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‘Rock ‘N Roll Kittens Vol. 1 & Vol. 2’ • Various Artists (review)

Various Artists
Rock ‘N Roll Kittens Vol. 1: Friction Heat
Rock ‘N Roll Kittens Vol. 2: Rockin’ Horse Cowgirl
Atomicat Records


It is always great fun to look back at Rock ‘n Roll’s early days (i.e. the ‘50s) and spin sides by artists that were still filled with vim and vigor and not yet tainted by the machinations of the music industry. If you have an adventurous spirit, it is especially exciting to discover recordings from that same time period that may have eluded you over the last 60+ years. If you possess a rabid curiosity for obscure early Rock ‘n Roll sides, then these two compilations from Atomicat Records will hit your sweet spot. The first two volumes of ROCK ‘N ROLL KITTENS will transport you back to a time when the ladies of Hillbilly, Country Swing, R&B, Blues, and Rock ‘n Roll were filled with the same primal energy that energized their male contemporaries.

Rock ‘n Roll didn’t invent itself – it merely borrowed from Hillbilly, R&B, Jazz, Blues, Swing, and other genres and created something new out of it. Not a genre that was born overnight, Rock ‘n Roll continually evolved until the mid-‘50s when Elvis and the gang took it out of the honky-tonks and into the charts. VOL. 1: FRICTION HEAT is proof that the women were just as wild and willing to take the music to sweaty places. Don’t let the title fool you, though. These aren’t ‘sex kittens’ – these are ladies that snarl and holler their way through a batch of great tunes. They can also swing, too. Big Maybell’s “Rock House” opens the set and sets the mood – and she ain’t fooling around! Marilynn Lovell’s version of “Such A Night” sounds sweetly raunchy and playful. Bonnie Lou offers up the title track (“Friction Heat”), which turns a Country-esque R&B groove into a heady brew.

And the party just keeps going… Hillbilly/Country gives way to all sorts of great tunes on this collection including tracks by Rosie & Retta, Patti Page, Jaye P. Morgan, Sally Starr, and many others. Not as ‘dangerous’ as the Rock ‘n Roll that emerged from the swamps and musty clubs of the ‘50s but just as enthralling and entertaining.

VOL. 2: ROCKIN’ HORSE COWGIRL offers up more fantastic gems that helped kickstart the original Rock ‘n’ Roll era. Wanda Jackson starts things off with “Fujiyama Mama” and leaves no doubt that you’ve come to the right party!

“Rockin’ Horse Cowgirl” is an innocent Country jam by Sally Starr. On, “Harry, Will You Marry Me”, The Melody Maids sound like an inebriated Andrews Sisters rehearsing with a Rock combo in a high school gymnasium (i.e. its great!). And so, it goes on. Not a duff track in the bunch. Back to back, top to bottom, this is another stellar collection, which might actually better the first volume by a couple of notches! Include tracks by Ella Mae Morse, Jaye P. Morgan, Kay Martin, Rosemary Clooney, and many more.

Rock ‘n’ Roll was still finding its way on these sides but they are all still smokin’ hot slices of a time that was both dandy and dangerous.

Dive in… but watch out for them claws!





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