Craig Morrison & the Momentz : Rocket Radio - CD


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Song list MP3 RealAudio
1. Rocket Radio MP3 RealAudio
2. When Captain Vann Plays the Blues MP3 RealAudio
3. Boogie Woogie Country Girl MP3 RealAudio
4. Jive House
5. Sweet Sweet Girl
6. Two Needles MP3 RealAudio
7. On the Road Again MP3 RealAudio
8. Rockabilly Funeral
9. Tongue-Tied Jill
10. One Mint Julep
11. Mama Don’t You Think I Know
12. There’s a Beautiful Light in the Neighborhood Tonight
13. The Cuckoo
14. Violins in the Street
15. Postcard from Amsterdam
16. Song for New Year’s Day MP3 RealAudio
17. Jukebox Eddy Saved the Day
18. Incense and Pepermints


Assembled from studio tracks and two live performances-at the Rockabilly Jam series in 1998 and at the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall in 1999-the CD is half original compositions and half covers. The songs resonate with connections to roots and traditional sources, subjects Morrison knows well as the professor of Rock and Roll and Its Roots for Concordia University’s Music Department.

From their days backing the legendary rhythm & blues pioneer Vann “Piano Man” Walls, Craig Morrison & the Momentz reprise songs by the Clovers and Big Joe Turner on which Vann originally participated, and perform a tribute in “When Captain Vann Plays the Blues.”

Inspired by meeting rockabilly veterans while researching his book Go Cat Go ! Rockabilly Music and Its Makers, Morrison covers songs by musicians he interviewed : Charlie Feathers (Memphis) and Jackie Lee Cochran (Los Angeles). One of the original compositions eulogizes the late Handsome Ned (Toronto).

Morrison was raised in Victoria BC, where he began playing guitar in 1966. His latest research is on West Coast rock of the period, hence a cover of “Incense and Peppermints” by the Strawberry Alarm Clock of Santa Barbara, California. Other songs on this diverse program come from traditional folk and from the Memphis Jug Band and Don Gibson.

In addition to mining the sources, Morrison’s own songs, including one performed alone with acoustic guitar, show that the tradition continues.


Morrison’s unshakable faith in rock ‚€˜n’ roll’s age of innocence is the story here. - Hour ; 3 stars

Montreal-based ethnomusicologist Craig [Morrison] (who teaches history of rock ’n’ roll classes at McGill and Concordia), has finally unleashed his tasteful blend of rockabilly, R&B and folk with Rocket Radio. Praise da lord ! 8/10 - Adam Gollner, Montreal Mirror

Montr√©alais d’adoption, Craig Morrison a longtemps √©tudi√© les racines du rock and roll, offrant m√™me des courses sur le sujet √ McGill et publiant un livre, Go Cat Go ! On l’ignorait peut-√™tre, mais Morrison sait aussi gratter la six-cordes et chanter, comme nous le rappelle l’album Rocket Radio. Une vingtaine de pi√®ces sont au menu, un bon m√©lnge de compositions et de classiques rock and roll, blues et R&B... le petit voyage sonore propos√© par Morrison s’av√®re malgr√© tout int√©ressant pour les fans du sujet rock. - Richard Labb√©, La Presse ; 3 stars

Longtime Montreal resident and Victoria BC native Morrison is a York University-trained ethno-musicologist and author who has, oddly enough, been a professional musician since high school. The title of his first book, Go Cat Go ! Rockabilly Music and Its Makers, pretty much sums up the music on this CD but it’s played honestly and the blues roots of the music are evident, particularly in the heartfelt tribute to Vann "Piano Man" Walls, "When Captain Vann Plays The Blues", "One Mint Julep" and "Boogie Woogie Country Girl". Outside of Morrison on guitar and vocals, the lineup of The Momentz changed too frequently to list easily and the eighteen songs were recorded at various sessions, club dates and concerts over the past decade and more but with surprisingly consistent recording quality for all that. The cover photo reproduced here was taken by Linda Gross. - John Valenteyn, Toronto Blues Society

It begins with a twirl of the radio knob and the twangy urgency of a rockabilly guitar. For the next 62 minutes, Craig Morrison and company chase the ghosts of rock’n’roll past.

Musicologist Morrison is best known to Montrealers for his fun and informative McGill and Concordia lectures on the history of rock. Now he has put to use what he teaches, laying down an album of vintage tunes and originals. Morrison pays homage to pal and collaborator Vann (Piano Man) Walls, Handsome Ned and other lesser knowns of the rock world. The playing is loose, but driven. Morrison’s voice is a fragile thing, but a thousand garage bands have been launched with less. Rating **1/2 - Mary Lamey, Montreal Gazette

McGill University prof and ethnomusicologist Craig Morrison releases a love letter to his passion for blues and roots rock, looking mostly to ’50s R&B for inspiration. Most of the songs are the kind of pieces you’d hear at the legion of summer blues and jazz fests around the country - solid, not very experimental and fairly straightforward. There is a lot of history on these songs, though, which fits in pretty square with Morrison’s day job. Rich with covers of old artists like Harry Vann Walls, Big Joe Turner, Don Gibson, Charlie Feathers and Jackie Lee Cochran, this comes with an important caveat : this is not rock and roll excitement. I kept looking over my shoulder, expecting applause from suburban parents with polo shirts and Bermuda shorts, smelling of mosquito repellent. - Patrick Lejtenyi, Exclaim !

It’s a really fine CD, as good as any CD I buy by anybody. I was really impressed. -Yvon Bonneville, president, Jerry Lee Lewis Canadian Fan Club

In the 1950s and 60s, the transistor radio did a lot to bring rhythm ’n blues into the lives of young people throughout North America. Craig Morrison remembers how a little red "Rocket Radio" brought him the sounds of blues and rock as a teenager, which led him to his career as a musician, teacher and writer with a keen interest in the roots of rock. This album is, in part, a tribute to Morrison’s musical heroes who sang through that rocket radio, containing 18 songs, half of them originals, the other half cover versions of r ’n b hits and folk tunes.

The cover songs, including the Doc Pomus/ Reginald Ashley hit "Boogie Woogie Country Girl," Jackie Lee Cochran’s "Mama Don’t You Think I Know" and the Strawberry Alarm Clock’s "Incense and Peppermints," all work well. Morrison and his band create a very highly spirited and authentic-sounding rockabilly groove on "Mama Don’t You Think I Know," featuring a fabulous walking bass line. John McDiarmid plays some ferocious blues piano work during "On the Road Again," which Morrison learned from a Memphis Jug Band recording. To my taste, Morrison’s originals are arranged a bit thinly, and seemed to need more textural "space." However, the opening instrumental, "Rocket Radio," grooves quite well, and "Song for New Year’s Day" contains some very attractive chord changes.

Morrison’s guitar sings expressively throughout the album. He broaches a number of styles, from Chuck Berry-like double stop solos, chorded solos in a rockabilly style and jazzy single note lead lines. His lead and rhythm playing is consistently tasteful and pleasingly melodic. His vocals are more limited in expression, however, as he sticks to his middle range and to one tone colour for nearly the entire album.

The songs for Rocket Radio were recorded over the course of eight years (although one track dates back to 1986) and are mix of studio and live recordings. The sound and production quality is remarkably consistent from track to track, however, which is quite a feat. The production is clean and sparse, which serves some tracks well. Morrison’s liner notes document the process that led him to write or choose these songs-he has interviewed many of the original performers and songwriters of his cover tunes-and this sets the context for the songs quite nicely.

This is a highly personal journey through some of the styles that lie at the roots of rock, but Morrison is careful to make sure that journey is friendly and accessible. Admirers of rockabilly and blues guitar playing will find some fine moments here. - Chris McDonald, Canadian Folk Music Bulletin

The CD is superb. You did such a good job on vocals and guitar. I really like it : high grade and thoroughly enjoyable. You’ve really got something good there, Craig. - Glenn Honeycutt, Memphis rockabilly legend

I am impressed ! You are a very gifted and proficient musician. You have a beautiful clear stong voice and obvious expertize on the guitar. I learned a lot about your life and musical influences and experiences from the two front pages - very interesting. I loved your original songs too - also in a variety of styles - such versatility ! And you reveal so much of yourself. Thank you again for all that wonderful music. You are an inspiration, and I’m sure you are a great teacher. You seem to give a lot of yourself in all that you do : your music, teaching and writing. - Tessa, California

LOVED that version of Cuckoo on Rocket Radio ! A splendid interpretation. Better yet, a refreshing reinvention. Looking forward to hearing more and more of your music online and on CD. - Ezra S, Montreal

Craig Morrison leads the band up Rockabilly Lane from Memphis to Montréal

a review by Willie Western (Steve Solo) Rawdon Quebec News Forum

Singer-songwriter Craig Morrison leads the band up Rockabilly Lane from Memphis to Montr√©al with a selection of live and studio cuts from a dozen years of recording sessions and shows. "It’s been a long time coming" says Craig "but it’s been worth every note played."
This recording, with its mix of live and studio takes, plays like an all-live recording, crowd response and applause included. Long-time regulars Pierre Gauthier on drums and John McDiarmid on piano figure on most of the tracks but this fine collection features many musicians and vocalists from the Montreal area.
Rocket Radio is well recorded and sounds balanced from start to finish. This is ROOTS MUSIC : basic rock and roll and blues and sure to please fans of the genre. Good party music.
The package contains a 6-page color booklet documenting the tracks and displaying lyrics and anecdotes from the artist.

Set 1 : Portraits

1. Rocket Radio This short electric guitar driven piece starts and ends with what sounds like someone changing stations on a radio.

2. When Captain Vann Plays the Blues Craig’s guitar and John’s piano trade licks as Craig celebrates the memory of the legendary Vann “Piano Man” Walls with back up vocals by Marianne Brousseau.

3. Boogie Woogie Country Girl This piano-pushed barn burner really sets the pace for a blues raunch guitar solo by CM. 

4. Jive House Craig takes out his Dobro and battles the roaches in another road story.

5. Sweet Sweet Girl CM rolls his favourite rockabilly riff off his Gibson Les Paul while Elizabeth Provencher sings background and Gilles Losier plays a fiddle solo on the most recognizable song on this record.

6. Two Needles To Gilles Losier’s piano and Craig’s very sharp guitar break, CM tells the story of Handsome Ned the rockabilly junkie.

7. On the Road Again Here’s another well-known guitar lick that lays a steady locomotive comp punctuated by the return of John Mc’s piano. Bill Gossage on bass and Perry Panseiri on drums also add background vocals and answer back.

8. Rockabilly Funeral “I want a rockabilly funeral when I die” is the theme here as Craig gets the trio to bang away to the bubbabilly riff and a flattened big E-string... cool !

9. Tongue-Tied Jill This song starts up like Willie’s “I’m On the Road Again” then Craig leads the rockabilly trio through some basic chord changes live on stage at the Lion D’Or in Montr√©al.

10. One Mint Julep John Mc on piano plays a Fats Domino-style trot and twinkles up on the top end as Craig picks around the blues scale and reminisces about what caused it all.

11. Mama Don’t You Think I Know ? This sounds a lot like Elvis’s "That’s All Right Mama" as Morrison pulls the boys onto the big stage at the Lion D’Or in Montr√©al.

Set 2 : Postcards

12. There’s a Beautiful Light in the Neighborhood Tonight Craig Morrison now back in the studio strays from the formula and delivers a British sixties sound with background vocals by Marianne Brousseau and Robert Harris on drums.

13. The Cuckoo This live track manages to weave some guitar jazz into the piano modules set up by JMc.

14. Violins in the Streets A studio instrumental from 1986. The original MOMENTZ band at that time was Craig Morrison, Claudette Blouin (keyboards), Steve W. LeBlanc (bass : that’s me !), Pierre Gauthier (drums), and Rod Booth who played the violin with a wah wah. There’s no vocal on this cut but the original version had a rap by Rod. We played all around Montr√©al for 6 years.

15. Postcard from Amsterdam Some more nice vocal harmonies on this Beatle-esque sounding number played in front of an attentive audience.

16. Song for New Year’s Day I like John McColgan’s finely tuned drums and a great snare sound. Craig produces another nod to the Beatles in studio.

17. Jukebox Eddy Saved the Day Craig takes it solo on acoustic guitar and guides us through the solo performer’s evening.

18. Incense and Peppermints From the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall set, CM lights one up for the Strawberry Alarm Clock.

Craig Morrison has had a great musical career and it’s partly documented here on his first album. Let’s hope for another one soon.


- Beatnick Records, 3770 St. Denis (near Ave. des Pins) phone : 514-842-0664

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is an ethnomusicologist, teacher, author, and musician
based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada
7 Nights Music Communications, © 2006