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Various Artists

The Return of Rockabilly – 1999 (Beloved Recordings)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

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A mixed bag of styles on this collection of mostly current acts (Mac Curtis' "Are You Ready to Rumble" is the sole contribution from an old-timer), primarily focusing on psychobilly and neo-rockabilly, with little or no traditional fare to be found. As usual, there are a couple of great tracks, most are fair-to-middling, and a few are downright awful.

Coming off particularly well is the Bill Haley-influenced UK-based band the Big Six, who turn in two songs from their second album, "We the Boys Will Rock Ya" and "Hey Hey We're Gonna Rock It." Also faring well is another British band, the Space Cadets, with "We're Gonna Rock Rock Rock." The North Carolina-based Belmont Playboys also do themselves credit with "Have Wheels Gotta Roll" and "Runnin' Wild." Finally, also worth mentioning are two British vets from the neo-rockabilly scene of the early '80's, Restless and the Polecats (the latter best remembered for their minor hit "Make a Circuit With Me"), both of whom are still at it nearly 20 years later.

Almost unlistenable, however, is the Amazing Crowns' semi-hit "Do the Devil," a ska/rockabilly hybrid that mines just about every ska clich+ imaginable. As tough as it sounds to come up with a song that's an embarrassment to two such wildly different genres, the Crowns have nonetheless managed to pull it off.

Better rockabilly collections certainly exist, though this probably serves a useful purpose as a primer of the modern US and European scenes. The inclusion of a few more traditional-sounding acts would have made for a more balanced collection. (1621 E. Livingston St., Orlando, FL 32803-5518, 407-894-8596)