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Royal Crown Revue - The Contender

Old School Jive
by: bill aicher

Quality, quality stuff.  These guys are still the "Kings of Gangsta Bop."  RCR is not about being "hip" - the swing thing is what they do.  You wanna talk about the old school guys, these are the ones.  The Revue has been around since before the days of Cherry Poppin' Daddies and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (this is their fourth release).   That, in itself is no reason to get excited, except that the fact that these guys continue to kick ass - album after album. 

The Contender is Royal Crown Revue's latest CD, and their first release since swing made it big.   They are in a whole new ballpark here, with the other big names to compete against if they want to win the hearts of America.  Surprisingly, they do not seem to care very much.  There is no difference in their musical style on this album as compared to their earlier stuff - they didn't sell out.  RCR's love for the classics is what puts them in a class all their own.

This album is a mix of new and old material.  A lot of the tracks are new compositions by RCR itself, but their are a few tracks from the old days.  Their covers of such classics as "Stormy Weather", "Morning Light", and Dizzy Gillespie's immortal "Salt Peanuts" are my favorites on this disc.  It is great to see bands that appreciate the fine art of years past - and RCR does excellent versions of these songs.  Each of the songs has little twists and personalizations to make it more than a simple cover, but an interpretation as well. 

Their original works shine through.  Their personal style differs from that of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Cherry Poppin' Daddies in the general feeling of their music.  Nothing on here screams "I'm Swing-Pop, play me on the radio!" - instead we have a lounge-jazz style that still has enough swing to it to encourage you to move.  Other tracks are closer to a power-swing, reminiscent of late 30's era big band.  Yet others have a salsa beat - like "Port-Au-Prince".  Nothing here is produced to be a hit, instead it is produced to be great music.  The trumpet rips and sax solos are like nothing you will find on the pop-stars of the 90s swing revolution.  Like I said earlier, they were around for quite awhile and have been the inspiration of many followers.  I only hope they don't get so big a fan following as to make it impossible to dance at their shows.  I really hate going to a swing band and being so crowded that I can barely move my arms.  Kind of defeats the purpose, don't you think?

Artist Royal Crown Revue
Album The Contender
Label Warner Bros.
Date 08.25.98
Rating 4.0 out of 5.0