Various Artists

Flying Rock: South African Rock 'n' Roll 1950-1962

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Interesting compilation of 16 rare South African singles, demonstrating a simultaneously uneasy and intriguing mix of '50s rock & roll and South African folk and pop. The admixtures are never even; more often than not, it's township jive'n'jazz with a bit of pop phrasing or raunchy sax as a concession to rock's influence. The Bogard Brothers' "I'm in Love" is an incomprehensible bastardization of Fats Domino's "I'm Ready" and "Good Rockin' Tonight," wedding a rock & roll song structure to hastily strummed folk guitars. At the other extreme is Benoni Rocket's phonetic Elvis imitations, delivered with verve by an accurate mimic who seems to have no clue as to the meaning of the words he's singing. Willard Cele's "Penny Whistle Boogie" and the Dark City Sisters' "Shala-Shala Twist" are other prime slices of cross-cultural colllision; the tracks can't seem to decide whether they are South African roots-pop or imitations of popular American trends. While it might be easy to make fun of these awkward attempts to incorporate rock and pop idioms, these tracks have a joyful zest, even in their occasionally clumsy arrangements, that makes them enjoyable several decades later, and not solely of archival interest.