|Please Gimme Somethin', AJ & The Two Timers
JoyceJ Records CD101
CD Review & Story
I was contacted by my old friend "AJ" back in August of 2008 about producing a CD for him. He & I became friends way back in the 1980s when he was still living in Cleveland, OH and fronting a great rockabilly band called Tempo Tantrum. He's also to blame for introducing me to Alan Leatherwood... and if you've been paying attention to the American rockabilly scene for the past 20 years or so, then you know how that turned out!
Anyhoo, back to THIS CD. AJ had gotten out of the music biz some years back and had settled into a life of leisure in Florida... but that rockabilly beat still burned deep down in his soul. Those of us who share this condition know full well that once bitten, ya gotta keep on boppin'! While fronting Tempo Tantrum, AJ never got to record the record he wanted to. He never got to record at all in fact! Back then, he had discussed recording a record with Alan Leatherwood producing and me playing on, but that just never came to fruition. The best laid plans of mice and men... So fast-forward to 2006 or so: AJ tracked me down after hearing my "Back From the Dead" and we reclaimed our friendship. We've both always been like-minded when it comes to rockabilly. We like it fast and we like it hard! We like it to have a nice bit of twang but we both understand the influence of black blues/gospel/R&B on it. AJ was impressed with my CD and the work I'd done with others (such as Australia's Christina Louise & my continuing work with Leatherwood) and he decided it was time to finally put out the record he'd always wanted to! When he asked me if I'd produce it, I was stoked. I've been wanting to spend more time behind the boards and this was the perfect opportunity.
My engineer, Dave Granati, opted to use his brother's studio to cut the basic tracks... and BOY! Were we all in for a treat! His brother Joey has done quite well for himself in the music biz and lives in a HUGE house (practically a mansion!) on a secluded 4.5 acre estate surrounded by 45 acres of protected woodlands. His studio, while state of the art (I'm sure I can hear the purists screaming now) had just the right sound. The drums just smacked! We recorded 13 songs in a mere 3.5 hours. We were up and rolling!
The next day AJ, Dave and I returned to the studio to record some vocal tracks. After a few hours, we decided to call it a day and went for pizza and beers (what else do musicians eat?) The following day, we moved the production to Dave's small mixing studio. We did a few last minute vocal takes and then it was time to lay down guitar tracks. I'd brought along both of my Telecasters, my 1958 Gibson, my 1960 Gibson, my acoustic and my girlfriend's ancient Airline Stratotone. I also brought along my Fender amp... but knowing David's collection of gear, I opted to use his prized Supro amp. What you're hearing on this CD is just pure tube amp TONE! No frills, no stomp boxes, just old guitars and an old amp. I think you'll dig the sound. AJ was thrilled with the end results and the following day, we sent him back to Florida with a CD's worth of rough tracks.
If you've ever wondered just what a producer does, basically he or she makes the CD sound the way they want it to. I knew the sound that AJ was after and I made damned sure he got it. My next step was to replace the electric bass tracks with good old fashioned slapping upright bass! Again, I find it easier to just do it myself, so I borrowed a friend's bass and did just that! I recorded the bass tracks in about 2 hours. I decided to leave Rob's electric on "7 Nights to Rock" because it sounded just right. (Note to you purists: pay close attention to old 50s R&R/rockabilly tracks... you'll notice that you hear electric bass as often as upright. It was a new invention then and those who could afford one, used one).
Over the next few weeks, I went back to the studio a handful of times to finish things up. I got The Jagtones together and they laid down some killer doo-wop style backing vocals. My engineer's brother Hermie came in and knocked out the piano tracks in less than an hour! What a pro! I'd just tell him roughly what style I wanted then let him go at it! I think you'll find that he did his usual KILLER job!
Shortly before Christmas, I hit a snag. My usual sax guy Jerry wouldn't be available until after the 1st of the year! This was a big problem as for personal reasons, AJ wanted the project completed by New Year's Eve. Just my luck, my good friend Carly was flying in from California to visit family for the holidays. Carly, being not only a fine looking woman, just happens to be one helluva sax player! I asked if there was any chance that she might bring her sax with her from Cali and I talked her into doing a session. She laid down her sax parts in no time... and might I add, her solo on "Georgia Lee Brown" is just about the sexiest lil sax riff you're ever gonna hear! Dave & I flipped when we heard it!
Once we had all the parts down, it was up to Dave & I to mix the CD, but you probably don't want to read all about that, so on with the review (finally!).
AJ released this CD on JoyceJ Records, named after his late mother, who got him started listening to Elvis as a kid. The 1st record she bought him was Elvis's "Too Much" which is featured on this CD. AJ's vocals are spot on on this take of this classic and The Jagtones' backing vocals just add that something special to it.
The CD starts out with the title track, the old Bill Allen classic "Please Gimme Something" and not to toot my own horn, I think it turned out damned fine! My friend Matt Beall emailed me this little note about it: "Absolutely classic song & I hear everything, everything in the mix and like it a LOT. The electric guitar with the whammy bar in the right channel is a little dissertation on how to play this kind of rock and roll. What an achievement!" So I think it's fair to say that he likes it too!
My fave track on the whole CD is probably AJ's take on the Jackie Lee Cochran tune "Georgia Lee Brown". I'll be honest, AJ had forgot to send me the song before we recorded it, so we learned it in the studio! (NOTE: That's NOT the best way to record a song) After 2 or 3 takes, we nailed it! As we added backing vocals and sax to it, it just grew & grew and became one helluva song. I'm sure I'll catch hell for this but I like it better than the original!
If you like rockin' tracks like "Cast Iron Arm" & "7 Nights to Rock", I think you'll really dig the versions on here. They just catch fire and burn the way only really good rockabilly can!
AJ throws in some serious twang on tracks like "You Can Have Her" and the Hank Snow classic "Golden Rocket"... and what rockabilly album doesn't have twang? It just fits and AJ does a helluva job on them! I was admittedly a tad reticent to tackle Charlie Rich's "Break Up" but AJ insisted. I'm glad he did! We gave it a solid rockin' treatment and I'd say that it moves with the best!
There are 2 other tracks on this disk and they're both solid senders... .but I think you'd be best off to go give the CD a listen and judge for yourself!
Now then, I'm in no position to suggest to BlackCat how to rate his CDs... but... this slab O plastic deserves his much-sought-after 5 Star rating! And I'm not saying that just because I'm biased! I just think this is one seriously rockin' CD! Go get yourself a copy and see if you agree... I think you'll be glad you did!
As always, if you can't be good, be good at it! -Memphis Mike-
AJ & The Two Timers are: