Hank Angel (Extended Play 45)
Produced by David Jeffrey and Dave Lang
Reviewed by Chris Ho
Victoria musician Hank Engel’s self-titled EP is a nostalgic gem that brings you right back to the feel-good rockabilly vibe of the 50’s. Engel pays homage to the underground music scene in Edmonton in the 1980s, and more specifically to one of his favourite bands, The Draggnetts. Although this band had recorded much of their material and were admired for their musicianship, they ended up disappearing into obscurity. In an interview with Drive-in Magazine, Engel said, “We idolized those guys. Not only did they play great music, but they lived it, in an old house with rebel flags and velvet paintings and overflowing ashtrays. Empty bottles all over the place, a bust of Elvis on the mantle. Their girlfriends walked around looking like Betty Page and Marilyn Monroe. Their band was like a gang, like every band ought to be.”
The idea of living out the music that you write and express is essential to a lot of rock and roll — something that you don’t see as often these days. Many bands don’t have the luxury of being signed and consequently need to manage their own careers. Likely, it would only hinder productivity in that regard if they were to live out that kind of lifestyle – (talk about a buzz kill). But this isn’t the sort of genre that lends itself well to being focused on marketing, and making sure you tweet frequently enough. It’s a genre that’s about the music and the lifestyle. It reminds us that, when all is said and done, it’s the whole package that counts: sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll.
Hank Engel’s EP reminds us of this. The production isn’t flashy, and the vocals aren’t tuned to perfection. Many of the tracks sound as though they were recorded live off the floor, which gives it that old-‐school rockabilly feel. And regardless of how polished the EP may be, one has to admire this decision to record the songs in this way. Hank Angel could very well have recorded these old tunes in a more mainstream, or polished way, but instead he stays true to the rockabilly roots.
Producer David Jeffrey clearly has a good understanding of Hank Angel’s genre, and has recorded and mixed it in a way that harks back to that early vintage rock-‐ and-‐roll sound. As a result, the EP gives you just the right amount of crisp guitar tones, non-‐intrusive drum rhythms and raw vocals. Hank brings a new life to the songs of Art Adams and The Draggnetts, although it’s a shame that he doesn’t include more of his original material. His song “A Guitar and A Broken Heart” is a great opener for the EP since it has many of the elements that make a great song, including the catchy vocal melodies, tasteful guitar riffs, and simplistic drum rhythms. But instead of developing this, along with his own sound, he decides to resurrect a couple of great rockabilly tunes, obscuring his own path as a musician.
Nonetheless, his motives are pure, and the songs have come together very well. And who knows, maybe we’ll get to hear more original rockabilly releases from Hank /Engel/Angel in the future.
Chris Ho is a UVic graduate, musician and closet cookie dough eater.