Various Artists - Destination Crampsville

by Rob Taylor Rating:6 Release Date:2018-08-17

Poison Ivy and Lux Interior have a lot of records to share, judging by the influx of compilations containing music said to be in their personal vault, or ‘preferred’ by them. The latter term is a loosely chosen euphemism for ‘probably not in their personal collection, but I’m sure they’d like them’. Righteous Records (is there a better name for a company releasing backwater rock ‘n’ roll offshoots?) have already released the compilation, Jukebox in Crampsville, and I have another couple of miscellaneous collections called Roots of the Cramps, and 60 Songs from the Cramps Crazy Collection.

These sorts of collections used to turn up on budget labels, and were catalogued so badly as to bury the music even further into obscurity. Fortunately these days, more often than not, they do a decent job of remastering from original sources, and including informative liner notes. In this case, Dave Henderson from Mojo Magazine had a hand in both.

On Destination Crampsville, there are so many variants on the traditional rock n roll sound, there is no accurate way to describe the enterprise as a whole. It is possible to say one thing. If you are a Cramps fan, you’ll hear sounds that were so obviously adopted by them, but i had the distinct impression that the wilder elements were assimilated in place of the more conformable rock/pop/jazz numbers. So, the first track ‘Chicken Rock’ by Scott Wood and His Band for instance is pure Cramps, a swinging rockabilly/punk with a gravelly vocal and random screaming, part raunchy and part demented misanthropic utterances. This is followed up by Little Ike’s ‘She Can Rock’ which is so close to Little Richard’s ‘Long Tall Sally’ that the Copyright Lawyers must have jizzed themselves when they first heard it. The sound incorporates that kind of Jerry Lee Lewis 'why sit when you can stand' variety of instrument abuse, and one can see the appeal to Lux and Ivy.

Of the remainder of tracks on Disc 1, ‘Black Saxes’ from Danny Zella and His Zell Rocks has some blaring horns bringing an altogether smutty sound to a traditional rock number, and the track from Leo Diamond’s Orchestra, ‘Strange Enchantment’ is an early example of crazy leftfield experimentalism with theremin, piano accordion and discordant mash-ups. There are girl groups that sound conventional (Little Eva, The Ikettes) and unconventional (Jackie Weaver’s flirty showtime cabaret). There’s even bastardised african jungle rhythms with ridiculous shouts of ‘Watusi !’ (Bob Callaway & The Chicks). Danny Bell’s ‘Chilli with Honey’ promises to abscond into atonalism but politeness wins the day.

Now, I could go into tedious and repetitous descriptions of music on Disc 2, but suffice to say that the tracks contain any of the following: unhinged yowling, surf guitar, noirish bebop, comedic dance stomps, Elvis influenced rockabilly, girl group odes to the Shangri-Las, cowpunk or beserk teen pop.

Overall I found this compilation a bit tiring. Strands of musical history held together by the slimmest of DNA, containing fragments of ancestral truth but in the end incapable of forensic application. The Cramps are definitely in there, but will these history lessons tell us anything we don’t already know ?

Here's Little Richard. I mean Little Ike .....

 

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