Desperate times call for desperate measures, and the mid-'50s were desperate times indeed for country music. Damned if you do, damned it you don't, some cynically shifted their sound, others ignored the tumultuous changes, but few weathered the brewing rock & roll storm unscathed. Band leader/steel guitarist/singer Leon McAuliffe had little need for concern, though, for over two decades the Western swing band veteran had been eagerly embracing new styles and other genres, and his contemporary sound already perfectly fit with the climes of those times. Still, even he was left high and dry in 1955, when Columbia, convinced Western swing was a dead horse, dropped him. It took two years to find another label, with Dot finally riding to the rescue in 1957. The fabulous Take Off album arrived the following year, with this sensational reissue also gathering up the rest of McAuliffe & His Cimarron Boys' Dot recordings. A clutch were strong re-cuts of Columbia era hits, others were revivals of even earlier numbers McAuliffe had performed, with a fair sprinkling of jazz and pop standards thrown in for good measure. Taken in total, the group's astounding versatility and their fabulous fusion sound is showcased across 26 scintillating songs. As always with Bear Family releases, the music sounds spectacular, while a 44-page booklet provides an in-depth look at McAuliffe and his music. And, oh the music...smooth as silk, but still brimming with creativity and excitement, as the band span the spectrum from swing to R&B, rock to jazz, in ever more glorious combinations. Strolling from the hard-edged "Honky Tonk" to the lush "Silver Bells," crooning across "Maiden's Prayer" then rocking out the joint with "Johnny Cake Road," the band swing through the past and contemporary present with wanton abandon. Polkas, waltzes, rags, blues, jumping jazz, the sterling musicians can turn their hand to anything, and turn it all on its head as well. Most of their arrangements were R&B inflected, with whispers of country and C&W billowing through, while McAuliffe's Hawaiian styled, surfy, steel guitar haunted the melodies. But his stellar skills are equaled by his band's, and the arrangements highlight their individual talents as well as his own. A low point for country swing was arguably a high point for McAuliffe, and this reissue is a welcome reminder of one of country's greatest stars.