14 songs; 43:40 minutes; Meritable
Styles: Rockabilly, Rock and Roll, Jazz, Jump Blues
How is album cover art related to the music contained in the CD? No simple answer to that one is there? When the cover is a cartoon of a rowdy bar scene with patrons ranging from passed-out-on-the-bar to gorgeous hunk with admiring babes to a jumping lunatic in a straight-jacket, well.... you just know this has got to be a fun album. Fun – especially with a name like The Gas House Gorillas.
Based in Brooklyn, New York City, GHG is Rick Fink (vocals), Dan Hickey (drums), Hiro Suzuki (big Gretsch guitar), Crusher Carmean (aluminum chrome upright bass), Tim Veeder (Sax). With a killer voice, Rick Fink (after successfully fronting rock bands for years) found his true calling when he formed the Gas House Gorillas. His song writing skills and boundless high energy blur the lines that separate Jump Blues, Rock, and Swing, creating a mixture of American music.
Their main website reveals the origin of their name, “As Bugs Bunny fans may recall, the Gas House Gorillas were the team of Brooklyn mugs the ‘wascally wabbit’ was up against in the 1946 classic ‘Baseball Bugs.’”
Both of their websites emphasize their live shows, “At a Gas House Gorillas' show the crowd plays just as important a role as the musicians on stage. Whether singing along, cutting a rug, or adding their two cents to the between song banter, this kind of interaction is what makes a Gorillas' show great.” Many songs on this, their second album try to capture some of that performed-live-donnybrook.
The CD kicks off with Wynonie Harris’s “All She Wants To do Is Rock,” and it is sung just as suggestively as the hucklebucking original. Saxophone leading the way, balls out vocals, background vocal accents, mid song solos by sax and smoking guitar, bass popping, drums kicking – simply put it is Rock and Roll heaven.
The second number is a complete change. Original tune “Queen of the Night” is a jazz inflected stunner. While the guitar and bass flow, the real showcase is Tim Veeder’s creative sax floating over, under, around and through the vocals.
“Where Did Harlem Go?” is a 1:33 minute upbeat rip replete with scat, whistle, some vocals through a harp mic, and a bass/drum rhythm show. The fun is pumping now.
“Kidney Stew” is a great smooth-groove cover of Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson blues. “Memories Of You” slows the pace for dancers looking for a tight embrace. Blending pop with a gentle swing, the song is reminiscent of classic songs of early rock and roll. Hiro Suzuki gets an amazing organ-like sound from his guitar.
For 80 seconds, you may think you have blown your speaker woofers as “Everyone Says I Love You” plays. Sounding like a wavering-speed 78 rpm record, Fink sings a 1920s-esque, Betty Boop sounding humorous love parody ala Groucho Marx. It immediately gives way to wild bass string popping on “Nine Lives.” Hold on because this Rockabilly snapper is completely over the top in the vein of the best Stray Cats energy explosion of vocals, guitar, and, in this case, saxophone.
The closing number, “Burglar in the House of Love,” leaves us rocking with more of the instantly likeable singing of clever lyrics, great guitar, sax and rhythm that make this album a fun trip to retro-ville 50s – 60s Rock and Roll where most baby-boomer blues fans began. Only one thing left to do, see these guys live!
Reviewer James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard each Thursday from 4:30 – 6:00pm on WKCC 91.1 FM in Kankakee, IL