|I'm All Right, Charlie Gracie|
Lanark Records LNR076, 2001
Charlie Gracie, a native of South Philadelphia was born January 12, 1936 and released his first 45 single "Boogie Woogie Blues/I'm Gonna Sit Right Down" (Cadillac 141) in 1951. Sixty-six years of age and over fifty years in the music business. Playing rock 'n' roll music when the rest of the world hadn't even heard of that word. Don't forget, Charlie's Cadillac recordings are all pre-Elvis, but they sure do rock! In 1957 he hit the billboards with "Butterfly" and "Fabulous" and that set the pace for many of his later recordings, he left the raw boogie woogie behind him and went along with the clean cut rock 'n' roll of the late fifties and early sixties. A wise choice, careerwise, but many of us old rockers and rockabillies still like to play his Cadillac and 20th Century recordings. Lucky for me, these old tracks were re-released on Revival in 1979 (Charlie Gracie's Early Recordings), because I wasn't around yet when they were originally released.
I must admit that I haven't really kept track of Charlie's career, but looking at his discography, it seems he has been active in every one of the past five decades. I remember seeing him live on stage with D.J. Fontana in 1992, when they did a tour in Europe, and I enjoyed it very much. So, I was glad when Charlie send me his latest (autographed) CD for review on our website, and I'm happy to oblige. The album is titled "I'm All Right", and if this title has anything to do with the way Charlie feels these days, I'm glad to hear it!
This album is not a "greatest hits" compilation, on the contrary, this is an all new CD of Charlie's first millenium on the music while capturing the vintage "Gracie" sound. This is a goal Charlie feels he has accomplished. So, I'm gonna give this disc a spin and type some comments along the way.
We're startin' off with "Tootsie", a song that rockbilly fans will surely know of Carl McVoy, who recorded it for Sun in 1957. Pretty neat lead guitar, hot sax and Charlie has still got his golden voice. A good rock 'n' roll song, although not at a very fast pace. "I'm All Right" is also rather slow, the lead break is cool, but the overal feel of the song is not rockabilly or rock 'n' roll. The bluesy "Let The Good Times Roll" is the first song that reminds a little bit of Charlie's earliest recordings, a solid rhythm and good lead and sax instros.
Hank Williams' "Kaw-Liga", originally a country song, is revved up a whole lot and changes the rhythm from country to rockabilly and back. "A Little Too Soon To Tell" is kind of an uptempo ballad, Buddy Holly style, you can dance the foxtrot to it if you like, and I'm beginning to get the feeling that Charlie is trying to please a very broad audience with this album, by varying from rock to blues to country and pop. But trying to please too many different crowds usually backfires, it has been tried before.
"Lover Boy" reminds me of early Johnny Olenn recordings, a rolling rhythm with a steady beat. "Crying Over You" is a pop song, and a slow one too for that matter. Well, I guess some may like it, but for myself I'm not too fond of this slow stuff. The well known classic "Gotta Travel On" takes the rhythm upwards again to a solid country two-step, but I would like to get some more rock 'n' roll here. My wish is granted with "I'm Gonna Love You", written by Charlie himself, a fifties style rock 'n' roll song to get your feet moving again. "Still 19" turns out to be another ballad, Elvis 70's style. "I'm Confessing" is back to good old rock 'n' roll, I wish the whole CD was made up of this kind of music. "Go Man, Go" has some jazzy influences, at times it even reminds of Louis Armstrong, and Charlie's voice makes it very worth while. With "Times Are Changing" Charlie throws in yet another style, sixties, turning over to a loud early seventies rock. And to make sure all decennia are covered, the last track is a remake of The Beatles hit "Get Back" and definitly not Charlie's style (or mine) at all.
Trying to please everybody doesn't work, I hate to say I told you so. The hardcore rockabilly fans won't like the very modern recording style, today's youth will find it too old fashioned. Charlie's voice is still impressive, but personally, I'm gonna play the old "Wildwood Boogie" again, I like that a whole lot better...
Reviewed by The BlackCat, 2001