Artist: Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
Album: Live from Ebbetts Field: Denver, Colorado, Aug 11 1973
Label: Rockbeat Records
Release Date: 04.07.2017
It’s oddly fitting that George “Commander Cody” Frayne took his stage name and his original band’s moniker from pulpy 1950s sci-fi cinema. The music really has nothing to do with that milieu or its electronic sounds, but this group shares a similar freewheeling sense of humor and fun. It’s genre-bending, seat-of-the-pants stuff that doesn’t want or need to be refined—uninhibited energy and rough edges aren’t just seasonings here, they’re key ingredients.
Cody has flown solo and formed subsequent bands of Airmen since dissolving this gang in 1976, but those early days had a magic all their own. The group’s blend of bluegrass swing, rockabilly country stomp and chicken-scratch blues is in delightful form on this early set (now getting its first authorized release).
With the leader’s jaunty piano and jangly selection of often-raunchy songs, this gang comes across somewhat like Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis crossed with Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys. Cody’s crew isn’t quite as gleefully offensive as the latter, though they’re just as shameless through spots like “Truckin’ and Fuckin’” or the unexplainably out-of-season “Daddy’s Drinkin’ Up Our Xmas.”
This electrified mix has most any element of rollicking Americana you could want: twang, boogie and shuffle, wailing harmonica, lively fiddle and sax, not to mention some wonderful steel guitar from the inimitable Bobby Black. The set is a product of its time—you can tell from oldies-style rockers like “Wine, Do Your Stuff” and their back-when-it-was-still-cool take on the ‘40s swing tune “Smoke That Cigarette”—but the bite of this recording isn’t dulled in the least. It may be a dang shame that you probably can’t do this on stage anymore, as someone else once said, but we can still break out the whiskey and dig into time capsules like Live from Ebbetts Field to get a wild taste of what those crazy times must have been like.