|Dimensions||21 × 15 × 1.5 cm|
Leroy’s Layabouts, who first appeared on the Sydney jazz and blues scene in the mid ’70s, are back with new album Smokin’, – featuring nine new songs and seven “from the vault”.
Predominantly a blues and saxophone jazz album, it harks back to the ’50s and the boys sound as if they might have literally been smoking… something. The quirky lyrics, rhythms and at times, karaoke-style vocals, seem abundantly indulgent and perhaps for longtime fans only.
No doubt Leroy’s Layabouts had a lot of fun in the studio, but the mishmash of sounds from bygone eras leaves this reviewer craving paracetamol
Review by Sue Robinson If you weren’t sure about when this band was popular – and this is possible from their music, Leroy’s Layabouts’ style appears regularly in pop charts any year – just listen to the lyrics. Then you’ll be sure this is a band from the 70s. And you would be right. Sydney band Leroy’s Layabouts shortened their name to The Layabouts in 1977, thus proving its accuracy. According to the cover notes from this compilation CD: “This was the band that introduced an unsuspecting Sydney to the joys of classic, sax based R&B, jump blues, swing blues and various, mostly black American music forms.” And the band certainly jumps as well as showcasing various US musical forms. TN1947-77 – $20.00 Their music has always been tight, even though the lyrics often stray to loose subjects, and the range of musicians who have played with the band over the years have been sought after to also play with Little Richard, Ella Fitzgerald, Jimmy Page, Johnny O’Keefe, Jerry Lee Lewis, Frank Sinatra, Buddy Holly, Billy Thorpe, Captain Matchbox, and the Dynamic Hepnotics to name a few (no really, this is just a partial list). Frank Bennet is, for example, AKA Dave Wray, the band’s saxophone player, who makes a welcome return in the track: That Mellow Saxophone. The Layabouts disbanded in 1992 but reformed in 2011 at the Patonga Blues Across the Bay Festival and, after thorough testing on live audiences, this CD is the result of their reemergence under the original name. This is a party CD, genuinely difficult to keep to your seat while listening. My symptoms included tapping feet, a tendency to burst into raucous singing along, and an ungainly dance-like shuffle when on my feet while it was playing. Perhaps because so many songs deal with the recreational-drug-fuelled culture of the band’s times, aliases proliferate. Brian Wakefield, for example is the real name of lead singer, “Leroy Suave”. And Leroy’s superb diction makes is very hard to mishear the lyrics. If you bristle at the thought of Leroy complaining that he’s “got the unstoned blues” and hoping to end it by finding and smoking the right stash, then this isn’t the CD for you. But Smokin’ isn’t entirely stuck in the 70s. Several songs deal with situations we can clearly identify with today. Track one, Stuck, is about the desire to kill that envelops you when you are in a hurry and stuck behind a clearly unhurried driver who won’t move over for you. Computer Rage Blues has a Jamaican feel and is very danceable, and the band gives creditable interpretations of the standards Caldonia and Let the Good Times Roll. The band does follow a venerable blues tradition, that of using metaphors, the subjects are frequently challenging on their own, but look for the second layer of meaning and they become much more colourful. Smokin’ in Bed, for example is about much more than the dangers of failing to extinguish your cigarette (or bong) before falling asleep. “Her room is on fi re, she’s been smokin’ in bed” sniggers the chorus. The lady concerned may roll her own, sings Leroy, “when she’s alone, but she jumps on a man like a dog on a bone.” There are some well known novelty songs too. Leiber and Stoller’s Down in Mexico, Your Cash Ain’t Nothin’ but Trash and Oriental Rock are examples. Mellow Saxophone features some truly energetic scat singing from Leroy, and Gangster of Love, featuring Gary Dale on vocals is just cool, mellow and jazzy. Given what they say about the 70s, these guys break the mould. They were definitely there, and if this nostalgic look at their career is anything to go by – they remember it well. Buy this if your memory needs jogging. Buy it if you also remember the 70s well. Buy it if you are having a party. After all “your cash ain’t nothing but trash”, so why not spend it on some truly feel-good music.
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