Brian Setzer Orchestra: “The Dirty Boogie”

The Brian Setzer Orchestra
The Dirty Boogie

Interscope Records
Released: 1998
Time: 49:43

Musicians: Brian Setzer (vocals, guitar), big band accompaniment.

Songs: This Cat’s On A Hot Tin Roof, The Dirty Boogie, This Old House, Let’s Live It Up, Sleepwalk, Jump Jive an’ Wail, You’re The Boss, Rock This Town, Since I Don’t Have You, Switchblade 327, Nosey Joe, Hollywood Nocturne, As Long As I’m Singin’.

Rating: * * * * *

Daddy-o, you ain’t livin’ until you get you some Dirty Boogie! Go grab this hot wax, slap it in your CD player, smack that play button, grab yer girl and let that party begin!

A few years back, Setzer traded in his rockabilly trio sound for a genuine big band, recording two albums and hitting the road for a string of concert dates. The first album, The Brian Setzer Orchestra, was a great mix of big band with Setzer’s guitar and vocals, and leaned more toward the big band side of the equation. The second album, Guitar Slinger was hard to put a finger on–it featured some more great tracks, but the cluttered production detracted from the music somewhat.

With this release, the production is cleaned up, and we find Setzer up to his good ol’ tricks again, but this time there’s more of the old Stray Cats sound in the ensemble than ever before. The sound is now rockabilly-based supercharged big-band, with the horns firing off riffs that would put many a rhythm guitar player to shame in the same setting! There’s the requisite bass player slappin’ away on the strings, just like the old Stray Cats recordings. Arrangements are mainly by Setzer and band member Mark Jones; the title track is arranged by Setzer and band member Ray Herrmann, and surprisingly, three of the tracks are arranged by none other than Patrick Williams!

The songs are from all over the musical map. The hard-driving title track, “This Cat’s On A Hot Tin Roof,” “Switchblade 327” and a few others are new Setzer originals. In cover versions, we have two Lieber/Stoller tunes, “You’re The Boss” and “Nosey Joe,” a remake of Louis Prima’s “Jump Jive an’ Wail” (which is the radio hit at this writing), the rock instrumental “Sleepwalk,” and Bobby Darin’s “As Long As I’m Singin’.” The piece de resistance, however, is the Patrick Williams arrangement of Setzer’s signature song from the Stray Cats era: “Rock This Town.”

And how has Brian Setzer fared over the years since the Cats first made their debut? His voice has become more confident, with quite the mature growl when he needs it. And his guitar playing–all I can say is that he is perhaps one of today’s finest, underrated guitarists. His is not a name that comes immediately to mind when one thinks of great rock guitarists, but his guitar technique has become more finely honed over the years, bending notes and ripping off literally handfuls of chords with reckless abandon, and can no doubt play circles around most of his contemporaries. Don’t rule out attitude–he has plenty to spare, and it infuses all of his performances.

To say this disc smokes from end to end is an understatement. I’d give it four stars for its great arrangements and fine playing by Setzer and the entire band that backs him up. The additional star is for that “fun factor” that most recordings today lack, and the overall energy level that literally blasts its way out of the speakers. This one should send Connick’s big band running for cover. If the reviews are any indication, Setzer puts on one helluva great live show with this band. Don’t miss it!

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