Brian Setzer - Rockabilly Riot! Volume One: A Tribute to Sun Records (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Brian Setzer

Rockabilly Riot! Volume One: A Tribute to Sun Records (2005)


Everyone remembers "Jump, Jive 'n Wail" and "Rock This Town," right? Yeah, that was Brian Setzer, who single-handedly brought rockabilly and swing into the Top 40 in the `80s and `90s, respectively. He was treated as a novelty act, and most people thought he was just a fleeting fad. And they were right. Swing music dropped faster from the radio than third-wave ska. And that's saying a lot. But the blonde, pompadoured rocker has been hanging out in Nashville apparently, and has put out an album of twenty-three rockabilly songs from Sun Records. You've got Carl Perkins songs originally performed by Carl Perkins and covered by Brian Setzer, you've got Johnny Cash songs originally performed by Warren Smith and covered by Brian Setzer, you've got Johnny Cash songs originally performed by Johnny Cash and covered by Brian Setzer and you've also got names like Roy Orbison, Billy Lee Rilet, Jack Earls, Elvis Presley, Clara V. Wills, and Gene Simmons (no, not that Gene Simmons) mixed around either in the list of performers or songwriters.

And Brian Setzer plays every one of them.

And that's not always a bad thing.

One thing I hate about cover albums is that I feel it destroys the integrity of the albums that were originally released. Who's to say what song goes with what songs except for the artist? And even then, I don't like Greatest Hits records. But this situation is different. Almost all of these songs were designated as 45 singles. Back in the `50s and early `60s, people wanted to hear that one song from the radio in their own home, and couldn't care less about full albums. And even then, most full-length albums were just a collection of 45 singles. So Brian Setzer re-recording these all doesn't pose a big problem to me.

Simply put, if you dig early rockabilly / early rock'n'roll, you'll totally dig on this.

If you don't dig early rockabilly / early rock'n'roll, you'll get bored of this quickly.

What I most appreciate about this album is the production values. Sure, Brian Setzer has access to the best recording equipment money can buy, but instead he recorded most of it through an old cistern they found out back from the 1800s and used only vintage microphones and amps. Not only did he record the songs with the right equipment, but his drummer actually charted out all the original drum parts, and only used one cymbal, which was the way all the original songs were played. He also made sure that his piano player was "a rockabilly piano player…not a blues or honky-tonk man…but a rockabilly piano player."

I truly appreciate the work and effort that went into this album. This could have been such a horrid mess, but instead Brian Setzer really made this worth hearing. The most famous songs on it would have to be "Blue Suede Shoes," the Carl Perkins version, and, well, I haven't heard of any of the other songs. Oh well. This is a solid release. Go listen to it and see what you think.