AL & THE BEBOPS - JUMPIN' WITH THE BEBOPS
Al and the BeBops, ‘Jumpin' with the Bebops’ Released: December 2022 Reviewed by Kate, 16th November Al and the Bebops are: Alessandro Aka Al, Singer and rhythm guitar. Louis, lead guitarist Hervé, Drums Ben, double bass, backing vocals. In the same way that Cornwall is famous for pasties and my stomping ground of East London is known for, errr, spontaneous machete attacks, it’s becoming apparent that the hallmark of Northern France is stripped down, rootsy rockabilly. Al and the Bebops hail from Nancy and Metz, and like their neighbours, the Hoodoo Tones, their new record brings you wonderfully underground tunes inspired by the likes of ‘Gene Vincent, Eddy Cochran, Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly, The Meteors and Bobby Lee Trammell’. They’re a young band too with only five years behind them. This is a covers album, and once again I bring you my standard caveat: that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A great cover either replicates the original exactly to bring you an experience you couldn’t otherwise have, or gives an artist a chance to add a twist of their own flavour to a classic. Time for an exclusive review of this very tasty little record, and remember: you read it here first… Three Alley Cats - Roy Hall’s original gets an injection of ‘ooomph’ and I’m taking my metaphorical hat off to Ben on the bass for giving the 1956 classic an added layer of cool. A solid start to the album which promises more good things to come. Whole Lotta Shaking - I’ll be honest, I mostly know this song from the Fallout 4 soundtrack, but there’s nothing apocalyptic about this version. Louis gets a chance to let his guitar do the talking and Al’s improvised introjections give this the feel of an intimate live show. They take it down low, putting all the pressure on Herve’s drumming to keep up the tension, then let it all loose in a big finale. A really satisfying track. The House of the Rising Sun - An intriguing choice, as there’s already some fantastic covers out there (White Buffalo’s being my favourite) but there’s so much that can be done with this song and so much scope for innovation. Honestly, I like what they’ve done with it: it’s the sound of a band having fun and You can so easily imagine them bopping around onstage during this one. Al’s accent lends a Gallic charm to proceedings and makes this song feel somehow more real and tangible. Tear It Up: a little bit of Johnny Burnett to brighten up proceedings and I love the dancing guitar and the chorus’ transformation into a shout along. Black Slacks: a cover of Joe Bennett and the Sparkletones’ ode to their favourite trousers, and another genuinely fun and involving track thanks to Al’s vocal flourishes. Rockin’ Daddy: time for a sprinkling of country, and the acoustic guitar adds a touch of calm to the record. The percussion on the intro is a stunning lead in, and increasing the tempo unlocks the potential in Sonny Fisher’s original. Jumpin’ Record: it’s all about the Bass (and treble) on this tube which is exactly what the title suggests. It’s a jumpin’, dancin’ and jivin’ record for sure, and who doesn’t love the Wise Guyz? Al and the Bebops are very, very good at adding depth and heart where we didn’t even realise it was needed. Long Blond Hair: less desperation than Johnny Powers conjured back in 1957 but a whole lot more darkness. The growl in Al’s voice gives this number a powerful edge making it clear that this isn’t a love song, and the frantic percussion ramps up the urgency. Twenty Flight Rock: another strong choice. It’s well known, guaranteed to please the crowd and there’s a lot you can do with it. They’ve gone for a very close tribute (understandable since they’re big Cochran fans) and if I had the fortune to be able to get a time machine and see Eddie in his prime, I imagine it would sound just like this, which is a huge compliment! Ring of Fire: my views on Johnny Cash covers are well publicised (and much like my views on trying to write comedically. If you aren’t sure you can do it well, steer well clear!). Thankfully I can say that this works. It’s what the original would sound like if the Man in Black had gone full cowboy instead of introducing the brass section, or how he’d play it if I met him in a saloon and was very persuasive. Al sticks to his guns and doesn’t try a baritone, Ben doesn’t attempt a Luther Perkins impression and both those things make this a jolly cover. I Don’t Worry About It: it’s The Meteors, Jim, but not as we know it. The minimal original gets the country (and radio edit) treatment and turns a diatribe into a rockin’ masterpiece. Rockabilly Guitar: I love literally named things (like Bank station, the station next to the Bank of England). It’s a rockabilly guitar instrumental interlude, some fun playtime and letting off steam for Louis and I entirely approve. She’s The One to Blame: Crazy Cavan’s light touch gets a faster and more raucous update in this louder and noisier version. It seems more 3D compared to the original and while that might be down to the wonders of modern production, I can see this going down incredibly well with the crowds. Baby Blues: Sweet Gene Vincent is untouchable in his perfection, so why not take things literally again and make it a soulful, smoky blues number? The guitar is red hot and the bass is so very cool. I’m Going Home: More Gene, and again Al and The Bebops are proving that they are very smart guys by staying true to the spirit but not the letter of the original. It’s a country blues road song that’s full of just the right kind of jangly and folky passion, and the pauses conflicting with the wailing are so very effective. Put A Light In Your Window: And, to finish, a really fun cover. The Four Lads original is so clean cut and straight laced, and this has a rowdy, sing it in the street at 3am vibe which I am so into. Ending the album back in the fifties is a great move, and coming back to the rougher stuff after the gorgeous, cigar scented blues remind us where and what Al and the Bebops are about. This is an album that brings a distinct flavour, a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ to the classics, lovingly reinterpreting them and showing what can be done with a bit of heart and soul. The guitar absolutely shines, the bass stomps and there’s this tremendous enthusiasm about the songs Al and the Bebops have chosen. I am very excited for when they move onto originals as undoubted the songs will be a blend of all the good things in their record collection, and the whole album motivates whoever’s listening to take a trip to northern France to enjoy these guys in action.