The Shrubbery
July 1999
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Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra Swingin' The Century (Wayland)

Indigo Swing Red Light! (Time Bomb)

Two reviews by Courtney Knopf

Long time favorites in the L.A. swing scene, the Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra deftly recreates the sound of big bands from the 1930's and 1940's. On their third album Swingin' The Century, Bill, his vocal group The Lucky Stars, and the 15 piece orchestra lay to rest any rumours that the swing scene is dying. The instrumental title track, "Swingin' the Century," starts off the album and re-introduces the use of a clarinet, which was noticeably absent on the last album Calling All Jitterbugs!.

Much Of Elliott's music on this album is geared towards dancers, "The Shim Sham Song" having been written specifically for the Shim Sham, a sort of swing line-dance, at the urging of Rusty Frank, an L.A. dance instructor who specializes in Shim Sham. Bill also pays tribute to the dancers in "Camp Hollywood Special." Camp Hollywood is a popular L.A. dance camp/workshop that teaches the Dean Collins 'smooth style' Lindy Hop, which is often referred to as 'Hollywood Lindy' because of its prevalence in films of the 1930's like Hellzapoppin' and The Groovie Movie. And while I never thought I would hear an ode to Merv Griffin, that's just what "At the Coconut Is." It was written as a sort of thank you to Griffin, who is the owner of the Beverly Hills Hotel and opened up The Coconut Club last year and turned it into a haven for big bands to play to a dance floor where "Swing kids mix with the Hollywood elite."

Ten of the fifteen songs on the album are original compositions like the hilarious "Let's Get Married" and "Maze Of Death," which sounds like the theme to a forgotten noir thriller from the 40's. With the vocal stylings of Cassie Miller and the Lucky Stars, Bill also takes on classics like Arlen & Mercer's "Come Rain Or Come Shine" and Gershwin's "Oh Lady Be Good" to spectacular results. Maybe khakis don't swing anymore, but Bill certainly does.

San Francisco's favorite sons, Indigo Swing, also check in this month with Red Light!, a new release chock full of boogie woogie, jump blues and early rock 'n roll. Lead singer Johnny Boyd, aka the Swing Lover, is one of those people who was born to sing and seems to be able to hit any note that might be thrown at him. The real driving force behind this sensational six-piece is the stupendously talented William Beatty on piano. Beatty, who shares much of the song writing credit with Johnny Boyd, has written some of the loveliest melodies in recent memory.

The title track is a wry course in anger management that takes Indigo Swing down the road of more blues and early rock and roll than their previous work. Guitartist Josh Workman clearly picked up a few licks from Brian Setzer when Indigo Swing toured with them, and the result is more electric. "The Best You Can" is a sweetly hangdog tune while the William Beatty penned track "Pop's At the Hop" is a fast and furious song that features prominently features Baron Shul on saxophone.

"Another Day In L.A." features the sizzling trumpet of Royal Crown Revue's Scott Steen and, with an electrifying call and response between Shul and Steen, works itself up to be one of the strongest tracks on the album. Taking a subtle turn into calypso, the lazy rhythm of "Love's Gonna Find You" is a nice carribean flavored change of pace for the band, and signals that they have evolved a whole lot since their self titled first release way back in 1995. While some have criticized them for their shirt away from the dancer-friendly songs of their previous releases, much of Red Light! is merely the natural evolution of a band. While it may not be as uniform as Indigo Swing or All Aboard!, it still shines by its own merits, because they are an extremely talented band who would rather progress than stagnate.

Swingin' The Century: B+ [88%]

Red Light!: A- [92%]

Buy Swingin' the Century at Amazon.com, out July 13!

Buy Red Light! at Amazon.com!

Catch Bill Elliott with George Gee's Make Believe Ballroom Orchestra for a Battle of the Bands at the Hollywood Palladuim in Los Angeles on July 3rd, and in New York City on the U.S.S. Intrepid on July 11th, as well as other dates around the east. Check http://www.studio8h.com/swingorch for more info.

Indigo Swing, the hardest working band in swing, hardly spends a moment off the road. Go to http://www.indigoswing.com to find out when they'll be in your area.

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