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THE BASEBALLS Strike Harder 5051865-6534-2-4 (2010)

The Baseballs

"Rock 'n' roll has nothing to do with a generation gap any more. Today, it's really a generation bridge." So said Donny York, co-founder, Sha Na Na who just over 40 years ago surprised the music world by playing Woodstock and subsequently enjoying commercial success in a musical landscape populated by long hairs with guitars.

Just as nostalgia periodically fills the big screen, so rock and roll is always lurking on the periphery of contemporary music. Historically the most effective marketing ploy for a quiff led band has been to let a suitable period of time elapse before tentatively stepping out on to the local club circuit and building things up from the ground.

While Sha Nah Nah showed how it could be done in the 70's, Dave Edmunds' Rockpile and Shaking Stevens offered good rocking and teen appeal without substance respectively in the 80's. George Thorogood's sweaty rhythm & blues later morphed into Psychobilly before The Stray Cats again took their Rockabilly Punk into the charts. So what are we to make of Berlin's The Baseballs?

Well, the band let their impressive sales figures do the talking on the back of their ‘old wine in new bottles' routine, premised on stripped down, rearranged versions of contemporary songs, all given the Germanic twist of ‘Voc & Roll'!

The Baseballs three part harmonies improbably lift them above the rock & roll parapet and into possible mainstream acceptance And while some of the lyrics appear downright strange in a rock and roll context and some of the MOR material like The Plain White T's ‘Hey There Deliah' and the sexual jealousy theme of The Pussycat Dolls ‘Don't Cha' - complete with audience cries of familiarity and saccharine girly bv's - test the patience, The Baseball's somehow triumph if only because of their committed vocal style and unwavering 50's style.

The superb harmonies and the ever present ‘early Elvis' style gives the band accessibility to a wider audience than the average rock & roll band. They come closest to 'The King' on Elton's ‘I Don't Feel Like Dancin' but without any sense of sexual danger, in fact parody more readily comes to mind. But if you accept that The Baseballs are genuinely passionate about what they do, then you will find much to enjoy.

The trio set out their stall on the opening Terius "The Dream" Nash penned ‘Umbrella' (popularised by Rhianna). With a jumping bass, great harmonies and the ever present ghost of Elvis they immediately demand your attention.

Probably best of all is their take of Gloria Estefan's ‘Lets Get Loud' on which the swinging rock & roll arrangement neatly transposes the original Latino groove

A succession of rock & roll stop and starts and doowop harmonies all work well, and the Berliners further impress on the chanted chorus, handclaps, call & response bv's and belting piano that underpins the dichotomous rhymes of Hot & Cold'. The Baseballs also offer insistent repeated choruses as on ‘Bleeding Love'. And by the time of the speeded up vocals on the perfect concluding cover of Roxette's ‘The Look', they almost sucker you into thinking there's a rock & roll revival on the horizon.

But don't be fooled for this is a cleverly constructed project and it remains to be seen whether this Berlin trio will continue with the same formula or finally strike out with their own songs. Not so much a rock & roll revivalism as and a ‘Voc and Roll' pastiche perhaps.


Review by Pete Feenstra


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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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