Rick Shaffer is a singer and songwriter, as well as the founding member of the Philadelphia based band The Reds®. Their eponymous debut album led to live appearances with groups like The Police, Blondie, The Ramones and Public Image, amongst others. On a different label they released several critically acclaimed albums, which led to working with director Michael Mann, who incorporated their songs into the show Miami Vice. This led to writing for films and the song Terror In My Heart featured in Nightmare on Elm Street 2.
Along with session work, playing guitar for artists like Marianne Faithfull and Marc Almond, Rick started releasing solo albums, with Jitterbug Shake being his sixth. It contains ten tracks all written by Shaffer and has been produced to recreate the raw, overdriven sound of the garage rock groups of the Sixties like The Pretty Things and early Rolling Stones. These bands were inspired by the 50’s rockers like Chuck Berry, Slim Harpo and Link Wray, and those influences are manifest throughout this album.
Got to Know starts the album and makes immediate impact, with Shaffer’s swaggering Jagger-esque vocals delivered over the biting guitar twang of the great Chuck Berry and Link Wray records. The following Sure Thing is superb, a swampy blues number in 2/4, driven along by a riff that brought to mind Personal Jesus, one of Depeche Mode‘s rockier moments. Going Strong is another highlight, with a fantastic nah-nah chant on the addictive chorus and some wonderful lead guitar.
So Tired is so Stonesy that they’ll be disappointed not to have written it themselves, carried along by a jangling guitar riff that brought to mind their early classic The Last Time. Sixth track Just A Little is another fine blues rock track, while the fuzzy distortion of It’s True features a wild lead vocal drenched in slapback delay, a hallmark of 50’s rock n roll production.
Confidence Man and Break Of Day carry on the Stones vibe, while throwing harmonica and slide guitar into the musical mix. Can’t Go Back is a great homage to blues artist Jessie Mae Hemphill, while closing track Last Of Me is a perfect finale, with a mean guitar riff. It appropriately parts with the words ‘C’mon baby, do the Jitterbug Shake….’
Overall, this is a fantastic album that takes all the best elements of garage rock and combines them to create an arresting and potent sound. It manages to sidestep what could have become mere pastiche and revitalizes a sub genre of rock for the modern age, in a similar way to bands like The White Stripes and The Black Keys. Fans of those groups will find much to enjoy here.
Alex Faulkner ∎ The Faulkner Review
Verdict: 8.7 out of 10
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Photograph: “Incognito” ©2015 Theresa Marchione