Album Review: Various Artists – “Gypsy Hotel Vol 1”
To those who’ve never been to the infamous Gypsy Hotel Club, I’m really not quite sure how I’d even begin describing it to you. A wonderfully eccentric mash-up of rock ‘n’ roll upstarts, burlesque beauties, the sort of novelty acts that would probably scare the living bejebus out of the mooks on “Britain’s Got Talent” and a supporting cast of nasties, it’s nothing if not individual (certainly I think it’s fair to say that no two nights out there are ever the same) and for that reason alone it probably ranks as one of the best nights out that there is in London.
This compilation then is pretty much everything you’d expect from such an eclectic institution. The club’s two most successful exports the Urban Voodoo Machine (the guys who started the whole thing up in the first place) and the Jim Jones Revue are both present and correct with the Voodoos kicking the whole thing off with the lurching sea shanty of “Plenty More Room” and the JJR contributing a typically fired-up slice of hellbilly blues ‘n’ roll in “Fish 2 Fry”.
However, it’s safe to say that these two acts definitely shouldn’t be regarded as a blueprint for what’s on here although it has to be said that the Fabulous Penetrators play a similarly fired up brand of rock ‘n’ blues to the JJR and could quite feasibly follow them in going on to bigger things. Elsewhere though the content ranges from the folky East End witticisms of Nigel Burch & The Fleapit Orchestra and the Walking Wounded through the East European instrumentalisms of the Trans Siberian March Band to the Middle East lament of “Iraq Blues” by Little Victor which sounds like Jon Spencer if he suddenly acquired a social conscience.
True it’s not all plain sailing – one suspects the likes of Mama Rosin and the Dead Brothers probably make a bit more sense if you’re actually at Gypsy Hotel and enjoying a few shots of bourbon rather than listening to them stone cold sober in a third floor flat in Clapton on a quiet Thursday evening as this reviewer is while the Deptford Beach Babes’ Cockney version of “I Put A Spell On You” is a brave idea which doesn’t quite work in practice. But there’s more than enough variety and enjoyment here from the bedsit humour of Vic Ruggiero’s “Lonely Nights” to Mighty Stef’s Dylan-goes-to-Dalston style “Romantic Ireland Is Dead And Gone” and the “Gunfight At The OK Corral” atmospherics of Los Plantronics. We even get the Pogues’ Spider Stacy showing up with the frenetic “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down” which is definitely one of the highlights on here.
Rather like the club that spawned it, “Gypsy Hotel Vol 1” is an intriguing grab-bag of musical styles which doesn’t always hold together perfectly but that’s part of its charm. And, rather like a Saturday night out at GH, you certainly can’t say that it isn’t entertaining.