Reviewbeat: Rebel Dean
I first saw Rebel Dean perform in 2002, at the annual `Eddie Cochran Memorial Weekend` in Chippenham, UK, from where I would regularly broadcast my radio show live.
Given the event, Rebel was obviously doing a mostly Eddie set, but I could see this young guy was more than just a `tribute` artiste. So I was pleased to see him there again the following year, by which time he was also touring the UK and Europe starring as Eddie, in a successful rock musical.
Also appearing at Chippenham that year, was the guy who has long been the shining talent of the UK rock ‘n’ roll scene and in my opinion, just about the best rock ‘n’ roll guitar player too. …Darrel Higham.
Rebel first met Darrel and Imelda May early in 1999, when they came to see him starring in the London West End rock n roll musical. `Four Steps To Heaven`. He and Darrel shared a great rock ‘n’ roll affinity with each other, which first manifested itself when Darrel guested on Rebel`s debut album for Foot Tapping Records, `Rebellion`, in 2013, – also featuring rock n roll legend Charlie Gracie, Jerry Lee`s piano-pounding sister Linda Gail Lewis, and 1980s chart hit-makers, The Jets.)
So it was obvious that he and Darrel should eventually collaborate on a whole album…. and the result of that is now before you….`Rock n Roll Gypsy`.
All the songs, bar three, were written by Rebel while on one of his extensive UK theatre tours, and are a great mix of classic rock ‘n’ roll influences, combined with a very `today` sound and production with, of course, the very big `plus` of having some of the best musicians around to play on them:- Darrel is joined by Al Gare on bass, Dave Priseman on brass and Steve Rushton on drums, all in the full band for the album chart-topping Imelda May.
Rock n Roll Gypsy: Clearly autobiographical, this great opener sets the scene for the whole album, with Darrel`s trademark guitar licks and the tightest of rhythm sections.
Don`t Wind Me Up: Rebel has a clear knack for writing songs with very catchy `hooks’, this one also showing off a great raw vocal sound.. plus a word for that oh-so crisp snare drum work driving it along.
I`ve Never Loved Anyone (As Much As You): A beautiful ballad, inspired by Rebel`s two-year old daughter Shayla, who was sat on her Daddy’s lap while he was composing it at the piano: a song with great echoes of Elvis`s movie `Blue Hawaii`.
I`m Gonna Mess Your Lipstick Right Up: Another `hooky` song with nice backing vocals too, and we are left to wonder what made him crack up at the end?
Let`s Jive: Does exactly what It says on the tin… great guitar…and love those rimshots.
Another Sleepless Night: From the pens of song-writing legends Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, Rebel pulls out a great vocal on his version of the 1960 US hit for Louisiana swamp-pop hero, Jimmy Clanton.
If It Ain`t Broke (Don`t Fix It): A great country-rocker, which I could see attracting a lot of cover-interest in Nashville. (Hey! Marty Stuart, one for you, man!)
I Love The Night: Great bluesy feel to this one, over an infectious `Linda Lu` riff.
Lonely Blue Boy: A song which started out as `Danny`, when first recorded by Elvis for `King Creole`, but was left off the soundtrack. When resurrected in 1960, it was a big hit for Conway Twitty and has attracted numerous covers ever since… this being one of the very best.
Rockin` Waste Of Time: Nice rockabilly-bopper, with yet another catchy chorus!
Just Rockin` & Rollin`: First recorded by the legendary `Blonde Bomber`, Rockin` Ronnie Dawson in 1996, this swings like the clappers with fantastic brass and that timeless `Shake Rattle & Roll` riff. Plus guitar work that Eddie Cochran would have loved. Watch this one fill the rock n roll dance- floors.
Rebellion: Closing with the title of his last album, but written for this, Rebel sings his heart out, on a moody track, with some really dirty guitar. And there you have it.
Take a guy with a great voice and a bunch of really great songs, together with the hottest musicians on the scene… and it couldn`t fail but produce one of the best rock n roll albums in a very, very, long time.
It`s such a joy to have stuff like this to play on the radio. Rebel Dean deserves to become a big star.
Geoff Barker`The Saturday Night Rock n Roll Party`: BBC Radio