Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Kingbees: “The Big Rock” (1981/2016) CD Review

In the late 1970s, several groups seem to come about as a reaction to the growing excesses of rock music, in an attempt to get back to the roots of rock and roll, to the basics, to create some honest and good music. Groups like The Blasters, Rockpile, The Stray Cats and The Kingbees all, to some extent, returned to rockabilly and good ol’ rock and roll. Last year saw the re-issue of the self-titled 1980 album from The Kingbees, with several bonus tracks. And now the band’s 1981 follow-up to that release, The Big Rock, is being re-issued, also with bonus tracks. This was the band’s final release on RSO, and it features mostly originally material written by Jamie James.  For this special re-issue, Jamie James provides some new liner notes.

The CD opens with its title track, “The Big Rock,” a fun rock and roll song about the falsehoods of the business of rock music – the bullshit, the trappings – opening with the lines “You plug in your electric guitar/You’re halfway there to being a star/All your friends say you’re not the same/So now it’s time to change your name.” There’s a weird and hazy line between following your dreams and getting caught up in other people’s dreams and styles. And though this song has something to say, it’s still a tune to get you dancing, and features some good work on guitar. “I want a little rock and roll.”

“She Can’t ‘Make-Up’ Her Mind” is a groovy song about getting mixed messages from a girl, featuring the line, “She can make up her face, but she can’t make up her mind” (with the others echoing “She can’t make up her mind”). There is a great rockabilly guitar section, helping to make this one of my favorites. There is an interesting fade-out at the end. Another favorite is “Let Myself Go.” This song is a whole lot of fun, but the lyrics are what make this track a highlight for me, especially the line “It doesn’t take much to steal the show,” an interesting comment on show business. And check out this line on fashion and style: “The clothes you wear won’t keep you alive.” There is a bit of punk to the attitude and perspective of this one.

The Kingbees keep things moving with “Stick It Out!” I love the drums that begin this one, and then that great bass line. This is one of those tunes that make me think of a whole house full of people bouncing joyfully. This song has a very positive feel, in its sound and in lines like “Giving up won’t save the day” and “I won’t turn, turn, turn my back on you/I won’t stop/I’m gonna stick it out.” Then “Right Behind You Baby” is a classic rock and roll tune with the slightly, delightfully frightening line, “I’m right behind you, baby, and you’re never gonna get away.” This is one of the album’s covers, written by Charlie Rich. They also cover Buddy Holly’s “Wishing,” co-written by Holly and Bob Montgomery, and Carl Perkins’ “Boppin’ The Blues.”  Yeah, the doctor told me, boy, you don’t need no pills/Just a handful of nickels and a jukebox will cure your ills.” Amen! The original album concludes with a cover of Mack Vickery’s “Rockin’ My Life Away,” a song also recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis. (For some reason, Mack Vickery is listed as “Mack Victory” in the disc’s liner notes.)

Bonus Tracks

This disc contains four bonus tracks, all recorded by Jamie James in 1982, with Jeff Donovan on drums and Lloyd Stout on bass, and released as singles by Last Minute Productions. Three of them were written by Jamie James. “Just Like That” is a fairly catchy rock and roll number, but I prefer “If I Want To,” a cool song with attitude. “It doesn’t matter what you see/I’m going to be just like me/If I want to/I’m going to be myself if I want to.” “Tear It Up” is the only cover among the bonus tracks. It was written by Johnny Burnette, Dorsey Burnette and Paul Burlison, and recorded by Johnny Burnette And The Rock ‘N’ Roll Trio. This song was also covered by the Stray Cats. The version here is really good, with a delicious energy. This CD wraps things up with “Gonna Stop.”

CD Track List
  1. The Big Rock
  2. She Ain’t My Baby
  3. She Can’t ‘Make-Up’ Her Mind
  4. How Can I Love You
  5. Let Myself Go
  6. Stick It Out!
  7. Right Behind You Baby
  8. Wishing
  9. Boppin’ The Blues
  10. Burnin’ The Town Tonite
  11. The Ugly Truth
  12. Rockin’ My Life Away
  13. Just Like That
  14. If I Want To
  15. Tear It Up
  16. Gonna Stop

The Kingbees are Jamie James on lead vocals and guitar, Michael Rummans on bass and backing vocals, and Rex Roberts on drums and backing vocals.

This special expanded edition of The Big Rock is scheduled to be released on June 17, 2016 through Omnivore Recordings.


  1. Thanks for the props!

  2. And though this song has something to say, it’s still a tune to get you dancing, and features some good work on guitar. “I want a little rock and roll.” hard rock music