Rodney & the Blazers

The Complete Recordings, 1960-1964

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This first-ever Rodney & the Blazers CD collects every surviving recording from the now-obscure Kansas rock & roll combo led by Rodney Lay, Jr.. The band was pure rock & roll mayhem, and their music serves as a great window into the shifting commercial whims of the times, when the hit record meant everything (and when "record" meant the 45 rpm single), and getting a hit record meant trying your hand at any number of styles and novelties. The band dipped its hand into numerous jars over the course of a dozen or so singles, from rock covers and Gershwin adaptations to a plethora of pretty wonderful self-penned originals. Their first single, the prom-dance ballad "Teenage Cinderella," hit number one in numerous major cities around the country, and probably should have been an even bigger national hit, while the jaunty comic-book ode "Little Orphan Annie" is a mixture of the Big Bopper, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Sam the Sham. On the novelty side, "Warpaint," naturally, is a goofy but fun Native American rock instrumental, and "Oriental Nightmare" incorporates gong crashes and dual Asian-like guitar lines. They cover two Larry Williams' classics in "Short Fat Fannie" and "Boney Maroney," but of even more historical importance, the band's take on the old Joe Jones tune, "California Sun," is virtually identical to the Top Five nationwide smash the Rivieras had with the song later in 1964. It is no coincidence. In fact, the Rivieras hit version was a direct copy of the Rodney & the Blazers version down to the exact arrangement. The Blazers also nicked bits from Buddy Holly (the old rockabilly tune, "Tell Me Baby"), Ricky Nelson ("It's All Over but the Cryin'"), the Everly Brothers ("Blue School"), and the Coasters, but there is plenty of individual charisma in their music. As early rock & roll obscurities go, Rodney & the Blazers are very much underappreciated, and as anthologies go, The Complete Recordings, 1960-1964 is a definitive representation worthy of them.

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