Roy Clark & Gatemouth Brown
Recorded October 31 – November 2, 1978 in Tulsa
This recording is clearly Gatemouth’s brand of American music, the sound he’d been focusing on for decades–leaving the sad delta blues for other folks and focusing on the good-time sound–but Roy is a big part of this outing as well. While some may see this as Roy doing something new, this is actually Roy getting back to his roots.
Throughout the set, the pair are unstoppable like a tag-team in the ring, with the girls and the Memphis horns helping punch it home, the group only slowing it down to let the sweat drip on a few cuts, mostly sticking with the rocking, rocking and rolling through Gatemouth, Roy Clark and producer Steve Ripley originals and a few takes on old standards, Ray Charles (and Johnny Cash’s) 1963 “Busted” (Harlan Howard), Ellington’s 1941 “Take the A Train” (Strayhorn) and Louis Jordan’s 1945 “Caledonia.”
Jordan would re-record “Caledonia” in 1956 with Mickey Baker on guitar and likely that was the version that provided at least some of the inspiration for the version on this album. (When Erskine Hawkins released “Caledonia” in 1945, Billboard referred to the song as rock and roll, probably the first time that phrase was used to describe music.)
It sounds like these two were having a blast, and while they strut their stuff and show off their chops, they keep a rein on the excess to make this record fun from go to whoa.
— winch (author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s and the two-part novel Junk Like That)
Billboard. April 21, 1945. p 66.
Right from the get-go the influences show–Sweet, Queen, Heart, the Runaways, and Abba–and right away it’s like watching some kids at a dance recital: you have to proud that they’re putting everything they’ve got into it, and you’ve got to be more than a little embarrassed for them because they are making fools of themselves.
Queen was perhaps their biggest influence, but while Queen had Roy T. Baker to help with the clean punch and over-the-top production, this L.A. outfit handles their own–but equally OTT–production. Some might argue they needed someone to grab their arms and give them direction instead of letting them blend many styles–glam and hard rock, pomp rock and new wave, but by being allowed to do their own thing, they were able to avoid being just another boring pomp rock or new wave band trying to fit neatly into a category. While they have their clear influences, all the songs are penned by the female vocalist and the lead guitarist, and while this set certainly doesn’t avoid the absurd and downright dumb, it’s certainly never boring, the first side sticking mostly with the rocking.
The flip-side opens with a misguided attempt at rock disco, maybe figuring if Blondie could pull it off…but this just ends up sounding like a horrid version of Abba. After this mess, they get back into the Queen-inspired sound established with the first side. While the second side sounds like it might end as poorly as it began, going into perhaps the worst space-rock song ever recorded, they fortunately end the album with “Machine Gun,” which clearly borrows from AC/DC’s “Bad Boy Boogie.”
If they would have kept their Queen-inspired guitar licks but been pushed into the punk direction that we hear hints of in the closing cuts of each side, this might have been pretty great album. As it sits, it isn’t going to win any awards, but folks with an interest in over-the-top junk from the 70s, might get a kick out of it.
— winch (author of…Eight Track Publishing)
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