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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Ray Campi 
"Still Rippin' (Rattler)
Charlie Gracie 
"Angel On My Shoulder" (Lanark)

It's reassuring to reflect that as long as golden-age rock 'n'
rollers are still trodding studios and stages, something that makes this world special endures and will always be accessible to us. Money in the bank, as goes the phrase.

But when you hear in decorated veterans today the same snapped-tight dynamism and rollaway, good-time flow that in earlier years made settled sensibilities flinch with startlement, you dig that not only will rock'n'roll never die, but that it should not be thought to have advanced to museum-shelf status. 

The from-the-margins music matters still, in ways magnetic, clamorous, and reliably satisfying.

"Ray Campi" is a name uttered reverently by sideburned true believers both old and young. The former recall Ray's 1957 acrobatic, country-boppin' romp, "Caterpillar." The latter were fortunate to have Ronnie Weiser's indispensible 1970s/1980s Rollin Rock label to facilitate their own howdy-hi to Campi and, in many cases, to the musical vein, itself. 

Ray's roots stretch back into a pre-rock'n'roll era in which loose-limbed and rambling young country pickers first fortified bouncing rural melodies with a pronounced beat. The hillbilly bop they thereby birthed in countless, liquored-up honky tonks echoes rewardingly in Ray's 2015 rockabilly, more explicitly of tradition than many now hefting that banner. 

Thankfully, time's passage hasn't dimmed Ray's enthusiasm for rockabilly. He sounds like he's still in the glow of initial discovery, and that boundless spiritedness enriches each note. "Rippin' It Up" is actually a cooperative effort, uniting Ray with fellow erstwhile Rollin' Rock icon Rip Masters. Rip penned all 24 of the clever, mostly mid-tempo boppers here, also playing a variety of instruments. 

A legend of Ray's stature merits top-notch backing, and besides Rip the impressive band includes former X drummer DJ Bonebrake and visiting Lone Gunmen guitarist Gino Meregillano. 

CD artwork and photos are courtesy of Art Fein, another longtime California rock'n'roll champion. Fein's scratchy front cover lettering reminds of the now-collectible Rollin Rock LPs, adding further Old Home Week stamp. 

Charlie Gracie, he of 1957 "Butterfly" chart fame, here acquits himself most admirably. One expects wondrous things from a man whose lifelong mission has been rock'n'roll, and one is not at all disappointed. Leisurely, ruminant Southern Gospel rolls along in spice counter to much-appreciated uptempo jaunts. 

Surely, no one will remain seated while this infectious work exercises its deep energies. I do believe it quite possible that Gracie's more youthful supporting musicians -- crackerjacks all, it must be noted -- found themselves called to extremes to maintain the affable vibe. This CD swings wide the door with a genuiness, a welcoming air, not duplicable by cold technology.

A pivotal factor in this estimable disc's triumph is Lanark Records mastermind and Reach Around Rodeo Clown Quentin Jones. His is the swinging guitar behind the star, and he also produces, imprinting with executive elan.

Charlie calls upon all of his numerous talents, the result being a swaybacked rock'n'roll exercise that never loses vitality.  

Salutes are certainly due Rip and Quentin for their roles in bringing these golden-age luminaries before new audiences. But most of all, high praise should be paid to Ray and Charlie themselves, for keeping the flame alive in spectacular fashion.

Recommended Campi: "Ring Telephone Ring," "Rockabilly Man," "Get Right Up," "The Wait Is Over," "All-Night Express," "I Got Bills," "Lucky Devil," "Rippin' It Up"

Recommended Gracie:  "You Talk Too Much," "Tootsie,""Thank 
You Jesus,""Man and Wife,""Just a Closer Walk With Thee," "Lover Boy,""A Simple Song,""Sea Cruz" (for ordering details)

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