|Wild Ride To Hell, Vegas 66
I got a nice surprise in the mail today! That surprise being the long awaited debut CD from Columbus, OH's rockabilly wonders, Vegas 66. If you live within a few hundred miles of Columbus and are a fan of rockabilly, then you should be familiar with them. Frontman/singer/guitar slinger Jimmy Vegas and I played together for years in a band called The Swingin' Caddilacs, so we have some history. Don't let that bit of knowledge lead you to thinking it might bias my review... cause it won't!
That said, this is a cookin' slab O plastic! If you're a fan of Brian Setzer's post Stray Cats work, you'll dig this disc. While a 3 piece band, Vegas 66 incorporate horns on a few tracks and they swing as hard as they rock! The rhythm section of Jeremy Vegas (upright bass) and Rex Vegas (drums... formerly of Johnny Rebel & The Flying Saucers) lays down a thick & solid sound that's sure to get your feet a-tapping and filling dance floors.
The disc starts out with what I can only guess is an original (there are no writing credits to be found on the CD) called "Wild Ride to Hell" and this sets the scene for the whole CD. Very guitar-oriented, pseudo-Spanish guitar stylings mixed with ass-kicking rockabilly with some screamin' demon horns. Next up is the classic instrumental , "Fireball", which knocks one out of the park! A very Stray Cats-like take on the old Delmore Bros. classic "Sweet Love (on my mind)" is up next and Jimmy has always done this one justice, and this version is no exception. The instrumental "Quinella" is up next (again, writer's credits... soooo... original? cover?). Jimmy's guitar playing on this track is tasty to be sure! Very jazz-inspired but it rocks. The melody is familiar but I can't quite place it.
The Vegas boys take on "Cherokee Boogie" next, and while not the best track on the disc, it's as fun as ever and should have you boppin' along. "Latest Flame" is the obligatory Elvis song in their catalogue and as with everything else Vegas 66 does, they do this song justice! It's catchier than a case of bird flu!
Up next is a dark and rocking original called "Rosalene". Opening with some of Jimmy's beloved southwest inspired guitar riffs, it rocks into a non-traditional chord progression that would be right at home on one of Setzer's early solo albums. This leads the listener into "Spanish Fly", another great instrumental of Spanish-derivation. I think Jimmy may have released this earlier with his old band Psycho Rodeo under a different title but regardless, this is a masterful track and you guitar enthusiasts out there will be drooling over it.
I find it personally amusing that 19 years after the break up of The Swingin' Caddilacs, we both recorded/released versions of the Peanuts Wilson classic "Cast Iron Arm"! (see my AJ & The Two Timers review also on BlackCat Rockabilly Europe). Jimmy and Co. have taken a darker twist on this. They've done the song in a minor key and man, it has a truly spooky effect! I think you'll dig it!
The boys throw in a "live" track with their take on Charlie Rich's "Paralyzed"...and man O man, it's just fun! The addition of the schmaltzy Vegas-era Elvis-type ending just makes it! The CD closes out with the very Horton Heat-ish "Texas Twister". Great song...but I don't get the need for the almost 20 second fade-in intro. This may even be a Horton Heat song...it sounds like one but again, no writer's credits...and as I don't have every HH disc in my collection, its hard to say. Regardless, the use of horns on this track really makes it move! Nice use of brass, lads!
11 big, action packed tracks in all. The only problems I have with this disc have nothing to do with the music. It's all great! But I don't understand why so many talented bands go light on original material. While Vegas 66 has chosen an interesting and diverse selection, the cover songs have all been done before. That said, the Vegas 66 performances rock and rock hard! The influences of Brian Setzer, The Stray Cats and Reverend Horton Heat are obvious but that shouldn't be taken as a slight. It is what it is and they're all good sources to draw from. The production is solid without being overly glossy. The packaging looks good but is missing a lot of details (which collectors, as we all know, are gaga over!). The back cover lists the song titles and their numeric order but no writing credits. The lack of liner notes gives the listener nothing to really read whilst giving the disc its initial spin. The horns on the CD are great, but there's no mention of who they are! Next time boys, take an extra day and put together better, more detailed packaging... we the listening/buying public want that! My only other quip is that lack of material period! 11 songs... why use only 35 or so minutes of a CD when it holds 80 minutes? In this economy, we demand more bang for our buck. Sure, it costs a lot of money to produce a CD but (and this goes to ALL bands) don't just rush a product out because you can or because you're running out of money. It won't serve your purpose anymore than waiting another 6 months and recording a few more songs.
OK, enough of my ranting. This really is a damned good debut CD from these boys and it gives you a taste of what they're like live and of things (hopefully) to come from them. What are you waiting for? GO GET YOURSELF A COPY!!!!!!! Until next time, if you can't be good - be good at it!
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Reviewed by Memphis Mike, 2009
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