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Thursday, August 7, 2008

(the) Fabulous Thunderbirds - What's The Word

Name: The Fabulous Thunderbirds
Album: What's The Word
Year: 1980
Style: Country, Blues, Rock
Similar Bands: Blasters
"One-Word" Review: Countrified rock-blues
Based Out Of: Austin, Texas
Label: Takoma Records, Chrysalis,
What's The Word - Cover & Record
What's The Word - Back & Record

What's The Word (1980)
  1. Running Shoes 3:39
  2. You Ain't Nothin' But Fine 1:48
  3. Low-Down Woman 3:17
  4. Extra Jimmies 2:38
  5. Sugar Coated Love 3:01
  6. Last Call for Alcohol 2:55
  7. The Crawl 2:13
  8. Jumpin Bad 2:27
  9. Learn To Treat Me Right 3:08
  10. I'm A Good Man (If You Take A Chance) 2:48
  11. Dirty Work 3:04
  12. That's Enough of That Stuff 2:08
  13. Los Fabulous Thunderbirds 1:10
Album Rating (1-10): 5.5

Members & Other Bands:
Kim Wilson: Vocals, Harmonica, Drums, Harp
Jimmie Vaughan: Guitar (Vaughan Brothers)
Keith Ferguson: Bass (The Leroi Brothers)
Mike Buck: Drums (The Leroi Brothers, The Exiles)
Fran Christina: Drums
Denny Bruce: Producer, Management
Bob Sullivan: Engineer
Frank DeLuna: Mastered
El Mero Guero - Vocals

Unknown-ness: I have definitly heard of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, but I've never heard them. So I picked up the album thanks to its high-energy artwork, new wave look, and date of 1980.

Album Review: Track 1: “Running Shoes.” Right off the bat, the bouncy southern country guitar twang greasily oozes from the speakers. It completely reminds me of the Blasters, with a more enjoyable voice. The guitar & bass plays in a continuous loop, with countrified blues vocals cried over top. The harmonica adds the last bit of necessary country feel. “You Ain’t Nothing But Fine” feels like a country version of any Buddy Holly song. It possesses simple pop song structure, with a country bass and harmonica to push it over the edge. While the vocals are sung, the music is turned down a notch, and they come back to the forefront during the musical jamming interludes. It is just too short, but that makes it even more like a 50’s rock n roll song. Low-Down Woman is a blues number, sped up a just a little. The bouncy bass & drums set the pace, with the harmonica taking the musical lead. Extra Jimmies is an instrumental with a swing guitar, rockabilly guitar and jazzy bass & drumming. “Sugar Coated Love” has the bass line similar to Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus. And let me just tell you, that that band and that song in particular is my most hated song of all time and across all genres. And I hate it mostly for the bass beat too. So I don’t particularly like the bass in this song. But the song’s structure in its sections and vocal style is much more pop than Depeche Mode could ever try to do. “Last Call for Alcohol” is a staggeringly paced start/stop instrumental. The harmonica and guitars team up in this song that feels like the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance from Back to the Future. “The Crawl” is introduced like the dance “The Roach” from Hairspray. The lyrics explain how the dance is done, but the music is just like any oldies rock number, with a little rockabilly mixed in. ”Jumpin Bad” is an instrumental song, and it sounds like a rockabilly version of both “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” and “One For The Money.” “Learn to Treat Me Right” is a jaunty bluesy country rock song. It comes complete with all the elements already exposed on the album. And the bass line is similar to the theme of Sesame Street. “I’m A Good Man” has a bluesy guitar and vocals, over a quicky bouncy bass & drum combo. After a short false-quick start, “Dirty Work” slinks into a swaggering, smokey southern blues tempo. “That’s Enough Stuff” is more of the same. Without sounding repetitive, is slightly more fun and upbeat blues interpretation of rock. It features more oldies style bass and drum work, and is heavy on the harmonica. “Los Fabulosos Thunderbirds” is “sung” in Spanish. I believe it is an add to see the Thunderbirds spoken in Spanish over typical thunderbirds style instrumental, as various Texas cities are mentioned. An interesting way to end the album.

As this is more country than anything I would like, I cannot say I like the record. I do appreciate the obvious oldies influence, and that is why I am adding “You Ain’t Nothin’ But Fine” as the stand out track, which I feel fully illustrates the oldies influence. So if you like country-rockabilly-roots rock, then you’ll like it. Me, not so much.

Stand Out Track: You Ain’t Nothing But Fine

Fab T-Birds - Allmusic
Fab T-Birds - Wikipedia
Fab T-Birds - official site
Fab T-Birds - another site
Fab T-Birds - Myspace
Fab T-Birds - Austin Music


  1. I have read several of your reviews at this point, and I have to tell you, you are the master of missing the point of whatever you write about. Keep up the good work, you are making a lot of people feel incredibly smart.

  2. Just happened upon this review and the anonymous comment. This wasn't the best T-Bird album released, I would have given it a 6.5 probably.

    But to the anonymous poster. Put your name on your post pal. You'll get more respect.

    No guts, no credibility for your "opinion".