|Settin' The Woods On Fire, Matchbox
Raucous Records, RAUCD 081
When Howard wrote to me last week that he had sent me his new Matchbox CD, asking me if I could review it, I was wondering what he had come up with this time. Just last year he had released the memorable "Rockabilly Rebel" CD and I know that Howard Raucous is pretty good in gathering collectables from the 70s and 80s for re-release. When I found the package in my mailbox this morning I was both surprised and excited to find that it was a re-release of "Settin' The Woods On Fire", first issued on Chiswick/Ace in 1978.
Most people I know arguably remember Matchbox' first LP "Riders In The Sky" (Rockhouse, 1976) as their best LP. That LP was certainly the most authentic of all Matchbox releases. Everyone also seems to remember their third LP (just titled "Matchbox") very well, and some even think that this was their first LP, because the band made it big time with this platter, which contains their hits "Rockabilly Rebel" and "Buzz, Buzz A Diddle It".
Hardcore rockers and teddy boys will certainly know that the second Matchbox LP was "Settin' The Woods On Fire" and Raucous Records found that it was worth a re-release. I couldn't agree more! This music sure brings back memories, I can hardly believe that this music is 22 years old already. This LP was the change over from authentic rockabilly on their first album to the more commercial poppy sound of the third LP. And we all know that Matchbox continued that commercial angle on their later issues. "Midnight Dynamos" was still a pretty good LP, but I guess no-one has "Flying Colours" or "Crossed Line" on their list of favorites.
So, because of all that, and because it's just plain good music, "Settin' The Woods On Fire" is a milestone in European rock 'n' roll and rockabilly music. This is the album that contains the fabulous "Gunning For The Dog". Remember that one? Well, let me tell you, it gave me shivers down my spine 20 years ago, and it still does today. This is what rock 'n' roll is all about!
I'm glad Raucous did not remix the music or make any changes to the layout of the album cover. This new CD contains all the untainted recordings from the original LP. No more, no less. The inlay contains both the original front and back cover too. If you own the original LP, and if it is still in a good state, this release will not add anything to your collection. But I'm pretty sure that many rock 'n' roll fans missed out on this LP in the 70s, and if so I would suggest a visit to Howard's website.
During 1978 and 1979, Matchbox had a few changes in their line up. On their first LP it was Wiffle Smith doing the vocals, but on "Settin' The Woods On Fire" he was replaced by Graham Fenton, the voice that took Matchbox into the hitparade a year later. On the first, but (luckily for you) also on this second album, you can enjoy the one and only tattooed sledgehammer of rock 'n' roll, Bob Burgos, hitting the skins. Bob was succeeded by Jimmy Redhead by the time of the "Rockabilly Rebel" recordings. And of course there is Fred Poke's steady bass line and Steve Bloomfield's guitar wizardry.
Let's look at this line-up again:
Let's rock and roll! The album hits off with Hank Williams' country classic "Settin' The Woods On Fire", but this is definitly not country music :) followed by "Feel So Bad", written by Steve and Bob, with some real gone mandolin picking by Steve. "Put The Blame On Me" should have been a classic, and maybe it is just that. Steve sure recognised that, because he re-recorded the song on the recent Matchbox CD "Coming Home". "Who Can I Count On" was also released on the 1981 UK compilation "Shake It". Next is the ever great "Gunning For The Dog", superb driving bass and drums, snearing lead guitar instro, awesome lyrics too, my all time Matchbox favourite, turn your volume to MAX on this one.
"My Love, My Life" is a rock 'n' roll ballad, as if it were from the King himself, sung by Graham with a beautiful dark echoed voice. Next is the Lloyd 'Cowboy' Copas classic "Circle Rock", the best cover version I ever heard, fast paced and sure to rock your socks off. "Troublesome Bay", with its great backing harmonie, was the song that we all sang along too at the record hop in those days and "Let's Start All Over Again" is a love song (great lyrics) to a rocking beat, followed by Gene Vincent's all time classic "Cruisin", with Fred Poke walking his electric strings like wild, make sure you turn up the bass! "While I'm Away" is, again, a great boppin' love song and the album closes with "Nightfall", the only instrumental on this platter, with Steve Bloomfield switching to steel guitar.
I can only repeat what I wrote before, if you don't already have this classic album in your collection, now is the time to finally get it!
Reviewed by The BlackCat, 2001