Brian Setzer Does It Again

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"I
pay no attention whatever to anybody’s praise or blame. I simply
follow my own feelings."

~
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

I've said it
before,
and I'll say it again, Brian Setzer is the best guitar player in
the world. His latest, "Wolfgang's
Big Night Out
" cements him in this place. "Wolfgang"
is swinging classical music done as only Setzer can. His revitalization
of rockabilly in the 1980s flew in the face of synthesizer pop and
the "heavy metal" rock of the time. In the 1990s Setzer
led a swing revival at the height of the grunge rock movement. He
is the ultimate musical rebel.

While
his revivals have brought praise and adoration from both rockabilly
and swing fans, Setzer has never been a mere nostalgia act simply
redoing classics. Setzer has added original works to the classics
in both genres and reworked the classics, "Setzerizing"
them. It is this reworking of the classics that has often brought
criticism from rockabilly and swing purists. Setzer ridiculed his
purist critics from the rockabilly subculture in his song, "Really
Rockabilly,"
where the song's subject even sports 1956
underwear. Swing purists were outraged at Setzer's version
of "In the Mood," made famous by Glenn Miller, which included
lyrics and a "rap" by one his orchestra members in the
persona "Big Daddy Fun." Purists in the classical world
may well be outraged at Setzer's latest; the rest of the world will
love it.

"Wolfgang's
Big Night Out" is high-energy romp that combines intense virtuosity
with moments of unexpected whimsy. The whimsical tone is set by
the titles of the adaptations, Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 becomes
"Take the Fifth," the William Tell Overture of Rossini
becomes "Swingin' Willie," the Blue Danube Waltz by Strauss
is "Some River in Europe," and so on.

"Take
the Fifth" has the opening "duh, di, di, da" played
on guitar with a little whammy bar vibrato and just keeps smoking
right to the end. "One More Night With You," adapted from
Grieg's "Hall of the Mountain King" features cool lyrics
in an otherwise pretty straightforward version. Setzer pays tribute
to one of his influences, hot jazzman Django
Reinhardt
, in "For Lisa" from Beethoven's "Fur
Elise" with a rich sounding acoustic guitar version that also
features a sweet sounding fiddle. "For Lisa" is sparsely
orchestrated but it is powerful. My favorite track is based on Rimsky-Korsakov's
"Flight of the Bumblebee." "Honey Man" of course
features Setzer playing the lightning fast part we all know and
love on the guitar but also has lyrics sung by Setzer and a great
female voice. "Swingin' Willie" starts very conventionally
and settles into a groovy swing vibe that seems strange at first
and then almost profound the more you hear it. Also scoring high
on my list are "Yes We Can Can" based on Offenbach's "The
Can Can" with Setzer's banjo giving it a real Dixieland feel
and the manic "Saber Dance," which sounds so cool on an
electric guitar.

If any track
will really rankle the purists, "Take a Break Guys" adapted
from "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" is the one. Setzer
starts out playing it pretty straight and then goes on to some wild
soloing with some 60s-style wah pedal effects even. At first I wasn't
sure if I liked it but the more I listened to it the more it grew
on me.

Once
again Setzer is doing something that seems crazy, making a classical
big band album. But once again Setzer seems to be on to something.
Classical music is enjoying a bit of a renaissance
and this album should please music lovers of all ages. My daughters,
aged 8 and 6, love it, especially "Honey Man." It is a
fun way to hear some of the all-time greatest pieces of music.

October
26, 2007

Greg
Davis [send him mail]
writes from Phoenix, AZ. Download a few of his own rockin' originals
played on his homemade pine and particleboard electric guitars at
myspace.com/danocatster.

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