Certainly he's among rockabilly's upper echelon. And for good reason. To hear Feathers tell it, he invented the swaggering blues/country hybrid on which much of Sun Records' fame is built. He taught a young Elvis Presley how to sing and play guitar, and it was he -- not Sam Phillips -- who came up with the idea of slapback, or tape-delayed reverb. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. Given his penchant for hyperbole and self-importance, one never knows. This much, however, is true: Feathers was among the first white artists to record at Sun, and his early country sides from the mid-Fifties, while commercial flops, rank among the finest ever recorded at 706 Union Avenue. His straight rockabilly work, recorded after he jumped the Sun ship in 1956, didn't fare much better, although it defines the visceral, gutbucket power of the music as well as anything by Elvis or Carl Perkins.
And unlike Presley and Perkins, Feathers stuck with rockabilly throughout his career, recording in the Seventies and Eighties, often brilliantly, for any label that would have him. He remains the music's elder statesman and opinionated standard-bearer, although myriad health problems have kept him out of the studio and off the concert circuit for most of the Nineties. There's a slew of worthy later cuts that should have numbered among this set's 42 tracks, especially the just-nuts "Uh Huh Honey" and the gorgeous "Gone and Left Me Blues." Who knows? Maybe someday there'll be a volume two. Until then, Get With It is a marvelous tribute to an icon of the strange and the beautiful. (Revenant, P.O. Box 198732, Nashville, TN 37219-8732)
This is the debut album from Mix Master Mike, a member of the Bay Area turntablist collective Invisibl Skratch Piklz and the Beastie Boys' choice for DJ on their 1998 tour. It's on the Asphodel label, which is owned by seasoned avant-garde instrumentalists Naut Humon and Mitzi Johnson. Asphodel staged a remarkable coming-out as patrons of the turntable arts with the release of last year's X-pressions, the first-ever studio project by New York's most revered DJ crew, the X-ecutioners. And with Anti-Theft Device, Humon and Johnson prove they're not just dabbling.
As befits the California DJ style, Mike's album is splashier and more dazzling, though less absorbing, than the New Yorkers'. The Mix Master scratches as fast as anyone save his fellow Skratch Pikl Q-Bert and, like him, favors a very wet, slippery needle sound. Unlike the X-ecutioners, who engage in the rhythmically disruptive practice of "beat juggling," Mike mostly scratches over steady drum loops. The instrumental backing tracks that serve as Mix Master Mike's band are danceable, even whimsical -- a tribute, no doubt, to the days of old-school hip-hop, when the vibe was always bright and the DJ was king. Mike peppers his album with scratched-up vocal samples not only from classic rap songs, but also from old sci-fi movies and TV shows, including Three's Company. He also shows an ability to craft more advanced, disorienting mixes: "Fur Coat," "Black Level Clearance," and the title track are particularly enveloping. (Asphodel, P.O. Box 51, Chelsea Station, New York, NY 10113-0051)