At every point along its journey rock ‘n’ roll music has attempted to provide its listeners with a visceral response not always found in othre genres of music.

This was mostly defined by an aggressive, raucous, slightly unhinged sound that almost forces you to move about wildly, equally unconcerned about decorum and convention.

Over the years the specific musical attributes would change, each one suited for whatever stylistic rock subgenre was most interested in eliciting that response at the time, be it rockabilly, surf-rock, garage rock, Northern soul or punk, but the basic approach of playing insistent loose-limbed patterns at loud volume would endure. Each of those styles did it well, but arguably they all take a backseat to the sax led instrumentals of rock’s early days.

Those days are more or less over by 1952 of course, these types of records haven’t been hitting big since the late Forties rock scene, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still a few who are longing for a comeback to get you to shake your bones and lose your minds in this fashion one more time.


It’s The Same Old Song… With A Different Title Since You’ve Been Gone
Do we call it deception when an artist himself attempts to pass off an old song under a new name, or is that something we lay at the feet of the record label?

Normally we take a dim view of this no matter who is responsible for such chicanery because we tend to want to hear NEW material, no matter how good the old material they’re recyling may have been.

But we may be slightly less critical of this deceptive practice when it comes to instrumental records whose lack of lyrics and accompanying stories makes spotting the similarities slightly harder, AND especially forgiving of it when they’re good instrumentals which should’ve been hits but fell on deaf ears the first time around.

Hey, when you have a something you believe strongly in you might as well try again to see if you can get a response. I mean, sometimes people may be sleeping and thus don’t have their ears open enough to be truly listening. If so then it occasionally might require an Earthquake to wake them the fuck up.

Of course, those of us who do pay attention to such things as melodies, riffs and rhythms would know right away after we climbed out of the rubble that once was our house, this song was formly known as Houston’s Hot House.

But even if we’re going to be prone to downgrading a record that’s a mere facimile of his earlier effort, two other things give us pause before doing so. The first is on that other record he got ripped off of the writing credits by the reprehensible Bihari brothers as usual, whereas this time around he gets rightful credit and whatever royalties came with it.

The other reason why we’re not holding this remake against him is even more elemental… because this one is played even better!

On The Fault Line
To say this was a duplication of the earlier record would be not entirely true.

A close approximation, yes. But it’s no mere cookie-cutter remake, as it’s clear that in the interim Joe Houston had been playing this more live and found ways to improve it by focusing more on the rhythm and discarding some of the extraneous horns that bogged down the other take, particularly in the first minute.

Here they’re all laser focused on getting you to move, eliminating the brass – trombone by the sounds of it – which were given the task of answering the saxes on the Modern cut, while not even bothering to reassing their parts.

What’s left are two saxophones, Joe’s tenor and a lusty baritone, which keep their assignments but add even more muscle to them. The bass and drum parts are beefed up too, or at least mic’d better, and Houston’s actually found more of a melodic thread along the way giving this more of a structured feel.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still mayhem embedded in every crude honk and orgasmic squeal of the horn, all of it being compounded by the same kind of wild cries and shouts of the drunken onlookers, but whereas in the old Hot House we were left staggering around wondering what was coming next, here it all seems to make sense. The individual riffs he plays are better connected, more musically coherent and less extreme in their attempts to shock you, yet at the same time more effective in doing so because the parts are so much tighter.

The title therefore has to be referencing the sheer sonic explosion on display here, not the disorienting confusion that usually comes with an Earthquake, something which was more apparent on its different titled first attempt.

Yes, you may still get a sense of déjà vu from hearing this, but considering how much fun this is, and how they managed to up the ante in the process AND deliver a better pay off to boot, who in their right mind is going to complain?

The time may have passed for records like this to become big hits, but there were still house parties that needed music to shake the walls with and as long as the drinks were flowing, the bodies grinding and the sweat flying, then there was always going to be a place for something this primal.


Maybe this runs counter to the grading curve we’ve established here, where everything is rated within the context of its specific time and a song that harkens back to a hit sound of a few years back as this does (think early 1949 when rowdy sax instrumentals ruled)… to say nothing of a song that blatantly rips off its predecessor are generally punished for those traits.

Yet this is not only going to buck that trend, it’s going to blow it up entirely.

The reason for the temporary change of heart is easy to comprehend though, which is while audiences may have turned away from sax instrumentals on the whole, they haven’t given up on the type of wild displays found here, as evidenced by the fact that in Los Angeles Earthquake charted for much of September.

So what if we’ve heard it before. Let’s not make this too complicated. After all, you’re supposed to be playing this at full blast in a room full of drunken reprobates going wild as if the world was about to end anyway, so why not just reward it with the number it registers on the Richter scale and leave it at that?

I’m not sure if there’s a homeowner’s insurance clause for that kind of destruction, so you might have to clean up after yourselves on this one.


(Visit the Artist page of Joe Houston for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)