I'm Ready, Flea Bops
And here it is, the first full-length release from Flea Bops on Vinylux. It's been a long time coming and it's just what the fans of this rockabilly combo have been longing for. Flea Bops bring everything to the plate and show why they are held in such high regard for their rockin' beat and dead-on traditional sound. The production is downright simple: straight to tape with no tricks or gadgets. Just real instruments played in real time, a true representation of Flea Bops' styling.
Flea Bops hail from Southern Maryland and have been together since 1992. Previous releases are: "Good Time Woman" b/w "I'm Ready" (45 rpm, Vinylux V0003, 1999) and "Baby Let's Play House" on the compilation CD "Night of 100 Elvises" (HFM 009, 1999). Of course Vinylux is no stranger anymore among thousands of rockabilly fans. It was Vinylux who issued the (already) legenday CD "Let's Hear It Once Again For...Go Cat Go". Vinylux has been in business since 1995 with the intention of bringing you great traditional music. And with this new Flea Bops release, Vinylux have succeeded again...
The best rockabilly platters are usually those with the right mix of strong original material and some good covers. This certainly is such an album with nine originals, eight of which were written by singer Ronnie Joyner.
The opener is Willie Dixon's "I'm Ready", one of the few covers, and released before on 45 (Vinylux V0003). A good opening choice, because if you have heard the 45, it gives so a kind of familiar start to this rockabilly journey. "Who's That Knocking" is the first of a whole bunch of Ronnie Joyner songs, which immediatly show the man's songwriting capabilities. Cream of the crops. "Heart's On Fire" is an original in every which way you listen to it, a fabulous mix of catchy guitar in(s)tros and a driving rhythm. An ode to the master of authentic rockabilly, Carl Perkins, is presented with a excellent cover of "You Can Do No Wrong". The Flea Bops actually have the abillity to add that certain something to the old favourites.
"So Long, farewell, Goodbye", another one of Ronnie's selfpenned originals, gives you a sad feeling, as if it was you who just lost your love. Good songwriting, a Paul Burlison kinda lead guitar and a sad singing voice makes this one a classic that would fit right in on a Burnette Trio compilation. "What's She Gonna Do?" brings up the blues in rockabilly, the way Charlie Feathers did, excellence thru simplicity. Jerry Reed's "I've Had Enough", with it's distinctive guitar riffs and country feel is one more lesson in how to greatly cover old music. The same goes for the George Jones song "Rock It", sung by Wendy LeBeau. The female voice on a well known male song gives it a great new dimension.
The bluesy "Believe In Me" is as close as you get to a ballad on this CD, but it's still rockabilly, although at a slower pace. Definitly a song with a Burnette Brothers' atmosphere. "Tears Today, Gone Tomorrow" shows perfectly that Ronnie's selfpenned songs have great variety, not one song sounds like the other, but all are written with deep respect for authentic rockabilly.
"Good Time Woman" was the a-side of the Flea Bops' first 45 and it convinced me, first time I heard it, that this band is sure to do well on the rockabilly scene. Sleepy LaBeef's "Little Bit More" is another example of what a female voice (yes, Wendy again) can do to an old classic.
Since it is obvious that The Johnny Burnette Trio was one of the band's favourite rockabilly bands, it's not very strange to also find a Burnette classic on this album, "You're Undecided" is authenticly performed, the way Johnny would have appreciated it. "Hey Little Honey" is the only original here that was not written bij Ronnie Joyner. Lance LeBeau shows that he too can write a good song and Wendy's raving slap bass is really as good as it gets. Last but not least, the closing song, titled "Train Of Love" is of the same supreme quality as everything else on this rockabilly goldmine.
No, I have no affiliation with Vinylux or the Flea Bops. I just love what I hear thundering through my living room right now. Take some Carl Perkins, Charlie Feathers and Johnny Horton, mix it it all with a large dose of Johnny Burnette Trio, record it in a traditional way, direct to tape, and what you get is this: Flea Bops! This is the full length debut of a band we will sure hear from again the near future. Surely, they made it very difficult for themselves to top this release in a follow up, but having experienced the quality of this band, I have great faith in what is to come. For now; this one is for us boppers, so LET'S BOP!
The Flea Bops are:
Vinylux Records, Inc.
Reviewed by The BlackCat, 2000