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Any fan of Gene should own - as most of them probably do !! - a copy of this incredible CD put out in the States by Dragon Street Records (kudos to David Dennard !), and released in the UK by Rollercoaster Records (RCCD 3031). It collects most everything Gene & His Blue Caps cut in Dallas (either at his home or at the Sellers Company Recording Studios) in '57 & '58 and, as a bonus, adds four live recordings direct from the stage of the famous BIG 'D' JAMBOREE !!

You'll find the already known 'Lonesome Boy' and 'Lady Bug' but also various 'working' takes of 'Lotta Lovin' and 'In My Dreams'. There are two incomplete as well as unconvincing takes of 'Nervous' and two superb attempts at 'The Night Is So Lonely' (one of them featuring some real nice Everly Bros-type harmonizing). Of course, the real treats are the acoustic demo of 'In Love Again' (named 'My Love'), the wild 'Hey Mama' which later became 'Say Mama' (dig Ronnie Dawson's guitar break here !!) and Gene whistling a beautiful melody called 'On My Mind' against an acoustic guitar backing (the beginning reminds me a little bit of 'You Belong To Me').

Most of the remaining songs are demos of material Gene chose to record later on when in Hollywood, and believe me, they're worth a spin or two !! Darrell Glenn was a talented artist whose records on Valley ('Don't Let Me Down' V-107 from 1954) and NRC ('Congratulations To Me' NRC 004 in 1958) are longtime favorites of mine ; his own recording of 'Who's Pushin' Your Swing' features some biting guitar and a piano break which could be courtesy of Ray Stevens. Bob Kelly's demos of both 'Git It' and 'Somebody Help Me' are outstanding, with vocal arrangements already well in place. And I liked Grady Owen's countryish 'I Don't Feel Like Rockin' Tonight'.

Gene's reworking of 'Who's Pushin' Your Swing' was a beauty, with Clifton Simmons' piano and the saxes giving a more swinging feel to the song ; as for 'Git It', everybody should know that it's one of the high spots of his whole recording career with great playing from all involved (Bobby Jones's bass lines are terrific) and another wonderful contribution (vocal this time) from our beloved Eddie Cochran.

The packaging and photos are top class, the Shure microphone pic on the disc is nifty and Derek Henderson's precise liner notes are among the best ever written on Gene (don't miss his Gene Vincent discography : see my 'Web Faves' page to go to his excellent site).

Ah !! The good guys at Rollercoaster know that we still collect pieces of plastic and, frankly, such a release deserved a special vinyl edition. Well, it's out, in the form of a cool 10" LP titled 'Hey Mama!' (ROLL 2021) which will blow your mind !! It contains 11 out of the 21 tracks on the CD. And there's also a 4-track EP culled from the CD (RCEP 123) ... if you still have a few 'euros' left to buy it !!!

The word is out now : more Texas sides by Gene & The Caps have been discovered and might appear in the not-too-distant future, although this CD will delight us for quite a while. It should also be noted that it was the first release in a series entitled 'Legends From The Big D Jamboree'; two more volumes have been put out by Dragon Street Records : Johnny Dollar 'Mr. Action Packed' (DCD 70298) and the late 'Groovey' Joe Poovey 'Greatest Grooves' (DCD 70199) [soon to be reviewed here].

The Big D Jamboree CD from Japan.

While on the subject and to end in fine fashion, let me remind you to grab a copy of the stupendous Japanese CD issue of the 'Big D Jamboree' LP first put out by SunJay Records (SJLP 588), made in 1994 by Go Cat Go Records (TECX 25750). This brilliant compilation contains the aforementioned versions of 'Lonesome Boy' and 'Lady Bug' by Gene, several tracks by the late Johnny Carroll (his take on 'Lonesome Boy' and a very good 'Be Bop A Lula Is Back On The Scene' among others), a handful of songs by another underrated singer, Mitchell Torok ('A Few More Memories' and the Johnny Horton-influenced 'Ruby Lee' for example), and exciting stuff from Jay Hawkins, Guy Parnell, Eddie Mc Duff ('Your Axle's Draggin', 'Convince Me'...), Ronnie Dee and Billy Jack Hale whose 'Move Over Buddy' is a terrific guitar rocker and whose 'Keep Me In Your Heart' is a really fine '50s rockaballad in the Gene Vincent/Tommy Sands bag (even sounds a bit like Orville Couch on his Action single).

© Paul Vidal * Privas, France * 1998/1999