Various Artists

Schoolday Blues

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Schoolday Blues is yet another compilation from the folks at Buffalo Bop Records, the label for which, seemingly, no rockabilly-style single is too obscure to try and compile and sell -- and God bless 'em for it! The Love Brothers, evidently of Mississippi, open the set with "Baby, I'll Never Let You Go," cut for the By-Love label of Greenville, MS, sometime during the Eisenhower administration -- it owes a bit to "Be-Bop-a-Lula" and these boys didn't harmonize so much as shout in unison, but it does have a raw, bracing power. Evans Carroll and the Tempos, from the Bangar label, kick things up a notch with some Jerry Lee Lewis-style piano (and vocals) over a proto-psychobilly guitar riff, on "Come Back Baby," and the Jades, from the Oxboro label, throw the disc into overdrive with "Blue Black Hair." The Five Spots are a more traditional rockabilly outfit, fast tempos and pounding piano over a frenetic rhythm guitar while the drummer attacks the high-hat and the singer exhorts his would-be girlfriend to "Get With It." Frank Evans & the Topnotchers try for a more virtuoso-style, countrified approach and his vocal charisma nearly pulls off "Gotta Get Some Money," a close cousin to "Summertime Blues." "Make Love to Me" isn't quite as salacious as its title might lead one to expect -- Jack Scalese sings the postadenoidal lament, but producer Jack McFadden chose to emphasize the instrumental skills of Scalese's band, the Escorts; McFadden reversed himself on "Lucky Man," moving the singer forward in relation to the band, except for the prodigious lead guitar. Jack & the Knights don't sound like all that much, except for their drummer, whose attack on the skins almost overwhelms everyone but the singer and, on one break, the lead guitarist. The title track is the work of Pierre Maheu, who sang with a decided country twang -- the student lament went out from Glo Records credited to Ron and His Rattletones, whose ranks includes a sax and guitar. Slightly more effective is Billy Love's "I'll Find My Way," a pounding rocker with a call-and-response pattern to the vocal, between Love and a girl chorus. "Rockin' Country Fever" is a hybrid single, a rocking country number played and sung frantically by the Morris Brothers Band of Waynesborough, PA, who wind tighter with each chorus. Eddie Cash is one of a handful of singers here who resemble Elvis Presley vocally, no surprise in his case as he cut "Be My Baby" for Peak Records of Memphis, who clearly lacked Sam Phillips' luck at Sun. The delightfully named Danny & the Nitro-Tones cut the rock/novelty tune "International Whirl" -- a trip around the world girl by girl, set to a rocking beat -- for their own Nitro Records imprint. The Hazeltones featuring Paul Brody obviously listened a bit too much to "Heartbreak Hotel" before doing "I'm Just a Fool." Bob and the Bandits, by contrast, sound a lot like a cross between the Crickets featuring Buddy Holly, and the Bobby Fuller Four -- whatever happened them, or to Bob Reinhardt, or to Loki Records, is anyone's guess, but "I'm Gonna Stop Cryin'" is one of the highlights of the Buffalo Bop library; ditto the raw yet surprisingly sophisticated "Toe to Toe" by Frankie Mann and the Meteors; and John Sowell's "So Help Me Hannah," issued by Citation Records of Boston, MA, should probably have been on Robert Gordon's listening list in the 1970s. Jimmy Collins' rhythm guitar- and sax-heavy rocker "Just One More Time," from the J&S label from Lord-knows-where, sounds a bit like a lost Andy Starr track, while the Lancers' "My Little Girl," issued by Panther Records, kicks the beat into overdrive, a frantic, screaming rockabilly number with slashing guitars that sound several decades early in their arrival. The Spekulations, who evidently hailed from somewhere around Charlotte, NC, and recorded their "Hulu Hoop" at Arthur Smith Studios there, keep the beat frantic, even if the playing and singing is a bit sloppier and closer to garage punk than classic rockabilly. "Proof of Your Love" has an ominous, repetitive quality that gives it a dark, Gene Vincent-like tone, whereas Jim White and the Kingsmen sound like the reincarnation of Buddy Holly & the Crickets on "Teenage Doll," cut in Fort Smith, AR, by UBC Records -- one hopes the singer and guitarist made it somewhere, because they had the Crickets' sound down about as well as anyone this side of Bobby Fuller. Precisely who Arbis Hanyel was is anyone's guess -- that he sang with a dirty old man's leer is amply represented on the raunchy "Roadhouse Rock," which comes from way, way back in hillbilly territory; with a few changes, this could've been a Trumpet Records blues release. Speaking of which, "Cranberry Blues" is an entertaining piece of hillbilly nonsense with a high-wattage guitar break, courtesy of Robert Williams & the Groovers on the Tip-Top label. The frenetic "Bop 'n' Stroll" is from even further back in country territory, Aubrey Cagle looking to be more of Hank Snow's generation than Elvis Presley's. The Tradewinds sax- and rhythm-heavy "Wildwood Twist" is built on a catchy repetitive riff that makes it perfect as an under-two-minute dance number. One wonders what county south of the Mason-Dixon Line Pierre Simoncini came from, but he's got the lean, dark side of country cum rockabilly down right, in the obvious country adaptation "Buddy Went a-Courtin'." Ken Carlisle is a little too poppish for this collection, "I'm Just Walkin' in the Rain" sounding like a solid post-1960 Elvis number, rather than emulating the King's stripped-down Memphis originals, but he had charisma that makes it worth hearing. "The Long Blond Curls" is a nicely lusty rocker with a leisurely beat and a powerful lead vocal by Joey Rand and an economical but reasonably exciting guitar break. And it all ends on "Tears," a pumped-up country-based ballad with a too-slow beat from a less-than-perfect master by Hank Englund & the Ship-Mates. Apart from the last track, everything on this CD is in very good sonic shape -- as usual with Buffalo Bop's releases, there is no release information on any of the artists, but as is also usual for this label, more than a decade into their history, the quality of the music is strong enough to carry the release.

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