The rockabilly revival has come and gone twice since Robert Gordon ignited the movement back in 1977. But whether rockabilly is the flavor of the moment or not, the singer continues his longstanding love affair with the genre.
During the summer, Gordon’s eighth studio album came out on Koch Nashville. Called “Satisfied Mind,” the album has a crisp, clean production that incorporates all the genres that the New York-based singer has been previously been associated with — rockabilly, country and honky tonk.
Its his first studio album in nearly 10 years, a period in which Gordon fans had to make do with the numerous live recordings and “best of” collections that were released by various labels around the world.
With such a long absence from the studio, you would think that singer known for his interpretative stylings had plenty of ideas about what to record when he went into Johnny Neel’s Straight-Up Sound in Nashville to make the album, but not so, according to Gordon. “Some were tunes that I always wanted to do. A couple of them I have done live and some of them just came up on the spot,” he says.
The Hollies “Long Cool Woman” was among the latter songs. Gordon says that one came “out of left field. We were just riding up to the studio and I hadn’t heard it for years when it came on the radio.” Elsewhere, Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walking” adopts a Johnny Cash swagger. Other songwriters or artists that Gordon tackles on the album include Quinton Claunch, Sleepy LeBeef, Fabian and the team of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman.
On opener “Dear One,” an old Larry Finnegan number, Gordon emulates Elvis Presley-like vocal mannerisms, something he has avoided for the obvious reason for his almost three-decade long career.
“I’ve always liked the tune but we just couldn’t come up with a groove for the thing, and I said, ‘Well, look, we might as well try and camp it up.’ So I did it like a Presley tune, big time intentionally,” Gordon relates. “I’ve always tried to stay away from that because I don’t want to get pegged in that bag. Yet, I thought it was so cool that we started the album out with it, just to confuse people.”
Beyond his rockabilly affiliation, Gordon is also known for having bands with hot-shot guitar players. In fact, on his first two albums, Link Wray filled that role, followed by British guitarist Chris Spedding for the next two, and then the late great Danny Gatton on the last RCA album. Other guitarists who have played or recorded with Gordon include Duke Robillard and Barry Ryan. The latter is a member of the Rockats, which sometimes serve as Gordon’s backing band.
On “Satisfied Mind,” Gordon was backed by a band put together by guitarist Eddie Angel from Los Straightjackets, and includes Jimmy Lester on drums, Dave Roe on bass and Johnny Neel, the former keyboard player for the Allman Brothers.
Neel actually found his way onto the album at the last minute, after the studio originally booked by the U.K.-based Jungle Records cancelled. So Neel, who has a studio in his home, was contacted. “I’d never met Johnny, and while we were recording he’d come down periodically and listen to the stuff, and he ended up playing on the entire album,” Gordon says. “Now, the album is totally keyboard-oriented because he just blew me away.”
Gordon has been gigging regularly since the album came out, and fans say his performances have been outstanding. That should prove comforting to long-time listeners, who had to endure several years worth of spotty shows.
In fact, the artist just finished up a swing of shows in Europe and worked for the first time in 15 years with Spedding on guitar. Further gigs are in the works for February. “I’m really excited about working with Spedding again,” he says. Of all his bands down through the years, “that was the most exciting combination.”