|That Be-Bop-A-Lula Cat, Gene Vincent
Virginia Records 357-1
Subtitled "Rare & Unreleased Recordings 1963 - '71" Virginia Records released this new gem on the verge of the 35th anniversary of Gene's death as a Limited Collectors Edition (only 500 copies pressed). Most of these tracks have been released before on vinyl LP, EP and singles. If you are a collector like me, you will probably have some (or many) of them stashed away in your vault, but Virginia Records has gone through great lenghts to restore and remaster these rare tracks. Keep in mind however, that most of 'em are still NOT CD quality by todays standards.
Some recordings have not been released before, like the rehearsal and concert in Lyon (France), tracks 3 to 12, and the live tracks from the Corral Club, tracks 28 and 29. I'm glad to see "Distant Drums" is included, which was previously only released on a 12-inch EP by Strange Fruit. This Jim Reeves cover is a very fine example of Gene's fantastic voice.
The CD is accompanied by a 16-page CD size booklet with all the info about the tracks and Gene's tourdates in the late 60s and early 70s. I leave you with the tracklisting and Press Release, which I think says it all. A last word of warning though, if you are not a Gene Vincent collector, or just starting, you are better off purchasing a "Greatest Hits" compilation. This CD contains only rare songs and interviews, recorded either live, in the studio or for radio shows, and the quality varies quite a bit.
This Collectors Item can be ordered directly from Trans Alpinus:
A little trivia from Keven Fennell: Well, I never knew that Gene Vincent had played at the Corral. That was quite a place. It was just a little roadhouse type joint up in the mountains off a bend in the road. Topanga Canyon is very rural and mountainous forest type country. A real hippie type area from the 60's, still is although what we call the McMansion type homes are there now too. Topanga Canyon Boulevard is the road from the San Fernando Valley (where I live). Through the Santa Monica mountains to the ocean. It's only about 20 miles from here to the ocean. The Corral was only minutes from the valley into the mountains but when you are up there you might as well be a million miles away. It was just a little bar with a stage but every now and then you would hear that Neil Young, John Mayall, Canned Heat, Joni Mitchell or somebody else would be playing and you could drive right up and walk right in. Of course this was back in the early 70's. After that I never went there but I remember in the 80's they were having local rock and punk bands there. The place eventually closed as all the old classic joints do because times change. I used to take Topanga a lot when I would be working in Santa Monica or the westside of L.A. to avoid the freeways and there would be the old Corral closed down. It looked like a construction company was using the place as a storage yard. Eventually it burned to the ground probably in the 80's or early 90's, not sure exactly. In it's day it was a cool place! -- Happy Holidays, Kevin -- Click
Gene Vincent. The name conjures up one of the most definitive images from the rock 'n' roll era: Gene looking upwards as if in a trance, his black gloved hands wrapped firmly around the mike, one knee bent and the cripled leg stretched. Dressed in black leathers, with a huge chain around his neck, singing 'Be Bop-A-Lula' with an otherworldliness that was both intimidating and enthralling at the same time.
To commemorate the 35th anniversary of his passing, Virginia Records is celebrating his legacy with this new release, titled 'Gene Vincent: That Be-Bop-A-Lula Cat!', which contains 78+ minutes of rare and unreleased recordings from his final years. Near the end, Gene was fighting a losing battle against his personal demons, and no doubt he realized that. One of the few things that remained a constant in those last years was his commitment to his music. In an interview recorded just weeks before his death, he told journalist David Simmons: "Now politically, business-wise, husband-wise, I might be a no-good son-of-a-gun, but there's one thing I can do - I know my music. Can't mess me up on it, baby. Try it!".
Highlights on 'That Be-Bop-A-Lula Cat!' include an unreleased rehearsal and concert in Lyon, France (09-28-67) as well as the never-before released songs 'Sunday Morning Coming Down' and 'Corrine, Corrina' from a June 1971 gig in California. He instills both songs with all the Gene Vincent characteristics, and 'Sunday Morning Coming Down' in particular is a moving performance. Much the same can be said about Gene's version of the Jim Reeves hit 'Distant Drums', an unrehearsed performance recorded less than a forthnight before his death.
"I'm a rock 'n' roller and I'll die a rock 'n' roller", Gene told Ronnie Weiser in '71, and perhaps that credo goes some way in explaining his continuing popularity. Unlike Elvis, he never went Hollywood, and unlike Jerry Lee, he never went country. He stuck to what he loved best - rock 'n' roll. He was one of the prototypes of the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, and was one of the first to pay the ultimate price, an early grave. Gene Vincent was one of the main inspirations behind the punk revolution, with bands like The Sex Pistols clearly being inspired by his fatalistic 'dying-for-the-art' attitude and lifestyle.
All 29 tracks on 'That Be-Bop-A Lula Cat!' were digitally remastered using the latest state-of-the-art technology, and even those tracks that have been released before now sound significantly better. The 16-page booklet contains a generous amount of unpublished photos and memorabilia, as well as detailed liner notes. Only 500 copies will be pressed, so 'That Be-Bop-A Lula Cat' is bound to become a true collectors item.
Saturday Club BBC Radio Show, Playhouse Theatre, London (U.K.), November 25th, 1963:
Rehearsal at Salle Rameau, Lyon (France), September 28th, 1967:
Recorded during the September / October 1967 French tour:
Recorded live at Salle Rameau, Lyon (France), September 28th, 1967:
Recorded on October 6th, 1967:
Demo Recordings, Salem, Oregon, May 14 & 15, 1969:
Dave Lee Travis BBC Radio Show, Maida Vale Studio 4, London (U.K.), November 16th, 1969:
San Francisco State College Folk Festival (U.S.A.), September 25th, 1970:
Top Gear BBC Radio Show, Playhouse Theatre, London (U.K.), January 25th, 1971:
All Our Yesterplays BBC Radio Show, Aeolian Hall 1 - Studio 2, London, February 3rd, 1971:
Recorded live at the Corral Club, Topanga Canyon, Ca. (U.S.A), June 6th, 1971:
Johnny Walker BBC Radio Show, Maida Vale Studio 4, London (U.K.), October 1st, 1971:
Reviewed by The BlackCat, 2006