Although singer/guitarist Drake Bell made his name starring in and playing music on the Nickelodeon teen sitcom Drake and Josh, his previous endeavors barely hint at the rockabilly-tinged pop that comprises his third solo album, 2014's Ready Steady Go! Executive produced by Bell's childhood idol, Stray Cats founder Brian Setzer (along with Peter Collins), Ready Steady Go! is both a concept album homage to classic '50s rock & roll and a musical rebirth for Bell. Bell's two previous efforts, released in conjunction with his role on Drake and Josh, featured a kind of '70s bubblegum and power pop-informed sound that fit somewhere in between the Raspberries and One Direction. Here, Bell sets his charming, resonant vocals to a mix of smartly written originals ("Bitchcraft") and surprisingly well-curated cover songs (the Move's "California Man"). However, rather than attempting to rehash a list of time-tested rockabilly standards, Bell instead reworks a handful of recognizable, if not immediately rockabilly-centric, songs. In fact, as the album opens with the Kinks' "Sunny Afternoon," one might get the impression that Bell is going to focus his attentions on yet more sunny '60s pop. However, with Setzer and Kaplan's guidance, Bell has crafted an album that recalls the kind of rockabilly-pop that artists like Setzer, as well as Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, and Dwight Twilley, championed in the late '70s and early '80s. Subsequently, Bell gives us several creatively inspired takes on such songs as Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," Billy Joel's "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me," the Jags' "Back of My Hand," and Setzer's own early Stray Cats classic "Runaway Boys." While the album is by no means a purist rockabilly effort, it also deftly avoids any clichéd, over-produced cheesiness that can pervade some retro-'50s albums. Ultimately, on Ready Steady Go!, Bell is never anything but totally believable, likable, and ready to rock.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar