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THE STRAY CATS STRIKE AGAIN!
on December 9, 2004
At long last, the Stray Cats live album we've all been waiting for! "Rumble in Brixton" is the Stray Cats first 'offical' live album. It's been a long and confusing wait, especially since there are more than a dozen Cats' live albums that have appeared in stores over the past decade...
I've been a Stray Cats fan since 1980 when a friend played their first English import album for me. The next day I was off to Moby Disc for my own copy. In 1989 I was fortunate to be able to see the Stray Cats in person at the imtimate setting of the Ventura Theater with my then 10-year old son. It was the best live act I'd seen since watching the Stones in 1969! Like the Stones, the Cats sound as good live as they do on record -- maybe better.
Since then, I've purchased all their 'live' albums (mostly bootlegs), including the offical radio transcription disc of the King Biscuit Flower Hour show they did at the Ritz in New York in 1989 -- great show, but officially unreleased.
The first live Stray Cats video I saw was "Stray Cats Rock Tokyo" which I ordered, at some expense, from Japan. A wonderful rockin' live show and only released in the States for a few short months. I also have a laser disc of "Stray Cats Rock Paris" which, likewise, has never been issued on video or DVD, in the US. Another great show.
So I was very excited when I read on Brian Setzer's website that a DVD of the Cats' European Tour was going to be released simultaneously on CD and DVD in late 2004. I waited with bated breath until I finally arrived; "Rumble in Brixton" was every bit as great a show as I'd expeced! (It didn't hurt that it opened with my favorite Cats' song, either!) The Stray Cats are up for this concert and it's a great performance with from the band with songs from almost every album. I strongly urge buying both the CD and DVD as this show is going to get a lot of repeat viewings and listenings.
The Cats haven't lost a thing despite their 12 year lay-off! Slim Jim jams on the drums, while Lee Rocker whales on his bull bass, and Brian -- well, his guitar playing is as sharp as a knife on this new release! Setzer is the master of Rockabilly guitar -- hell, any guitar. In Japan, if he was a citizen, they'd designate him a Living Treasure!
How does Rumble in Brixton measure up to past Stray Cats live performances and CDS? Well, before writing this review, I spent over a week listening to every live CD and video of the Cats I have and can authoritatively state that "Rumble in Brixton" is their Best Live Release, ever. Period.
The sound is wonderful, and the Cats play their asses off! Brian, who only gets better as time passes, just shreds.
In addition, the Stray Cats play several 'new' Rockabilly standards that have never, to my knowledge, ever appeared on any Stray Cats CD or video before, including several Elvis numbers from his Sun Records years -- My Baby Left Me (sung surprisingly well by bass player, Lee Rocker) and Good Rockin' Tonight -- the old Roy Brown Jump Blues classic popularized by that Hillbilly Cat! They also do Eddie Cochran's Twenty-Flight Rock, which appeared on the Cat's great "Original Cool" album but never on any live Cats' CD, including the 'many' semi-offical Stray Cat live releases out of England, which Brian calls bootlegs on his website! News to me as I'd always thought they were 'authorized' releases due to their wide distribution through legitimate sources, like Tower Records and BestBuy!
I must have 20 versions or more of Rumble in Brighton but it's never sounded as great as it does on this release, likewise with the majority of the Cats' standards on this DVD. Ubangi Stomp has never sounded better! The majority of the songs here, as with most of their live sets, are off the Cats first four albums. Only one song each off of their last 2 albums reased in the early 90s.
All in all this Brixton concert is a fine retropsective on the Stray Cats career and about as fine a live presentation -- by any group! -- as you'll ever find. As a bonus, the Cats do a new original song, Mystery Train Keept A Rolling' -- a tribute to the Memphis/Sun Records origins of Rockabilly, proving the Cats are just as good in the studio as they ever were.
Now, a personal request: two songs I'd love to hear/buy on a Stray Cats live or studio CD, Buddy Holly's Rave On and Eddie's Skinny Jim!
Now, here's hoping there's a new studio Stray Cats album in our future! How about it guys?