Friday, August 28, 2009

Just Jivin'

Al Casey
Jivin' Around
Ripped @ a slick 320

Biography by Richie Unterberger
Longtime session guitarist Al Casey is most noted for the records he made with producer Lee Hazlewood, with artists like Duane Eddy and Sanford Clark. He also has made numerous records on his own, reaching his commercial peak in the early 1960s, when a few of his instrumental (or mostly instrumental) surf and R&B-rock singles made the Top Hundred. In the 1960s and 1970s he worked often as a session player in Los Angeles, and was still putting out records under his own name in the 1990s.
Casey was still in his teens when he started working with Hazlewood in Phoenix, introducing Lee to Sanford Clark, whose hit "The Fool" was produced by Hazlewood. Casey's band backed Clark on the singer's records, as well as other discs cut by Hazlewood. Casey was in Eddy's band, the Rebels, in which he played the piano, although he's more known for his guitar playing. Casey also wrote one of Eddy's earliest hits, "Ramrod," as well as cowriting another Eddy hit, "Forty Miles of Bad Road," with Duane.
In the early 1960s Casey was dividing his time between sessions in L.A. and Phoenix, and working with his own group, the Al Casey Combo. Somewhat surprisingly, considering his twangy background with Eddy and the surf recordings in his near future, his first successes were with bluesy instrumental rock singles with a jazzy organ groove (played by Casey himself). "Cookin'" made #92 on the pop chart, while a similar follow-up, "Jivin' Around," did a little better, getting to #71 pop and #22 in the R&B listings. In 1963, however, he and Hazlewood rode the surf craze and cut an entire surf LP, much of which featured Hazlewood compositions, and all of which had respectably tough reverberant guitar by Casey. A single from the album, "Surfin' Hootenanny" (with almost incidental female vocals by the K-C-Ettes, aka the Blossoms), became Casey's biggest hit, making #48; top L.A. session dudes Leon Russell (organ) and Hal Blaine (drums) were present on many or all of the tracks.
Casey's solo career petered out when the small independent label he recorded for, Stacy, closed shop around the beginning of 1964. Casey found a lot of work, though, as a session man, on recordings by artists including the Beach Boys, Eddy Arnold, and Frank Sinatra. He also ran a music store in Hollywood in the late 1960s, and played as a member of the band on Dean Martin's television show. In the mid-'90s he made a solo recording for Bear Family, Sidewinder.
Review by Richie Unterberger
Casey made these 26 tracks -- most of which are instrumentals (the K-C-Ettes, actually the Blossoms, add vocals on three of the selections) -- for the Stacy label in the early '60s, a stint which represented his greatest success as a singles artist. Casey is a very good rock and surf guitarist, but the material is often average or boring period instrumental rock, and not so elevated by Casey's guitar licks and arrangements that they demand repeated listening. The most exciting cuts are the surf ones produced (and often written) by Lee Hazlewood, including "Surfin' Hootenanny," Casey's biggest hit. The more obscure "El Aguila (The Eagle)" and "The Hearse" show Casey's skill at dipping his axe in reverb to ride the surf wave, while "Thunder Beach" and "Baja" borrow, as a lot of surf did, from Latin melodies and rhythms. Casey also does his own version of "Ramrod," a Casey composition that colleague Duane Eddy had taken into the Top 30 a few years previously. Surf-heads should know, though, that much of this disc is not surf music, but bluesy early-'60s R&B-rock, on which the organ is sometimes as or more prominent than Casey's guitar. In fact, "Cookin'" and "Jivin' Around," which both lurched into the bottom of the Top 100, are a lot closer to Jimmy Smith than Dick Dale; those songs and "Doin' It" are actually pretty respectable as far as that genre goes. Two of the songs on the CD were previously unreleased.
1 Surfin' Hootenanny
2 El Aguila (The Eagle)
3 Thunder Beach
4 Baja
5 Surfin' the Blues, Pt. 1
6 The Lonely Surfer
7 Guitars, Guitars, Guitars
8 The Hearse
9 Ramrod
10 Caravan
11 Surfin' Blues, Pt. 2
12 Surfs You Right
13 Cookin'
14 Indian Love Call
15 Hot Foot
16 Jivin' Around
17 Doin' the Shotfish
18 Doin' It
19 The Hucklebuck
20 Full House
21 Laughin'
22 Monte Carlo
23 Theme from "Huckleberry Hound"
24 Chicken Feathers
25 Easy Pickin'
26 What Are We Gonn Do in '64?
Get it HERE


RYP said...

This one is great, good for the weekend! Thanks T!


ps.: do you have the two Surfites albums "Big Pounder" (2007) and "Escapades in Space" (2008)? I'm just lookin' for, they must be glorious...

GSD said...

thanks for this T.
Hearse & Caravan is KILLER

Hey RYP this is for you…

RYP said...

thanks a lot for the Surfites first!

Best regards!

Exeter said...

Al Casey was surely one of the GREAT ONES! Jivin' Around is an all time favorite!

rich sims said...

Man, the organ & sax on most of these tracks is fantastic! These cats were HOT back in '61,'63. Hasn't lost any steam & hipper today than ever. Thanks so much!!!