Fresh Fish Special

by: Robert Gordon/Link Wray

Elvis Presley, the first great rockabilly, died only a few months after Robert Gordon cut his debut album, and Gordon paid tribute to the Fallen King on his second LP -- Fresh Fish Special was named for the ugly haircut inflicted upon Elvis in the movie Jailhouse Rock, Gordon covers one of the lesser known tunes from the flick, "I Want to Be Free," on this set, and the Jordanaires add backing vocals on five cuts. Otherwise, Fresh Fish Special doesn't stray especially far from the sound or direction of Gordon's debut. Link Wray returns as Gordon's lead guitarist, and as on the first LP he's in fine form, though he doesn't get to offer up as tough a sound as one might wish (many of the tunes are too low-key to carry the full weight of Wray's full-on guitar attack). Gordon's band sounds more comfortable their second time out, generating a bit more swing than before, and while the songs are mostly vintage covers again, the selection is a bit more imaginative (making room for the New Orleans classic "Sea Cruise" was a nice idea), and whoever brought Bruce Springsteen's then-unreleased "Fire" to Gordon deserved a bonus. As for Gordon, he's in great voice here, and has shaken a bit of the operatic melodrama that slowed down the second half of his debut, though he still comes off more as an enthusiastic interpreter than a musician with a vision of his own. Still, there weren't that many American-born rock & rollers who were willing to fly the flag for rockabilly at end of the '70s, and if other acts would surpass Gordon in imagination and impact a few years on, he certainly gets an 'A' for effort, and there's some real fun to be had on Fresh Fish Special. ~ Mark Deming

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