Rockin’ Rollin’ Robbins by Marty Robbins

March 15, 2011

Marty Robbins is best remembered for being one of the most popular country artists of all time. During his career, beginning in 1952 and lasting until his untimely death at the age of 57 during 1982, he placed over 90 singles and 30 albums on The United States Country Charts. Fourteen of his singles reached number one and fourteen of his albums cracked the top 10.

He also crossed over onto the pop charts on a number of occasions. Songs such as his number one hit “El Paso,” plus “A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation),” “Singing The Blues,” “Don’t Worry,” and “Big Iron” all became big hits on the Billboard Magazine Pop Singles Chart. His series of Gunfighter Ballad albums also crossed over onto the pop album charts.

He was also a successful driver on the NASCAR circuit in his spare time. He participated in 35 races including the 1973 Daytona 500.

Rockin’ Rollin’ Robbins takes his music in a different direction. It does not contain any of his biggest hits, but instead concentrates upon his rockabilly oriented material, issued between 1953-1958. It was a well thought out release as it presents material that is usually ignored. My only real complaint is I wish the songs had been presented in chronological order.

“It’s A Long Long Ride” is the oldest track having been recorded September 19, 1953. Johnny Gamble’s fiddle may place the song in the country style, but it is a raw effort that comes close to early rock ‘n’ roll.

A number of classic early rock tunes were covered by Robbins. Arthur Crudup’s “That’s All Right” and Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline” (spelled wrong on the album and his original release} are rockabilly personified. He had a top 30 hit with his version of “Singing The Blues,” but Guy Mitchell would top the singles charts for 10 weeks with his pop version. I have always preferred Robbins take on the song. He also rocks out on the classic “Long Tall Sally.”

He also proved he could write good songs during this early period of his career. Tunes such as “Mister Teardrop,” “Respectfully Miss Brooks,” “Pretty Mama,” “Pain And Misery,” and “Mean Mama Blues” are all nice to have available.

Rockin’ Rollin’ Robbins would make an excellent addition to the collection of any Marty Robbins fan. While he would quickly go in a pop direction and then on to a long country career, which would lead to his induction into the Country Music Hall Of Fame, at this point he was producing music that helped to shape early rock ‘n’ roll. The album not only contains 19 tracks of good music, but is a nice look at the history and evolution of fifties music.

Article first published as Music Review: Marty Robbins – Rockin’ Rollin’ Robbins on Blogcritics.

Big Iron 45 by Marty Robbins

January 25, 2011

Marty Robbins had a number of pop/country hits during the mid to late 1950’s but it was his volumes of GUNFIGHTER BALLADS that enabled him to become one of the leading country artists of the sixties and seventies. Many of his single releases at the time continued to cross over to the pop charts making him a rare country artist to consistantly cross over.

His western songs all told stories. One of the best was “Big Iron” which told the tale of an Arizona Ranger engaged in a gunfight with outlaw Texas Red. It was released March 14, 1960 and was the follow-up to his number one pop hit “El Paso.” It reached number 26 on the pop charts and number five on the country charts.

Marty Robbins would pass away during 1982 at the age of 57 from a heart attack leaving behind a wonderful early country legacy.

My Top Ten Albums Of 1960 by David Bowling

January 2, 2011

In the spirit of last year’s top ten albums of 1959, here are my personal top ten albums of fifty years ago.

1960 was not the best year in music history. Part of the problem today is we know what would follow during the rest of the decade, and it would make many of the early sixties album releases pale in comparison. Some of the number one albums of the year were by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Billy Vaughan, Bob Newhart, Enoch Light, Bert Kaempfert, and The Sound Of Music Broadway Cast; none of whom made my list. On the positive side The Kingston Trio and Elvis Presley also topped the charts, although the first are a little dated today and Elvis’ G.I. Blues, while not a bad soundtrack, was not the equal of his studio work.

Still, there were some gems to be found fifty years ago and they are still enjoyable today.

10) Rockin’ At The Hops by Chuck Berry

This studio album by Chuck Berry does not contain any of his bigger or well known hits, which forms part of its charm. Chuck Berry released a lot of material during this part of his career that has slipped under the radar. Here we find “Bye Bye Johnny,” “Too Pooped To Pop,” “Let It Rock,” and “Childhood Sweetheart” which is not bad. It remains a good album to explore the Chuck Berry legacy a little deeper.

9) More Gunfighter Ballads by Marty Robbins.

Robbins’ first album in his Gunfighter series topped my 1959 list last year. This second in the series may be a little weaker overall, due to the fact it does not contain any big hits such as “El Paso” or “Big Iron.” What is there is a very consistent country/pop release that would help cement his popularity. Story songs such as “Five Brothers,” “Ride Cowboy Ride,” “Prairie Fire,” and “The Streets Of Laredo” are a nice ride through the old American west.

8) The Joan Baez Album by Joan Baez

Joan Baez was an important part of the American folk revival of the early 1960s. Her debut album was comprised of traditional folk songs which may sound a little dated today, but it made an impact in its time. What makes the album memorable is the tone and clarity of her voice, which was and is still mesmerizing. The album remains an American folk history lesson.

7) Teensville by Chet Atkins

The album was created and titled to make Chet Atkins more appealing to the young rock generation. Such songs as “Django’s Castle,” “Oh Lonesome Me,” “ White Silver Sands,” and “Hot Toddy” were not rock but they did prove popular with the album reaching number 16 on The American Pop Charts. What the album has going for it are some of the best performances by one of the supreme guitarists of the 20th century. This is one of the Chet Atkins albums that remain a guitar clinic.

6) The Incredible Jazz Guitar Of Wes Montgomery by Wes Montgomery

Wes Montgomery was one of the few guitarists of the era who could match Chet Atkins note for note, even though the notes were vastly different. This album catches Montgomery at the height of his career. If you want a crash course in the history of the jazz guitar, it all flows through this 1960 release.

5) The Eddie Cochran Memorial Album by Eddie Cochran

This album was originally released a few weeks before Cochran’s fatal car accident under the title 12 Of His Biggest Hits. It was reissued a month later under its well known title. The album was comprised of a number of his single releases. His death cut short the career of one of the true, early rock ‘n’ rollers. Songs such as “Sitting In The Balcony,” “Something Else,” “C’mon Everybody,” and especially “Summertime Blues” with one of the great guitar lines in rock history, are all worth the price of this gem.

4) At Newport 1960 by Muddy Waters

Muddy Waters live was a far different animal than in the studio during the late fifties and early sixties. His appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1960, with pianist Otis Spann in tow, has the raw appeal and energy of his old 78s, which is how the blues should be heard. Muddy Waters helped to electrify the blues and here he is at his best.

3) Have Guitar, Will Travel by Bo Diddley

Just about any album by Bo Diddley is worth a listen as he was as good as even he thought he was. Have Guitar, Will Travel was one of three albums he released during a very prolific 12 month period. They are more rock than blues, but come close to an early fusion sound. Tracks such as “She’s Alright,” “Mumblin’ Guitar,” “Run Diddley Daddy,” and “Cops & Robbers” help make for a quick 32 minutes of listening enjoyment. Willie Dixon on bass is an added bonus.

2) His Hand In Mine by Elvis Presley

G.I. Blues was good and Elvis Is Back just missed my top ten, but when Elvis sang gospel, it was always memorable. Elvis may have cruised through some of his recording sessions at times but when he ventured into gospel, he meant it. Songs such as “His Hand In Mine,” “Joshua Fit The Battle,” “Swing Down Sweet Chariot,” and “I Believe In The Man In The Sky” are still worth a listen today. “Surrender” and “Crying In The Chapel” were also recorded but left off the original release for use as singles. They would have made an excellent album stronger.

1) Brenda Lee by Brenda Lee

If you want to know why Brenda Lee is in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, The Country Music Hall Of Fame, and The Rockabilly Hall Of Fame, just check out this album. “Dynamite” and “Jambalaya” are rockabilly at its best. Top ten hits “Sweet Nothin’s,” “That’s All You Gotta Do,” and the number one “I’m Sorry” present a different side to her music. Add in the likes of “Wee Wee Willies,” “Weep No More Baby,” and “Let’s Jump The Broomstick” and you have the best album of the year.

Article first published as My Top Ten Albums Of 1960 on Blogcritics.

Legendary Performances DVD by Marty Robbins

May 9, 2009

I always smile when I hear a Marty Robbins song. My parents and grandparents played his Gunfighter album series over and over again when I was a pre-teen. While I would travel in a rock ‘n’ roll direction as a teenager, I can still remember the words to a number of his songs over 45 years later.

Marty Robbins was a smooth country singer whose songs often crossed over onto the pop charts. His song, “El Paso,” would be the first country song to win a Grammy Award and become a number one hit on the pop charts. He would record sixteen number one country hits and seven top twenty pop hits during the course of his career. Robbins was named the country artist of the decade (1960-1969). He would die at the age of 57 in 1982.

This Legendary Performances DVD gathers 15 of his live performances from 1957 to 1979 and presents them in chronological order. The picture quality on some of the early performances from the late 1950s and 1960s is average which is expected given the state of the recording process and equipment at that time. Still they present a young Marty Robbins at the height of his popularity.

The oldest performances are taken from the syndicated show, Country Style USA. The hit song, “Knee Deep In The Blues,” and the honky tonk style tune, “The Same Two Lips,” feature the excellent guitar work of Jack Pruett who would remain with Robbins until his death in 1982.

One of the highlights is a 1959 performance of the hit song, “The Story Of My Life” which was an early Hal David-Burt Bacharach composition. The background singers and whistlers are future country superstars Tompall Glaser and his brothers.

Other highlights include a sensitive 1970 performance of “My Woman, My Woman, My Wife” and a 1977 rendition of his 1957 prom anthem, “A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation)”

There are two bonus extras on the DVD. His induction into the Country Music Hall Of Fame is nice but ultimately forgettable. What is interesting is an extended interview from March of 1982 which is about nine months before his death. Robbins talks about his singing career and love of racing. He would actually race in the Daytona 500.

If you are a country music fan the archival footage is interesting and has rarely if ever been released. If you are also a Marty Robbins fan this DVD is essential as it presents a legendary country artist over the course of his career.