Royal Crown Revue

Royal Crown Revue

The Contender

Warner Bros.

The Royal Crown Revue started life as a rockabilly band, and once the money went out of that craze, they jumped onto the swing bandwagon. It must be doing okay for them — they’re currently the opening act for the Pretenders/B-52’s tour, and superstar producer Ted Templeman manned the boards for their new release, The Contender. They seemed to be poised to take full advantage of the swing craze sweeping the charts. Only problem is, to quote the great Duke Ellington: “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.” The Royal Crown Revue couldn’t swing if you hung them from a rope. When I was younger, I played in a jazz group who backed up Stan Kenton and Count Basie. I’ve heard swing. This ain’t it.

All the tunes are the same tempo, fast. The lyrics are insipid, sounding like someone watched a video of Guys and Dolls and read a 1940’s phrasebook. Their version of “Stormy Weather” is criminal, played at breakneck tempo with a blaring horn section. The one redeemable moment is a version of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Salt Peanuts,” which allows the horn section to groove without some yahoo chattering over them. You can go to Tower Records and purchase Louis Jordan, Cab Calloway, and Louis Prima records. Do it, and help the Royal Crown Revue on their way to finding a new trend to latch onto.

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