The Bellhops on this their debut album present the dance hall blues of a bygone era with all the flair and finesse one would expect of such a band.
A finalist for Album of Year at the 1998 Australian Blues Awards, this recording took 2nd place and became the critics favourites for that year.
By their own definition, the Bellhops are an R'n'B, Blues and Swing outfit, which is a most apt description.
Copious use of brass is encountered on the many up tempo tunes with some wonderful renditions of pass classics such as "C.C.Rider" or "I'm Ready" which are surpassed by the many original tunes on offer.
A majority of the music of Room Service is very lively as you would expect from bands of this ilk.
Respite from this assault of quick tempo brass driven tracks come from some absolutely delightful usage of harmonica, guitar and keyboard with some great Dobro found on the unscheduled track 13, apparently titled Ellen B.
The guitarist John Russell penned, "Criminal of Love" drops the tempo and feel to a soulful slow Blues with some nice saxophone integration to finish.
Russell,( the primary lyricist ) along with guitarist Ian Dittman have written some clever tunes very much suited to the music.
Bass runs and drums of Mark Roulston and Steve "Wrongway" Lovarini respectively are integral to the feel of the music and consistently provide a smooth backing and driving force.
Steve Trew and Ian Dittman handle vocal chores well with the harmonica of Steve adding additional textures.
Much enjoyment is derived after some familiarisation.
"Room Service" has proven to be an impressive debut release from this bunch of Sydney dwellers.
Glenn Nelson - "Highway 49 This review can be found on at Highway 49 An outstanding release from this great Sydney band.
The Bellhops have really captured their happy live sound in this studio recording.
From the opening track, Willie Dixon's "I'm Ready" to the great closing original " I got Saved" (from a life without alcohol and cigarettes), this is one pleasure journey as The Bellhops take you through a variety of blues styles and feels.
I love the rocky feel of the original "Doin' it Right" also summed up truthfully in another original "Shake Dem Bones".
Track 6, "Personal Manager" has a smooth slow groove, perfect for taking your partner and holding close for that intimate late night dance, but you don't get much of a chance to lay back as no sooner have your emotions been caressed than "Got my Mojo Working" gets those bones shakin' again.
This is one CD that all blues fans, not just Australian but International should add to their collection.
"Room Service" by THE BELLHOPS, is a frank reminder that we have world class talent right here on Australia's Home Soil.
Review and Copyright by MR BLUES (Mark 'radar' Watson) 1998 This review can be found at Mr Blues Online Haven Please Note - if you wish to reprint this article please contact the author, Mark Watson for authorisation at email@example.com From the first few bars of this CD you know The Bellhops have a winner.
Big band blues with power and class.
Good confident vocals, strong instrumental skills and genre-stretching arrangements are also what you get.
The production from A#Sharp Studios' Jeff Cripps is noteworthy for clarity and presence.
Having seen these guys live I know they can replicate the recording with audience pleasing performances.
The covers have been done too many times before.
Nonetheless The Bellhops make mouldy song like "I'm Ready", "C.C.Rider", Personal Manager" and "Got My Mojo Working" come alive with their enthusiasm and arranging skills.
Muddy Waters' "I'm Ready" has gone from malevolent Chicago Blues to big band romp, with solos from saxman Steve O'Connell, guess pianist Don Hopkins and slide guitarist John Russell (who wrote most of the originals).
Likewise "C.C.Rider" romps along, fuelled by slide guitar and Steve Trew's amplified harp solos.
"Personal Manager" sticks closely to Albert King's original version with sax, slide and harp solo.
"Mojo" is some-how brought to life as a funk workout.
The original numbers shine and sound like instant classics.
"Red Eyes" is a stop-time big band singalong with a harp and brass break.
This and other swing and Jazz based tracks would not be possible without the wonderful bass of Mark Roulston and the sharp drumming of Steve Lovarini.
Most Vocals are taken by rhythm guitarist Ian Dittman.
He takes the lead on "Down On The Avenue", a swinging number where the whole band chime in on the faster choruses.
Ian also sings "Shake Dem Bones", which sounds like a Louis Jordan number gone swampy.
His best vocals are on the slow blues "Criminal of Love" - one of those tracks where the audience collectively close eye sand sway.
It features a brilliant but brief sax solo.
"I Don't Boogie On Sunday" could have been written by Moon Mullican; it has that swinging rockabilly feel.
Steve Trew handles the raunchier vocals and comes across a little like Kim Wilson.
In fact his number could be the lost Fabulous Thunderbirds takes with brass added.
Steve sings "I Got Saved" with real venom.
It's a song with a twist- when his women left him he was "saved from a life without alcohol or cigarettes".
This is great album.
Blues top party to.
Even the liner notes are worth talking about.
They are written in poorly translated mock Eastern European and Decorated in lounge music manner.
And leave this disc in the player if you want to hear a bonus snippet of traditional slide.
Greg Crooks 2CHY-FM Coffs Harbour this review first appeared in Rhythms Magazine December 1997 (Yeah, what he said.
Sydney's answer to Roomful Of Blues or Canada's The Powder Blues, only more fun.
In the tradition of the Fabulous Zarsoof Bros.
Rampant honking, good time blues and junpin' R&B.
Four stars **** Mark D this review also appeared first in Rhythms Magazine December 1997 Since this is the first time I have heard The Bellhops, I am assuming this is their debut disc - and it's terrific.
Enthusiasm abounds! The Bellhops hail from Australia, but I certainly hope they will tour North America (if they haven't already) as they've definitely got a lot to offer.
This is certainly one spirited crew: Steve Trew (vocals and harmonica), Ian Dittman (vocals and guitar), Mark Roulston (bass and harmony vocals), John Russell (vocals, slide, dobro guitars) and Steve "Wrongway" Lovarini (drums and percussion).
Also guesting on this album are the fantastic Brassholes (Bruce Allen - baritone sax, Ross Conners - trumpet, Steve O'Connell - tenor and soprano sax), as well as excellent backup musicians Don Hopkins (keyboards), Bill Tselepis (congas) and Ross Lombardo (keyboards).
This Disc offers 12 tracks, six of which are originals (exceptionally good material by the way); "Red Eyes" by Ian Dittman is a remarkable little blues boogie positively guaranteed to get you onto the dance floor.
"Down On The Avenue" (Dittman/Reynolds) is a more contemporary style jump/funk/blues (also an admirable little dance composition) that offers a touch of the nostalgic; the other four originals all by J.
Russell (showcasing skilful song writing); "Shake Dem Bones" is a catchy swing/blues with superior drumming by Lovarini - you'll love swingin' to this one; "Criminal of Love" is a slow burner featuring choice guitar work; "I Don't Boogie On Sunday" - an excellent boogie with admirable harmonies - areal bootie shaker; " I Got Saved" is a low down blues featuring exciting harmonica and great guitar licks(anothe exciting dance piece).
Of the six covers, The Bellhops have added their own 'hop' and present some wonderful renditions of Willie Dixon's "I'm Ready" a Bell-boppin' blues; "C.C.
Rider", dishing up a heaping helping of a traditional favourite; Tom Lavin's "Doin' It Right", an excellent version complete with fabulous horn and harmonies; (Porter/King) "Personal Manager" filled with great guitar riffs and will have any listener groovin' either standing or seated; the old standard "Got My Mojo Working", originally redone 'Bellhops style", a little bit funkified with harmonica laden fills - no one will be sitting still for this one and "Sick and Tired" (Kenner/Bartholomew) featuring exceptional fine sax - a real hip shaker.
I would also point out that lead vocalist Steve Trew and Ian Dittman are both fabulous, demonstrating not only strength and versatility but also a delightful exuberance that is intensely executed on this album.
These guys really know how to party! And, given the originality utilised (even on the covers) my vote is 4 bottles for a superbly produced (by Jeff Cripps and the Bellhops) outing with good sound quality.
Let's hope there's more to come! D Robertson this review first appeared in Real Blues Magazine December 1997 The Bellhops Location: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia The Bellhops consist of 7 extremely experienced musicians who are also lovers of Rhythm & Blues and Swing music.
The musical sound of the Bellhops falls into the blues 'n' swing style, with some jazz influences, highlighted by vocalist and guitarist, Ian Dittman.
Apart from their outstanding original tunes The Bellhops' songlist covers 5 decades of popular music from the Swing and Jive era of the late 40's with numbers from Louis Jordan and Big Joe Turner, the good old 50's Rock'n'Roll from the likes of Chuck Berry, Bill Haley and Jerry Lee Lewis, the 60's Soul and R&B sound of Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett and James Brown, through to the 70's, 80's and 90's with material form The Blues Brothers, The Commitments, Joe Cocker and lots more.
Link to Songlist The various band members have all done their time playing in other bands, before coming together in 1990.
On stage and fired up, the band's rhythm section of Mark Roulston (bass), Paul Sharpe (drums) and Ian Dittman (rhythm guitar) roll out an infectious beat.
Overlaid with the guitar craftsmanship of John Russell and the duelling saxophones of Steve O'Connell, Ed Schots and Bruce Allen, the whole sound truly becomes greater than the sum of the parts.
Link to Individual Biographies Survivors of the 1995 Byron Bay Blues Festival and mud fight may have caught The Bellhops with guest guitarist Kirk Lorange.
They have also appeared at the 1994 and 1995 Lithgow Blues Festivals.
They appeared at the Wilderness Coast Festival at Mallacoota, The Great Southern Blues Festival at Narooma and The Australian Blues Festival at Goulburn.
The Bellhops can be found regularly playing around the Sydney, Wollongong and the Illawarra Region, Newcastle and the Central Coast Lakes Region, Goulburn and the Southern Highlands Region.
Link to venue list The Bellhops first recording, Live On The Radio was a live to air broadcast roughly 45 minutes long, recorded for the Stormy Monday program at 2MBS FM in 1994 and is available only on cassette by mailing $10 AUD (about $6 USD) to PO Box 553, Regents Park NSW 2143 The Bellhops debut CD release "Room Service" (available from FULLMOON Records) has received critical acclaim both in Australia and overseas.
Has been picked for airplay on the ABC and many regional stations all around Australia as well as the UK, the USA, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Greece and New Zealand.
It was also nominated for "Album of the Year" at the 1998 Australian Blues Music Awards presented at the Australian Blues Music Festival in Goulburn NSW The 2002 release of their new CD "No Reservations" sees the Bellhops cementing their place as one of Australia's finest exponents of this genre of music.
Some very fine song writing coupled with some excellent musicianship make this album a new high point for a band that always delivers the goods.
It has selected as "Album of the Week" on ABC Radio Canberra for the week of 21/1/02 and has been receiving airplay from blues presenters all across Australia.
Now with a settled sound and a 2nd CD release under their belts, the Bellhops look set for bigger things.
The Bellhops are: Ian Dittman - vocals, guitar; started off playing in the early 70's and refuses to stop doing it.
Loves the swing of Louis Jordan, the power of Howling Wolf, the style of Sinatra, the guitar and vocals of Eric Clapton.
Most notable Sydney band was The Bruce Band in the early 80's who recorded a single for EMI that nobody ever heard.
Has contributed several original compositions which appear on The Bellhops' debut album.
Ian is a graphic reproducer by day and so is responsible for some of the more confronting billboards and metrolights one sees around town.
Ian has just returned from a trip to the USA, primarily to attend The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, bringing back a dose of new inspiration and an Epiphone Sheraton guitar which he is currently coming to terms with.
Mark Roulston - bass, vocals; has played with many bands over the years starting in the early 70's working with The Australian Blues Brothers, The 69'ers, The Plant etc.
A consummate bass player feeling quite at home on fretless for a slow blues or slap bass for some of the swinging, jivey numbers.
Mark is a complete musician, able to arrange and compose, also a great harmony vocalist.
Mark teaches music and is furthering his studies at university.
Did you hear the one about the bass player who locked his keys in the car? Luckily he had his mobile phone with him, so he could ring the NRMA to come and let him out.
(True story!) John Russell - lead & slide guitars; a wonderful guitarist/musician.
John started playing in the late 60's, early 70's and achieved some success initially with a band called Flake who had a hit with "This Wheel's on Fire" (during the record ban era).
They followed this up with a couple of other singles that did quite well.
John went on to play with people like Black Feather, Jeff St John, Phil Keyes' Band of Light, BB Strut and countless other combinations.
A master of lead, slide and dobro guitars, John is also a very fine songwriter, contributing quite a few numbers on The Bellhops Debut Album.
By day John is a mild mannered sales manager.
By night he turns into a howling slide guitar player with hairy hands.
Watch out if it's a full moon.
Paul "Sticks" Sharpe (no relation to A#Sharp Studios) - drummer, previous bands include Well Swung and The Chick'n Pickers.
Paul is currently attending the Jazz course at the Sydney Conservatorium.
By day he works in sales for a company in the computer industry.
Paul is the most recent member of The Bellhops and is fitting in famously.
When other band members tell drummer jokes such as "What's the difference between a drummer and a vacuum cleaner? You have to plug the vacuum cleaner in before it sucks!", Paul holds his sides firmly to stop them from splitting.
Steve O'Connell - saxophone; is an exceptional player who has played with just about everybody within the Sydney scene, previous bands include The Angels, Psycho Zydeco, Bellydance, and many, many more! Steve also wrote most of the horn lines featured on the album and apart from being an absolute bastard is a very nice human being.
Steve teaches saxophone as well as playing full time.
Bruce Allen - Baritone Saxophone; Bruce first gained recognition with the Dynamic Hepnotics and has gone on to play with people like Ol' 55, The Eddys, Doug Parkinson and many others.
Bruce is a full time professional musician and founder of "Mercenary Bastards Inc" (a nice human being all the same).
Ed Shots - Tenor and Baritone Saxophone; Ed first played with the band at the '94 Lithgow Blues Festival when The Bellhops found themselves without a sax player at the last moment.
We don't know how we got his number, but the consensus of opinion at the time was "Shit, I hope he can play!".
Ed has been playing with the band ever since.
Originally from the Netherlands, Ed teaches music professionally and is married to the very wonderful Sue, also a professional bass clarinettist extraordinaire.
Ed is also creator of "The Egg" as pictured on the Bellhops Photo Gallery page.
Richard Booth (Bootman) - Tenor, Baritone, Alto, Soprano Saxophone; The Bellhops first met Richard at the East Coast Blues Festival 1995 when for various reasons out of their control they found themselves without a tenor player for their second show at the festival.
Mark Roulston happened upon a band playing in one of the tents and lo and behold there was this monster sax player from Canberra.
Richard has been playing with the band ever since.
Richard is an avid collector of vintage saxophones who teaches music professionally and also plays steel drums.
What's the difference between a sax player and a lawn mower? One cuts grass and the other smokes it! Some previously satisfied clients of The Bellhops include: The Royal Prince Alfred Hospital The Shop Distributive & Allied Employees Union The Thredbo Chamber of Commerce Benson & Hedges Sceggs College Charles Sturt University The Cancer Council And heres some Venues and Events that have happily hosted The Bellhops Mecure Grand Hotel - Bowral The ANA Hotel - Sydney The Anchorage Resort - Port Stephens The Hilton Hotel - Sydney The Sheraton Wentworth Hotel - Sydney The Rocks Marketing Authority - Sydney Cove Star City Casino - Sydney The Eastcoast Blues & Roots Festival - Byron Bay The Australian Blues Music Festival - Goulburn Malacoota Blues Festival - Malacoota Lithgow Blues festival - Lithgow New Orleans Food & Wine Festival - The Rocks Sydney Queanbeyan Festival - Queanbeyan For further information please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.