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Wolfgang's Big Night Out

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Album Review

Brian Setzer reconvenes his big band for its first non-Christmas-related set since 2000's Vavoom! Here he rearranges well-known classical themes from Beethoven, Strauss, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and others into Vegas-ized Rat Pack-era swing. It's a fun concept that buys the guitarist time by not having to compose new material, even though these arrangements, many of them quite complex, must have taken a while to construct. Setzer's well-received jump version of The Nutcracker Suite from 2002's Boogie Woogie Christmas probably got this ball rolling as Setzer digs the crazy classical beat with a dozen peppy selections that put his impressive guitar skills to use against finger-snapping horn charts. Song titles are slang for the original works (Flight of the Bumble Bee becomes "Honey Man," Strauss' Blue Danube is reworked into "Some River in Europe," etc.), telescoping the concept of each track. Setzer shifts styles to include jazzy guitar licks for his take on 1812 Overture and, most creatively, a version of Beethoven's Fur Elise ("For Lisa") rearranged into an acoustic Django Reinhardt-styled European Gypsy hot swing number with clarinet and fiddle. Otherwise, it's a fizzy, brassy romp as Setzer dusts off and greases up some stodgy melodies, adding enthusiasm and energy to the proceedings. Some fall on the schlocky side of the bandstand, but that's also part of the charm. The James Bond reverbed guitar in "Take a Break Guys" ("God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen") and its "Caravan" approach of pounding drums are sharp and tight, with time and style changes goosing the charts as Setzer even brings a Clapton/Cream wah-wah psychedelicized kick to the action. Despite a few clichéd moments, this is a rousing success that only occasionally falls victim to its own jive impulses.

Wolfgang's Big Night Out, The Brian Setzer Orchestra
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