It’s hard to know exactly what to do with Gene Vincent’s debut album. On the one hand, it’s clearly an important record both in the sound and the fact that this is a band playing the music, not a group of session musicians. But it also sounds more dated than a lot of the early rock and roll, though not as dated as some of that made by Vincent’s white contemporaries (most notably Bill Haley).
The material is all over the place. Originals which vary wildly in quality and covers – some standards – from the teens, twenties, thirties and forties (and even one as late as the ’50s) which have been “rocked” up. (Not all of them pop songs, either.) It’s kind of schizophrenic in selection if not in style.
The style is very much “white” rock and roll and rockabilly. It’s extremely sedate now but at the time it was fairly “rock” especially compared to a band like the Comets. I’m not sure exactly what the band is doing with two rhythm guitarists – I certainly can’t hear both – but at least some of that could be on the recording technology of the time. It is easy to imagine people who were not super familiar with rock and roll and rockabilly to find this sound quite exciting in the moment (even though they had likely been exposed to at least some over the last two years).
There are some gimmicks here, in the originals in particular, but I guess that was a thing people did in 1956. A lot of it feels way too hep now, as in a version of something hip that hasn’t aged at all – it just sounds bizarre and incomprehensible now. But it’s hard to hold it against them, given their audience.
I haven’t listened to any of the big mid ’50s rock and roll records in sometime, so I’m struggling where to place this, but I think it’s a fairly big deal. And at least it’s consistently rockabilly/rock and roll throughout, even when they cover pop and country songs.