April 2015

After March’s far flung ventures, April sees Fantastic Voyage uncover a more concentrated set of explorations. Both physical releases convey resurrection, and both are driven by the fervid and fatally obsessed. Stranger Than Fiction: Rockabilly Rules Again amasses the efforts of a number of daring and dedicated labelheads who, in the midst of post-hippie languor and subcultural fragmentation, resuscitated the rougher stomp and clamour of rockabilly during the ’70s. The origins of some of those concerned are unlikely, considering the Americanised imagery commonly associated with the scene. RM/Record Mart, spotlighted on CD2, originated from Southend-on-Sea while Injun/Spade, our focus on the final disc, came out of Hassocks, Sussex. Although the remainder of the labels profiled come from the places perhaps more synonymous with rockabilly’s identity – Rollin’ Rock and Boogie-Boy in California, Rockin’ Stars in Virginia and Olympic in Michigan – the discoveries of each outlet constitute a united and cohesive run of Obscure ’50s Gems Revived in the ’70s. Decades elapse but the best records retain their spirit and energy and regardless of time and location, the figureheads of this revival remained committed to bringing them back for new audiences who more than matched their enthusiasm. Compiled by Dave Penny, the writer of a series of accompanying articles for Now Dig This, Stranger Than Fiction goes some way to proving that rockabilly, and its rule, never really went away.

Similarly engaged in an unwavering belief in primordial rock’n’roll and its more forbidden and neglected fruits, The Cramps retroactively plundered the past for their own ends but attained an originality and mythology all of their own. Look What The Cramps Dredged Up: Rock’n’Roll Pearls From The Big Beat Deep brings together the records that Lux Interior and Poison Ivy held dear, those which they themselves often manipulated into new, wildly contorted sounds. These originals go some way to chronicling the band’s deviant-teen philosophy as informed by the deeper cuts that rested within their extensive jukebox. Four sides of vinyl, compiled by Lucky Parker, it illustrates the roots of The Cramps’ sound in the work of luminaries like Cark Perkins, Ricky Nelson, Link Wray, Roy Orbison and Wanda Jackson. Rock’n’Roll Pearls, from jukebox to vinyl, no longer submerged.

In addition to our physical releases this month, we’re also offering a definitive gateway into rockabilly and uptempo R&B through our two volume, digital only compilation, Ultimate Rock’n’Roll. Including a who’s who of rock’n’roll hall of famers, the collection spans over a decade and brings together over 150 tracks into one convenient but extensive library.

Continuing in that vein of exhaustive collation, Ultimate Rhythm & Blues Hits Collection 1942-1945 – our other digital release for April – chronologically collects the hits from Billboards’ R&B chart, concentrating on the impact black artists had on the Rhythm & Blues styles of the period. The first chart was published in October 1942 and the timescale of this compilation coincides with the 1942-1944 American Federation Of Musicians strike, which affected the major US record companies, who either settled with the union (Decca and Capitol) or stockpiled new recordings ahead of the ban (later resorting to reissuing old recordings) or circumvented the terms of the strike by backing featured singers with vocal groups. A collection that’s historic in every sense. Watch out for further instalments in this fascinating series.