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  • Writer's pictureKatherine Allvey


Stephan Griebel - Gosh, Golly, Gee Released: 2nd August 2022 Reviewed by Kate, 6th November 2022 Stephan Griebel - All vocals and instruments. Available exclusively from The extended lockdown of 2020-2021 was a strange time for everyone. Perhaps you stockpiled toilet paper, bought into the national Banana Bread Craze, or (like me) named all the ducks in your local park out of a combination of boredom and loneliness. However, if you were Stephan Griebel, longtime member of the German smooth retro scene and one quarter of doo-wop band the Nymonics, you would have used your downtime very productively indeed. ‘The Corona crisis made it impossible to perform with my bands and since I also live far away from my fellow musicians, making music together came to a complete standstill in spring 2020’, writes Stephan on his blog, ‘[and]to pass the time, I started recording songs in my small recording studio, playing all the instruments and singing myself. In winter 2021/2022 I started arranging and recording tracks for a new album again. The song selection comes from the inexhaustible depths of my music collection and 18 songs came out of it, which I interpreted myself in the tried and tested way. Of course, these are again songs that I enjoy a lot, personal favorite tracks that I used to play with one of my bands, or tracks that I always wanted to play but never got around to. The recipe hasn't changed: rock'n'roll, some swing, doo-wop harmonies, a pinch of classic rockabilly and a lot of fun - of course everything played and sung by [me].’ The result of his ingenuity? ‘Gosh, Golly Gee’, a very limited edition album of which only three hundred copies have been produced. It’s clear that he has immersed himself so deeply in his inspiration that he must have absorbed the very spirit of the fifties by osmosis; what we have here is a charming, sweet labour of love full scattered with pretty harmonies like sprinkles on an ice cream sundae from a diner with red leather bar stools. This is an album of covers of Stephan’s favourite songs, as as I’ve mentioned in previous reviews recording a cover is a delicate art form. The greatest covers either replicate the original precisely to show an artist’s dedication to a classic, or offer us as listeners a new and original interpretation of a song. Frank Black’s cover of Brian Wilson’s ‘Hang On To Your Ego’, for instance, is a brilliant cover because it’s totally and clearly something new, whereas Mike Ness singing ‘Long Black Veil’ isn’t, because it neither gives us something totally original nor pays a close tribute the Man In Black. This album is very much in the former camp: while not everyone listening is as devoted to the doo-wop dream as Stephan, he has undeniably done something zesty and fizzy with his favourites. Let’s see what’s in this bag of treats… Take Me Back To My Boots and Saddle: Gene Autrey’s original is a wistful, crooning icon from old Hollywood and, let’s face it, it’d be very misguided to try and take on a yodel in the way Gene does. Somehow, Stephan Griebel’s version is also cinematic, but with the glorious technicolour of a classic summertime movie with hula dancers. Capable of shining on both the slap bass and the rhythm guitar in his live project, Stephan shows he can do a severely cute guitar line without it turning saccharine. It’s a summertime jam that makes it’s own sunshine. I Got Burned: A great choice for a cover. Ral Donner is a more obscure and underrated contemporary of the King, and his 1963 original tells us of his disappointment in a fiery relationship. Griebel’s version, understandably goes harder on the doo-wop ‘wah-ohh’ in the background and takes off some of the anger of the original like cocktail instead of a shot of spirit. It works though: Donner was in his early twenties when he recorded the original, and Griebel’s version almost seems like the same character looking back on the same breakup but with the benefit of age and wisdom to give him more distance. She Don’t Care: Victor Leed, described by Griebel in the liner notes as one of the ‘French rockabilly heroes of my youth’, gives a relaxed confident energy in the original whereas Stephan’s version is popping and positive. As with Autry’s yodel, he thankfully doesn’t attempt to an impersonation of Leeds’ gorgeous drawl, and this song absolutely screams Griebel’s love for the music. This is the sound of someone recording a song that they absolutely adore and that shines out from every note. Why Can’t You: A more modern tribute here, since the original by The Wrens is from 1992. Griebel’s song is dreamy and wistful, like a lover staring out of the window and daydreaming of the one he wants. By making the backing harmonies much higher he lifts the tone and underpins the song with this dancing, chiming guitar lines which makes the whole song rather lovely. Oh Gee Oh Gosh: The Kodaks, who recorded this song in 1958, were a boy band who were precursors in the same vein as the Jackson 5 or Justin Bieber. Think a teenage lead vocalist with a practically prepubescent voice and much more adult voices backing him. To turn an irritatingly chirpy original into a joyful, country-tinted number that takes you skipping with happiness through a field of flowers in a huge achievement, and to see this song inside of the original is really impressive. Troublesome Bay: After a ‘rummage through [his] old vinyl records’, Griebel rediscovered his copy of the Matchbox original of the song along with his Victor Leed records. He’s slowed down the original rockabilly tune and again made it very cinematic, and lets his inner showboating guitarist out to play. There’s a glorious a cappella section to lend this number a little bit of a sea shanty vibe too. Fireball XL5 - Sometimes worlds collide, and my complete, un-ironic love for classic Gerry Anderson puppet adventures comes in useful for once. The theme song to the TV show of the same name was a minor hit for Australian TV presenter Don Spencer, and honestly, if Stephen had planned a cover song specifically to win me over this would be it. It’s a post-atomic age peppy sci-fi love song that is practically custom-made for this kind of cover, and an absolutely brilliant track. No Wedding Today: Back to the fifties, this time to cover Johnny Ray’s 1957 ballad to the jilted. Griebel describes this song in his liner notes as ‘a sad one’ and it’s an incredibly calm, floaty reaction to heartache, like putting a cute bow on a gift box of denial. Golly Gosh Oh Gee: While looking through his apparently alphabetised vinyl for his Kodaks’ records, Griebel found the Buzz Clifford and Conway Twiddy recordings of this song and was pleasantly surprised by his discovery. Much closer to Clifford’s cut than Twiddy’s, there’s this fun little ukulele in the background to give this version a pep in it’s step and the occasional ‘phew’ gives a touch of realism to this sweet number. Shake A Leg: Described by Griebel as ‘a wonderful blue beat number that has stuck with me for years running through my head and which I've always wanted to interpret’, this is as silky smooth and relaxing as adverts portray bathing in Galaxy chocolate. The girl in blue is a little afraid to dance with the main character, and by the end of this song anyone would be convinced to take a twirl around the dance floor. The Way You Look Tonight: Old Blue Eyes himself gets the Stephan Griebel treatment, and while Sinatra seems overcome with the sheer beauty and perfection of the girl before him, Griebel seems genuinely happy to see his love. This is a really, really happy record that seems to represent spring coming and the world waking up from that two years where we all took Zoom meetings in our pyjamas. Girl Of Mine: Not the Elvis classic, but the lovely ditty by Canadian rhythm and blues -meets-pop pioneers The Diamonds. Griebel makes the smart decision not to fully emulate the four-way vocals that make the original so special, but instead puts his money on soaring vocals and emotional intonation. Sermonette: first released in 1956 and covered an incredible 26 times between then and 2019. Yes, it’s a song with religious themes, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing: look at the amount of times Johnny Cash worked his faith into his music, for instance. There’s something so subtle in Griebel’s key changes here that just makes whatever room you are sitting in seem bigger. Shadow My Baby: Johnny Barnette hired a detective back in 1963 to find out where his lover was spending his money in a twangy, piano driven blues number, and after the Griebels treatment it’s a fun, romantic-comedy tune with a really satisfying rhythm int he chorus. Sweet Lucy’s Kiss: The Doug Van Beck Trio’s quiet, understated ode to the faithful woman loses some of it’s whispered delicacy but gains an almost religious devotion and intensity thanks to Griebel’s deeper tones. His love for the originals he’s chosen is once again so apparent and this really is a heartfelt tribute. Take My Boots Off When I Die: Griebel claims it’s the 1976 Steve Bloomfield original which inspired this song, but I suspect the Matchbox cover was also a influence. It becomes cinematic in the hands of Griebel, a perfect partner to Take Me Back To My Boots and Saddle. Let’s Fall In Love: Griebel really is a connoisseur of his genre, and I hold the theory that he may be deliberately trying to share some rarities of the the world of doo-wop with the masses. Tony Middleton and the Willows’ original gets a shiny Hollywood update in this cover and brings it right into the twenty first century. It’s a song that deserves to take pride of place in a musical about a young couple in the city. Dreams Are Made For Children: Ella Fitzgerald’s lullaby may be ethereal and delicate in it’s beauty, but Griebel’s version contains a timeless paternal warmth which will makes a lovely finish to this record. This album is a love letter to doo-wop, a labour of love to a genre which has touched Griebel’s heart. It’s also a testament to human determination, showing what one person can do when they are passionately inspired by a specific sound. From the wistful to the romantic to the funny, Stephan Griebel has touched on every corner of the genre and celebrates it’s breadth and depth. This is a record to be proud of, in or out of lockdown. See less

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