Two records do not a revival make but no dedicated fan of rockabilly could help but notice that there's recently been a flurry of interest in the genre whose one brief moment of glory came at the end of the '50s. The Rumour's "Max" and Robert Gordon's "With Link Wray" are thus merely the latest reminders that the rockabilly sound, an appealing blues and country bybrid with strong Southern roots, is something more than a relic of the era of duck - tail haircuts and fins on cars.
The center of this rockabilly renaissance has been England - where stars such as Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran and Carl Perkins retained following even after they had faded from the scene in the United States. That doesn't necessarily mean, though, that everyone is doing right by the style. From Great Britain this year have come both the best neo-rockabilly album ever made, Dave Edmunds' "Get It" (Swan Song SS 8416), and one of the worst, Denny Laine and Paul McCartney's "Holly Days" (Capitol ST - 11588).
Happily, however, The Rumour's "Max" (Mercury SRM-1-1174) has more in common with the Edmunds effort than with Laine and McCartney's self - indulgent tribute to Buddy Holly. The two albums were recorded at the same studio and several members of The Rumour, veterans of the British pub - rock scene who now spend most of their time backing singer Graham Parker, even played on the Edmunds record. Though not as celebrated as Paul McCartney - who now owns the publishing rights to Buddy Holly's songs - Edmunds and The Rumour have been the most important forces in the revitalization of rockabilly.
Yet major differences in approach give the two acts distinct identities: While Edmunds is seeking to revive both the styles and the songs of the rockabilly era, The Rumour has attempted on "Max" to graft the rockabilly sound onto its own compositions. Brinsley Schwarz, The Rumour's lead guitarist and a former member, with Rumour keyboard player Bob Andrews, of a group that bore his name, is especially adept at lifting classic rockabilly guitar licks and defty fitting them into original tunes.
In that respect he very much resembles Robbie Robertson of The Band, whose high - pitched guitar style, like Schwarz's derives largely from rockabilly guitar greats such as James Burton and Roy Buchanan. Mixed in woogie and rhythm 'n' blues that are The Rumour's other sources of inspiration these piercing guitar solos make for incredibly vibrant and potent music. Not since The Band, in fact, has any rock 'n' roll group been so skilled at fusing with its own vision these traditional rock elements.
But The Rumour also proves remarkably capable of reworking jazz and soul tunes into rock 'n' roll form. Their version of Duke Ellington's "Do Nothing 'Till You Hear From Me," done as Huey "Piano" Smith might have done it 20 years ago, is startlingly different from any of the hundred or so other renditions of that swing era standard, and to Stevie Wonder's "I Wanna Make Her Love Me" they bring a welcome bit of twangy country guitar picking.
Robert Gordon, on the other hand, is more of a rockabilly purist. Born and raised in the Washington area, where he grew up listening to local favorites Link Wray and Roy Buchanan, he like Dave Edmunds, attempts mostly to revive specific songs and recreate the styles of specific artists of the late '50s: Eddie Cochran on "Summertime Blues" and Billy Lee Riley on Flyin' Saucers Rock 'n' Roll," for example.
As the title "With Link Wray" (Private Stock PS 2030) indicates, he gets considerable help from the man who wrote and recorded "Rumble," one of the best - known rockabilly guitar instrumentals. Wray plays frantically on "Flying Saucers" and "Red Hot" and sweetly and movingly on "Is This The Way," adapting his guitar style to the vocal style the amazingly flexible Gordon chooses on each tune.