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CD REVIEW – THE VERSATILE FLAMES
Trevor Simpson

I just love CD’s that tell you EXACTLY what you are buying!

The good folks at Lone Rider Records could not have had a better title for this CD, as it is fully descriptive of the contents of this album. The Versatile Flames contains 29 tracks that range from 1950’s American rockabilly through to the sounds of the early days of British Rock ‘n’ Roll with a fair smattering of instrumental hits thrown in for good measure. If that doesn’t demonstrate how versatile The Flames then I’m a monkey’s uncle.

Lovers of instrumental groups will delight in the Flames sensitive recreation of tracks of the calibre of Walk, Don’t Run, Sleepwalk and Riders In The Sky whilst their versions of Apache and Kon Tiki pay tribute to the great sounds of the Shadows. Add to these the classical Saturday Night At The Duck Pond and Golden Earrings which are all featured in the opening nine tracks and you’ll see what I mean. I must mention that the drumming on all the tracks is absolutely top notch with The Surfaris Wipe Out being the ultimate track to highlight the drum sound.

If I was a booking agent for the many retro-rock ‘n’ roll clubs around the country I would be on the blower immediately to sign these boys for ‘live’ gigs if the rest of this CD is anything to go by! Their versions of Vince Taylor’s Brand New Cadillac (one of the top three British original rockers!) is outstanding and when you add to that the authentic recreations of Chuck Berry’s Tulane, Del Shannon’s Runaway and the classic Little Richard movie song The Girl Can’t Help It you have the basic ingredient for a rocking Saturday night on the dance floor.

There are also seven ‘live’ tracks recorded in remarkably good quality from the soundboard mixing desk of The Flames performances ‘in concert’. These rarities range from unissued performances on the road from 1988 in Torquay to a cover version of Johnny Kidd and The Pirates, Shakin’ All Over from earlier this year in Amersham. Having seen The Flames perform in a live setting and actually danced to their beat I can vouch for the quality of their live performances and to my knowledge none of the live tracks on this CD have ever been released before. I defy anyone not to tap a toe to The Flames versions of Carl Perkins’ Pointed Toe Shoes and the evergreen Matchbox (which every modern day rock and roll band is obliged to perform) because they are what this music is all about.

If you’ve seen The Flames perform you don’t need me to tell you how good they are. Not only that but their professional approach to all aspects of the presentation of their music is of the highest order. As a backing group to John Leyton they excel but as a group they are consummate showmen in putting on a performance to entertain. This CD replicates all that is good about them and does fully demonstrate how versatile they are. What other title could be better than The Versatile Flames? Sheer inspiration from Lone Star Records and I recommend the album to anyone who has not seen or heard them perform - because all those who have will be buying it anyway!

Trevor Simpson
(Author and Broadcaster)

Check out Trevor’s books at smalltownsaturdaynight which contain over 1000 unpublished pictures, memorabilia and stories of the British music scene in the 60’s.

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