Bill Haley

On the Air

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AllMusic Review by

The more one hears of Bill Haley & His Comets as they sounded in the 1960s -- yes, the 1960s, the decade in which they supposedly became irrelevant -- the more impressed one gets, and this German CD doesn't break that spell. Derived from a pair of mid-1962 studio sessions for the Armed Forces Radio Network, while the group was on tour in Germany, the material on this CD captures the Comets as a still very tight, exciting working rock & roll band, still capable of generating lots of energy in their performances; additionally, the interview segments with Haley in between the songs present the bandleader at the top of his game as a spokesman for rock & roll history as well as the band, even giving Hank Ballard (the forgotten man in the "twist" craze of the era) a big nod in his talk about some of the music. Surprisingly, Haley handles the lead vocals on a few numbers here, "Rock Around the Clock," "Shake Rattle and Roll," "The Saints Rock and Roll," and "See You Later Alligator," with lead guitarist Johnny Kay, bassist Al Rappa, and steel guitarist Billy Williamson doing the rest of the singing -- the band also does a large number of instrumentals, which are excellent showcases for saxman Rudy Pompilli as well as for Kay's playing. The sound is generally good, with only minor distortion and fluctuation in a few short sections (the former just because of overload on the volume), and the performances are mostly all worthwhile, especially on the extended numbers such as the five-minute version of "Honky Tonk." The second broadcast will probably be less appealing, featuring as it does mostly lesser songs (albeit mostly in good performances), such as "The Saints Rock and Roll," "JA-DA," and "Malaguena," but this was all part of the repertory of the band at the time, done live and unedited as they might have performed it at the Star Club. The annotation by Chris Gardner is extraordinarily detailed and very entertaining as well, and this CD is overall the perfect companion to either of the Bear Family Records boxes devoted to Haley's music.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
0:48
2 2:09
3
0:21
4 2:02
5
1:07
6 2:52
7
3:28
8 4:52
9
1:17
10 2:50
11
1:56
12 2:51
13
1:31
14 0:33
15
1:09
16
0:56
17 4:11
18
3:22
19
2:27
20
1:08
21 2:51
22
1:07
23
2:30
24
9:57
25 4:03
26
1:03
27 2:39
28
0:26
29 2:10
30
0:42
31 3:25
32
0:54
blue highlight denotes track pick