Thursday, 8 January 2009

“Driving Wheel” by LITTLE JUNIOR PARKER. An Iconic 1962 US Album on Don Robey’s Duke Records Given A 2006 CD Remaster and Reissue by HIP-O SELECT…


Originally issued in 1962 on Duke Records DLP-76 in its rare full-colour "Cadillac" sleeve (pictured above), the album was re-issued a year later in 1963 (also DLP-76) and yet again in 1974 as part of the ABC/Duke reissue series on DLPX-76. Both the 1963 and 1974 reissues used the 'driving wheel' artwork (pictured below).


This 12-track Hip-O Select CD reissue of November 2006 (B0006408-02) unfortunately uses that same artwork...and as you can see, it's staggeringly dull. When you see the beautiful original artwork, you realise what a sloppy choice Hip-O Select has made here.

There's no booklet either, just a next-to-useless one-page inlay barely offering any info, no history of the record, no photos, not even session details, no singles pictured - nothing! And when it does give us info, it gets it wrong - it quotes the album as being issued in 1973 and its catalogue number as being DLPX-76 - the 1974 reissue catalogue number! There's no bonus tracks either (see 7" singles below) - a bit slap dash to say the bloody least.

Still, it is remastered by noted engineer GAVIN LURSSEN and given that the songs were put down using less than fantastical recording techniques, he's done a remarkable job - very clean and evocative of early Sixties Chicago blues - even if the echoing mono recordings sound a little like re-channelled stereo from time to time. With brass on almost every track, the sound is loud and takes some getting used to - but when you do, the album becomes so enjoyable - one gem after another. At times it sounds like the "American Graffiti" soundtrack - evocative of cars and girls and drive-ins...

Here's the breakdown (29:04 minutes):
1. Driving Wheel (a Roosevelt Sykes cover)
2. I Need Your Love So Bad (a Percy Mayfield cover)
3. Foxy Devil (a Deadric Malone song)
[Deadric Malone is a pseudonym for DON ROBEY; Robey owned Duke & Peacock Records and was a prolific songwriter)
4. Somebody Broke This Heart Of Mine (a Deadric Malone song)
5. How Long Can This Go On (a Junior Parker song)
6. Yonders Wall (an Elmore James cover)
7. Annie get Your Yo-Yo (a Deadric Malone/Joseph Scott song)
8. Tin Pan Alley (a Robert Geddins cover)
9. Someone Somewhere (a Junior Parker song)
10. Seven Days (a Junior Parker/Deadric Malone song)
11. The Tables Have Turned (a Junior Parker song)
12. Sweet Talking Woman (a Deadric Malone song)

USA 7" singles off and around the album were:

1. "Driving Wheel" b/w "Seven Days", May 1961 on Duke 335
2. "In The Dark" b/w "How Long Can This Go On", November 1961 on Duke 341
3. "Annie Get Your Yo-Yo" b/w "Mary Jo", February 1962 on Duke 345
4. "I Feel Alright Again" b/w "Sweeter As The Days Go By", 1962 on Duke 351
5. "Foxy Devil" b/w "Someone Somewhere", 1962 on Duke 357
6. "The Tables Have Turned" b/w "Yonders Wall", 1963 on Duke 367

As you can see from the two lists above, only 8 of the 12 tracks across the 6 singles are featured on this CD - and with a bit of effort on the part of Hip-O Select, the remaining 4 could have been included as bonus tracks. "In The Dark" and "I Feel Alright Again" are available on other compilations, but to my knowledge "Sweeter As The Days Go By" and "Mary Jo" aren't.

If you wanted a taster of how the CD sounds, iTunes is offering the entire album as a £7.99 download - check out the lovely "Someone Somewhere" (the title of this review is lyrics from it) or the Ruth Brown Atlantic rhythm and blues feel of "Foxy Devil" and you'll get a good idea of what "Driving Wheel" is like.

A legendary "Hall Of Fame" blues album - docked a star for Hip-O Select's less-than-stellar reissue of it.

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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