A good live album can make you wish you’d been there. A really good live album makes you downright angry that you weren’t. I’ve been listening to Brian Setzer’s “Rockabilly Riot! Live from the Planet” (Surfdog Records), and I am one mad dude.
Why this tour never made it to Boston I don’t know – maybe we’re considered too Brahman to appreciate real-live rockabilly? – but it’s clear that Beantown missed out: Expanding upon the trio format he favored with the Stray Cats, virtuoso guitarist Setzer builds on his solo sound with two drummers, two stand-up bass players and a boogie-woogie piano. The result is 15 tracks that alternatively simmer, boil and explode. It’s a riot, all right.
Several of the standouts originated on Setzer’s stellar 2001 ’68 Comeback Special album “Ignition,” including the explosive title track and the driving country-rock stomper “8 Track,” which appears here with yodeling (mostly) intact. And not surprisingly, this band is a perfect fit with the Sun Records covers Setzer trotted out for his original “Rockabilly Riot!” album (2005) – “Put Your Cat Clothes On” captures the sweat and fire that must have accompanied the song when Carl Perkins burned through it in dingy rockabilly clubs 50 years ago.
Setzer also strips down – and opens up – some of his big-band arrangements for songs like “This Cat’s On A Hot Tin Roof,” making them feel looser, louder and more dangerous – it’s a nice combination. And some new covers do a great job of spotlighting the band’s strengths, among them a perfectly paced version of “Slow Down” into “Folsom Prison Blues” and the album’s closer, the unjustifiably near-forgotten Moon Mullican classic “Seven Nights to Rock.”
In fact, if the collection stumbles anywhere, it’s actually on the Stray Cats numbers, which have been done to death – the expanded lineup doesn’t really bring anything new to “Rumble in Brighton” or “Runaway Boys,” which could probably stand at least a temporary retirement.
But that’s a quibble – for the most part, “Live from the Planet,” recorded at shows in Europe, North America, Japan and Australia, is a fantastic souvenir for the rockabilly rebels lucky enough to have been there, and a reminder to the rest of us to get there next time, come hell or high water.
MUST DOWNLOAD: “Put Your Cat Clothes On”
Contact Peter Chianca at firstname.lastname@example.org.