By Steve Newton
Maybe, like me, you were lucky enough to catch the Stray Cats when they played the Commodore back in ’82.
Or perhaps you saw them when they were on that bill at GM Place in 2007 with the Pretenders and ZZ Top.
But if you’re one of those sad sacks who’ve never seen the Stray Cats before and want to know what they were really like back in the day, then consider scooping up Live at Rockpalast, a new three-disc package that captures the rockabilly revivalists in all their standup bass, standup drums, and shake-your-ass-with-a-Guild-guitar glory.
The music here was recorded live in July of 1981 at Satory-Sale, Cologne, Germany, and in 1983 at Open Air Loreley, Germany—so the performances basically bookend that historic Commodore gig. The ’83 set—with Mel Collins on sax—is the better sounding of the two.
Plus it includes a sweet Brian Setzer-led banjo blast on Earl Scruggs’ “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” and an appearance by Cats producer Dave Edmunds on George Jones’s “The Race Is On”.
The 1981 gig is more raw and punk-sounding, for those who might be into that.
All in all, it’s a fine document of an incredible band at the height of its power, boasting original gems like “Rumble in Brighton”, “Stray Cat Strut”, and “Rock This Town”, with the odd cover—like Eddie Cochran’s “Somethin’ Else” and Gene Vincent’s “Important Words”—thrown in for good measure.