Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes of extinguished flames comes the introductory album from Shindig whose personnel will be better known to you as ex-members of The Flames, the long established backing group of the charismatic John Leyton. For over 20 years drummer Jeff Tuck dedicated his life to fully running The Flames but due to a contractual dispute over the name and, as happens to many groups, a bit of a 'bust-up', the resurrection of the band has taken on a new name. All the guys in the band sing and in addition to Jeff on drums the line-up consists of Shayne Driscoll and Mark Ponsford on shared rhythm and lead guitars along with bassist Roger Cover. With their combined experience in backing artists of the quality of Charlie Gracie, Linda Gail Lewis, Mike Berry, Jet Harris, Chas McDevitt, as well as John Leyton, they are steeped in the rich tradition of instrumentation from those magical rocking days of the late 50s and early 60s. This creative line up brings a brand new image to the group who are not only a versatile and experienced combo, but they now add that unique ingredient of writing their own songs in the style of the era that they represent.
Taking a listen to their debut album is like walking into a magical Tardis, without the need of the good doctor, as the time-machine winds back the clock to capture all the pizzazz of those inventive rock 'n' beat years. The boys have created a 14 track album as a sampler of their creativity and if any retro-event promoter needs to listen to what is on offer, then this is the hook that will land bookings for the group across the length and breadth of the country. Let's take a look at the tracks and you'll see why I'm so very positive about the fresh approach that Shindig have constructed to build on their multiple years of past experience.
Five of the numbers have been penned by members of the group with Shayne writing two, Jeff and Mark adding a further one each and Roger, together with Dave Lawes, being joint composers of the fifth. Shayne's composition Go Rockin' Tonight opens the album and sets the scene for a mixture of rocking tracks with the added variety of, in addition to originality, covers, instrumentals and unique interpretations of great diversity. Who would have thought that Matt Monro's crooning classic My Kind of Girl could ever be done in any other way? This track works so well with shades of Bobby Darin to demonstrate the group's forward thinking and moving the music on to a different level. We'll come back to their original compositions later but in terms of instrumentals, Shindig was a classic Shadows track written by Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch and not only do the group use that title as their band name, but also deliver a version of the tune that will become their trademark over many years to come. I've always liked Riders In The Sky since I was a little lad in short pants and sat cross legged on the carpet watched those, now nostalgic, TV Westerns on a black and white telly in our front room. The lads brought those memories flooding back with a consummately professional version of that western classic. Great stuff!!
In terms of cover versions, Marie, Marie took Shakin' Stevens into orbit and could well do the same for Shindig with great harmony vocals and a solid beat to add to a powerful lead guitar solo. Billy Fury provides the inspiration for Like I've Never Been Gone and on the Conway Twitty original (covered by Billy) of It's Only Make Believe, the band creates a mood to demonstrate the era to perfection. Both songs also have the timeless feel of the originals and demonstrate thoughtful vocal interpretations of classic, good music. Still I Cry jointly written by Roger sounds like it could have been a Shane Fenton and The Fentones original and Shane Driscoll's song Jive With Me, whilst again totally original, would have been perfect for Cliff and The Shadows. Come On And Dance With Me is pure rock 'n' roll and might have been given added attraction with a slowed down 'Elvis style' ending whilst Paula is a well written unique girl song by Mark featuring warm vocals with a definite Elvis feel. The instrumental Misirlou, whilst not a Shindig original, was a comparatively new tune to me and I loved the line 'she spends my money' in Jeff's song Someone Else which benefits from the added Vox Continental played by guest musician (and recording engineer) Mike Westergaard. Credit to him for the sound balance throughout the album and the running order which has been skillfully chosen to maintain maximum attention.
There is much to admire about the whole album from the opening notes of Shayne Driscoll's song Go Rocking Tonight which is my favourite track on the album and sets the scene for all that is to follow. It was creative thinking to open the album with this track and it reminded me of the Ricky Nelson '50s recording of Waiting In School with the guitar work being very reminiscent of the great James Burton on the Nelson song. The album closes with the Doc Pomus / Mort Shuman American Drifters immortal ballad Save The Last Dance For Me which conjures up the end of the night on many a 'live' gig for these boys. I'm sure they'll soon be packing the rock 'n' roll club dance circuit venues if this album is anything to go by and what a great way to end the evening and the album! The bottom line is that this is an album which the band can be proud of and I'm sure when you buy it and take a listen, you'll agree that Shindig is here to stay. They will certainly go from strength to strength and backed by their live performances they should sell many albums over the coming years. Rock on!!
Trevor Simpson - December 2012
Trevor is the author of the two 'sell out' books - Small Town Saturday Night (Volumes
1 & 2) and the new 2013 book - Elvis: The Best Of British (The HMV Years 1956 -