's never anyone's fault to buy a record here. How could you know about it?

Sorry to get so passionate about this, it just burns me up when the big bully pushes people around.

Tommy
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PICKIN' PETE

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PostSubject: Re: Reviews of Rock Therapy & Blast Off Reissues   Tue May 20, 2008 8:28 pm

Hey Tommy,
I agree. It would be great to see some recognition (read royalties) going towards artists. Fortunately for us consumers, we're spoilt for music on the net that we can get for free. Unfortunately for the artists who created the music, they get dicked. Big companies profit when these guys gotta go on tour, to basically make a living, by releasing repackaged/hashed material!
I thought the live scene in Adelaide was dicked when we still charge $5 cover charge.... same as 10 years ago! Competing with the Pokies and bands willing to play for literally peanuts means you gotta have a REAL job! And REAL talent stays kept at home by people playing in the loungeroom.
Cheers Dontgetmestartedabilly Pete.
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Budgie
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PostSubject: Re: Reviews of Rock Therapy & Blast Off Reissues   Wed May 21, 2008 9:53 am

TommyM wrote:
I'm sure Brian would rather you bootleg, copy, borrow, or steal these albums, rather than line some fat cat's pocket at EMI.


I broke into the local used CD store last night hoping to score a couple of copies of these CD's, just to make The Brian proud... but to no avail...

Stray Cat Burglar,
Budge
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Setzerado

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PostSubject: Re: Reviews of Rock Therapy & Blast Off Reissues   Thu May 22, 2008 4:46 pm

Shame on EMI to try the "Hold Up" while or just before the Farewell Tour... And curious idea (unpolite to Slim Jim & Brian ?) to let JUST Lee writing liners about a very special record on Cats career...
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PostSubject: Re: Reviews of Rock Therapy & Blast Off Reissues   Thu May 22, 2008 6:42 pm

Lee must be getting paid something to write the liner notes. And he must have some financial gain from distributing them through his website. But whatever it is, it's probably a mere pittance for the contributions he made to these recordings. (Then again, how much is I Wanna Cry worth? Razz ) So when Hepcat reissues the Phantom, Rocker, and Slick albums later this year, will Earl Slick be writing the liner notes and selling them from his website?

It's a cryin' shame they had such a lousy contract with EMI - them and about 100,000 other artists. But these Cats continue to pick up new fans every day, so I am glad these albums are out there in some form waiting to be discovered.

Slick-a-billy
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PostSubject: Re: Reviews of Rock Therapy & Blast Off Reissues   Sat May 24, 2008 11:48 am

From Lee Rocker message board

I'm aware of a little controversy regarding my reason for writing the liner notes to Blast Off and Rock Therapy. I am proud of both of these records and I'm happy that they are now available again in there original form. I am sick of the compilations and bootleg releases. Although we receive very little if anything from EMI (the label that controls it) I still feel like the music is what's really important. The record business is rough place (just ask Little Richard, Chuck Berry and others), labels have robbed artists since day one and the Stray Cats are no different, but with that said,....... I record music so people can listen and wrote the liner notes because I wanted to communicate with people who dig the band and our music. Rockabilly Rules OK?????

Lee ROCKER
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PostSubject: Re: Reviews of Rock Therapy & Blast Off Reissues   Sat May 24, 2008 12:44 pm

That really sums it up well. Cheers to Lee for recognizing the importance of making this music available to fans. His insights were fun to read, and make these releases special. Plus I've enjoyed Hepcat releases for years, so I was pleased to see their involvement.

Even though I was teasing about the Phantom, Rocker, Slick releases, I am looking forward to them, and hope they get a similar treatment.

Diplomacy-billy
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PostSubject: Re: Reviews of Rock Therapy & Blast Off Reissues   Sat May 24, 2008 8:42 pm

SwanseaCity wrote:
I've just read this review(s) properly today for the first time, and I have to admit that it is a bit weird. Firstly,and I am listening to it as I type (albeit not on the reissue version), but I cannot see any way that "Rock Therapy" can be decsribed as "heavy handed" and secondly, I am curious as to why Lee Rocker would talk about Psychobilly in the way he does. Not only do I think that "Blast Off" is not Psycho in the slightest, but even it it was - what is all this about "Psychobilly was born"??????????? I'm sure that The Meteors and The Cramps (to my mind, the first two proper Psycho bands) would diswagree becasue they had been doing it for years! Also, Blast Off came after Klub Foot was at it's height. The world was full of Psycho bands, long before this album.

Or am I wrong?

D'ya know something Swansea, I agree! When Blast Off came out, i was a bit put out that they just called their version of Rockabilly, Psychobilly. you're right, it wasn't, but i think to the underground scene in england was calling itself Psychobilly, so they went along with the flow. To be totally fair (and i was there at the start, playing with king kurt and the Highliners, guana's etc) Mr Fenech invented the term Psychobilly! and it was his band that moved it forewards. When the Cats brought us their version of Rockabilly, they never renamed it. So, they got called rockabilly revivalists, which was a little unfair, cos Brian had added an extremely important moniker on the so called rehashed rockabilly music. i also want to know how he came up with his version of gonna Ball, which is a spectacular doo wop song by the Wheels.

Mikey

xx
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