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July 15, 2024

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Larry Bright
Shake That Thing! (Del-Fi Records Inc.)

By: Gary Pig Gold

Those Fabulous Sixties, more than any other decade before or since, was an era absolutely littered with should'a-been's, one-hit-wonders, assorted crazies-with-guitars, and one of the (few) great things about this Digital Age of ours is that, slowly but surely, ALL of this sweet insanity is being exhumed and re-issued, for better or worse, on Compact Disc. In the case of Virginia-born, Texas-bred voodoo enthusiast Larry Bright, most accurately described by his very own mammy as "my li'l white bastard", this disc provides the perfect career overview of his inimitable brand of trashy, greasy dance-rock.

Too bad this showcase comes about thirty years too late: Cut primarily in the pre-Beatle era by legendary L.A. producer Bob Keane, Larry is revealed alternately as a way cooler Johnny Rivers, a West Coast Ronnie Hawkins (dig his blistering "Mojo Workout"!), and most often as a more down, definitely dirtier Gary U.S. Bonds (the previously-unreleased "New Orleans" is positively swampy!). Heck, Bright even tried to cash in momentarily on the Surf Rock craze, though his Southern-fried "Surfin' Queen" sounds like it's hanging ten or eleven at the foot of the Mississippi rather than anywhere near Brian Wilson's sandbox.

Meanwhile, Larry more than proves he was, as claimed, Howlin' Wolf trapped inside the body of Pat Boone with an "I'm A Man" which, thanks to ferocious guitaring, cuts to absolute shreds other versions from the era - yes, even The Yardbirds'. As if all this isn't yet recommendation enough, howzabout the unsettlingly bizarre "When I Did The Mashed Potatoes With You" (Drifters on acid, I kid you not) and for real fun, check out Track 16, which begins with Keane ordering Larry, "I want you to write a song right now called The Ugly American". And damned if he doesn't!

Despite heavyweight connections amongst his peers (hanging out with Elvis; touring behind Roy Clark and Lou Rawls), Bright unfortunately let his drinking and his mouth often get the better of him (ie: he was up for a job with James Brown that is until he was overheard referring to the Godfather of Soul as a "monkey"). Nevertheless, "Shake That Thing!" more than demonstrates Larry Bright to be an inordinately gifted Gibson-slinger which, mouth notwithstanding, really didn't deserve to disappear through all the cracks he apparently did. Not bad for a li'l white bastard!

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