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Brian Setzer Orchestra

When the Stray Cats came along with "Rock This Town" in the early '80s, they were woefully out of step with New Wave. Their sound obviously mirrored the '50s. After a few hits (but nothing near "Rock This Town"), the band broke up and Brian Setzer (lead guitar/vocals) settled in L.A. where he pursued a lackluster solo career.

Fast-forward a decade. Setzer's neighbor, a jazz musician, was having a party with other musicians and they were jamming up a storm. Brian was not invited but the neighbor saw him leaving his house and yelled out "Hey Brianů Come on overů and bring your guitar." These jazz musicians were laughing because there was no way some retro-Rock guitarist could keep up with them. Well, he smoked 'em. From that impromptu session the Brian Setzer Orchestra was born.

Taking the Big Band-Rock approach, the Brian Setzer Orchestra created a solid debut and a major problem for the record promo people. The sound didn't easily fit into any radio format. Big Band Rock? More Rock than Big Band. How were they going to promote this thing? Forced to look at alternative markets, promo people got tracks played at baseball stadiums and in retail stores.

The promotional efforts, combined with touring, drove interest in the brilliant sophomore album, "Guitar Slinger."

Though nearly cost prohibitive to take a big band on the road, when they did go out, the Brian Setzer Orchestra quickly built a reputation as a high energy, fun, Rock N' Roll act.

"Dirty Boogie" was their commercial breakthrough but hardly compared with their previous effort.

"Vavoom," came out in '01.

Brian Setzer Orchestra Discography

The Brian Setzer Orchestra Albums:

1994 The Brian Setzer Orchestra
1996 Guitar Slinger
1998 The Dirty Boogie - #9 US
2000 Vavoom!
2001 Jumpin' East Of Java
2002 Best Of The Big Band
2002 Boogie Woogie Christmas
2004 The Ultimate Collection
2005 Dig That Crazy Christmas
2007 Wolfgang's Big Night Out
2008 The Best Of Collection - Christmas Rocks!
2008 Ultimate Christmas Collection
2009 Songs from Lonely Avenue
2010 Don't Mess With A Big Band (Live!)
2010 Christmas Comes Alive

Brian Setzer Solo Albums:

1986 The Knife Feels Like Justice
1988 Live Nude Guitars
1998 Rockin' By Myself
2001 Ignition: '68 Comeback Special
2003 Nitro Burnin' Funny Daddy
2005 Rockabilly Riot Vol. 1: A Tribute To Sun Records
2006 13
2007 Red Hot & Live
2011 Setzer Goes Instru-MENTAL!

"Dirty Boogie" sold over two million copies largely on the strength of the hit "Jump Jive and Wail," a Louis Prima remake.

As good as that album is, the one that preceded it is far better. "Guitar Slinger" is an awesome recording. A cover of Steve Ray's "The House Is Rocking" kicks it off. "Hoodoo Voodoo Doll," a fuller version of the Stray Cats' "Rumble In Brighton" and (The Legend Of) Johnny Kool" are hot Rockin' gems.

In the "Dirty Boogie" vein "Vavoom" sources the pop/'50s with a cover of "Mack The Knife" while tripping back even further to resurrect the big band "Pennsylvania 6-5000." That's OK, but not all that exciting. Of course you can't go wrong with "If You Can't Rock Me," "Drive Like Lightening" and '49 Mercury Blues."

The self-titled debut is a solid effort but doesn't have the punch of later efforts.

Setzer returned to the stripped-down Rock approach in '01 with "Ignition: The '68 Comeback Special" with help from drummer Bernie Dresel and Mark Winchester on slap bass. It's a great Rock album with most of the songs written by Setzer.

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