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Music Review: The Greyhounds – Wurlitzer Seeburg Rock-ola

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Greyhounds – Wurlitzer Seeburg Rock-olaThe Greyhounds are passionate about rock & roll. Even though they’re revivalists in a sense, they’re also proving that basic rock & roll is as contemporary today as it was in the 1950s. By mastering the form, they’re able to juxtapose their own originals side by side with classic hits without us hearing any big contrast. Playing with reckless abandon driven by a powerful rhythm section, The Greyhounds spit out their crushing music with a copious amount of blues, rockabilly and country licks too.

Together for over a decade, the upstate New York quintet features vocalist Stuart Millman, accompanied by Mark Hollenbeck (guitar, vox), Steve Greenfield (saxophone, keyboards, vox), Jimmy Malthaner (bass), and Chris Kaiser (drums). Guest musicians include Professor Louie (piano, accordion, organ), Elmo Contelo (bass), and Johnny Long (drums). Millman and Hollenbeck are the band’s songwriters, and eight of the 14 tracks are originals about all the essentials of 1950s rock & roll – jukeboxes, hot rods, a favorite beer joint, the coolest gal in town, lonely nights, and mojo.

“Make You Mine” has a nice Zydeco groove that will get you cutting a bean at the dancehall. “Git Pickin’ Man” incorporates a swinging bluegrass beat and a few riffs from old-time fiddle tunes like the Sugarfoot Rag. The song would have been a little more effective at a slightly slower tempo.

The Greyhounds’ covers stem from a variety of sources, but they seem to have a particular affinity for music from the late 1950s. “Wild Saxophone” has been covered by The Stray Cats, but the song originally comes from Roy Montrell’s 1956 rendition of “That Mellow Saxophone.” Whether Greenfield plays it wild or mellow, a song like that is bound to get you smiling like a Cheshire cat as Millman sings, “I wanna rip it, rock it, really bop it. Whooo, Davy Crockett! Every time I hear that mellow saxophone.”

Written by Gregory Townson, “That Rock and Roll Beat” is a standard for another New York band, The Hi-Risers, from the city of Rochester. An instrumental, “On the Move” was written by Denis Payton and Dave Clark.

“Honey Bun” is a rockabilly classic about that gal who’s full of sugar, spice and treats you right. First recorded by Roddy Jackson in 1958, “Hiccups” is a great rocker written by Al Hazan, a keyboard player who once hit the piano keys so hard that his finger was bleeding afterwards.

Finally, The Greyhounds close this album with “Saved” from one of the most memorable and talented songwriting teams of all time, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who wrote many of Elvis Presley’s famous hits. “Saved” was first released by LaVern Baker in 1961, and Elvis put it out in 1968.

Let’s hope The Greyhounds’ salvation doesn’t change too many of their rowdy ways because the band’s fierce energy and unpretentious music fit nicely into the resurgence of this genre. As Millman adds at the conclusion of the set, “The spirit of rock & roll will cast out all your demons!” Because these guys clearly have so much joy in their music, it’s hard not to get caught up in the momentum of their flat-out fun. The Greyhounds really rock, roll, and bop, bop, bop too! It’s the birth of rock & roll all over again.

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