Thursday, August 22, 2013

Stray Cats - Rant N' Rave with the Stray Cats

Today (August 22nd) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Rant N’ Rave with the Stray Cats, the third studio album from rockabilly band from Massapequa, New York. This one from Brian Setzer, Lee Rocker and Slim Jim Phantom charted at number 51 in the UK and number 14 on the US Billboard 200 Album chart.

Side one opens with the declaration “Rebels Rule”. The album hits the road running with an engine rev and a rebellious teen attitude, all backed by the band's rockabilly sound. As the first single, it charted number 90 in the UK.

“Too Hip, Gotta Go” is all about coming to the realization that a relationship is not working out and bailing.

“Look at That Cadillac”, the last single, peaked at number 68 on the US Billboard Hot 100. It pays tribute to the fine craftsmanship behind an American automobile brand that came to signify luxury even from its earliest days in the 20th Century. As the song intones, it was something many people aspired to own someday. The song features a searing saxophone solo from Mel Collins at the bridge.

“Something Wrong With My Radio” reflects upon that age-old divide that existed between youth and the older generation when it came to musical taste. I like to think that, as a parent, I was able to bridge some of that gap with my son. There is some stuff on my iPod that he likes and vice-versa. By the same token, we each have our musical lines that we don't like to cross (for him it is most pop stuff prior to 1980 and for me it is techo styles like dub-step).

“18 Miles to Memphis”, with its driving beat, is a solid road-trip tune. The music mirrors the sound of tires barreling down the highway.

Side two starts with “(She’s) Sexy + 17”. As the second single, it charted at number 29 in the UK, number 5 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 2 on the US Mainstream Rock chart. This one was a huge dance hit at parties and clubs during my freshman year at college. With its infectious, up-tempo rhythms and energy, it was impossible to sit still whenever it came on. We all would chant along with Setzer when it came to the chorus.

“Dig Dirty Doggie” reminds me a little bit, musically, to Bill Haley and the Comets' "Rock Around the Clock" in parts. Setzer does deliver a fun guitar solo here though.

Released as the third single, “I Won’t Stand In Your Way” charted at number 35 on the US Billboard Hot 100. After all the up-tempo tunes, I like that the guys slow things down with this from-the-heart ballad about a guy who is willing to give up his love so that she can be happy with someone else. David Thurmond and Russell Fox II provide backing vocals to give this one a doo-wop sound.

“Hot Rod Gang” celebrates the fraternal brotherhood among boys who love their automotive toys.

The album closes off with the question "How Long You Wanna Live, Anyway?". The song is about living life in the moment, not worrying about the vices that have been adopted and any long term ramifications in the future.

I had become an instant fan of the Stray Cats in late 1982 thanks to their Built For Speed compilation (click here for that review). Given some hits from here, I am not really sure why I never picked up Rant N' Rave with the Stray Cats on vinyl as well in 1983. I would guess it was purely a financial decision (only so much cash to spend while in college on music). To this day, I still enjoy the band's sound and even carried that over into the 90's with the Brian Setzer Orchestra. If you love original tunes done in the old style of rockabilly and early days of rock 'n' roll, this is one you should check into.

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