Saturday, 29 August 2009

“Ain’t Got No Home – The Best Of…” by CLARENCE “FROGMAN” HENRY. A Review of the 1994 USA Chess Label CD Compilation.

“…I Don’t Why I Love You…But I Do…”

Born in New Orleans in early 1937, the 19-year Clarence Henry Jr. had his first American R‘n’B hit in December 1956 with his self-penned “Ain’t Got No Home”.

In one of the verses of Argo 5259, he began aping and croaking a ‘lonely’ frog – and the nickname stuck with him for everything afterwards. Which is a shame in some ways, because it kind of pigeonholed him as a one-hit wonder – a type of novelty act - and this wonderful 18-track US-only CD compilation from 1994 will go a long way to changing that hopefully - because frankly it’s a bit of a revelation.

Here’s a track-by-track breakdown - all songs are Argo USA 7” singles (Chess label subsidiary) except 9 and 12, which are album cuts (42:01 minutes):

1. Ain’t Got No Home (1956, Argo 5259, A)
2. Troubles, Troubles (1956, Argo 5259, B)
3. Lonely Tramp (1957, Argo 5266, A)
4. It Won’t Be Long (1957, 5273, A)
5. Baby Baby Please (1958, Argo 5305, A)
6. I’m In Love (1958, Argo 5305, B)
7. (I Don’t Know Why) But I Do [aka “But I Do”] (March 1961, Argo 5378, A)
8. Just My Baby And Me (1961, Argo 5378, B)
9. Your Picture (1961 USA LP “You Always Hurt The One You Love” on Argo 4009)
10. You Always Hurt The One You Love (May 1961, Argo 5388, A)
11. Lonely Street (August 1961, Argo 5395, A)
12. I Love You, Yes I Do (1961 USA LP “You Always Hurt The One You Love” on Argo 4009)
13. Standing In The Need Of Love (1961, Argo 5401, A)
14. On Bended Knees (1961, Argo 5401, B)
15. A Little Too Much (1961, Argo 5408, A)
16. Lost Without You (1962, Argo 5414, A)
17. Long Lost And Worried (1964, Argo 5480, A)
18. Looking Back (1964, Argo 5480, B)

The 16-page booklet has affectionate and informative liner notes by DAVE “DADDY COOL” BOOTH of Canada’s Showtime Archives. There’s a cool centre photo spread of Henry with THE BEATLES (he opened for 18 of their 1964 dates) while there’s even a snap of him and his band arriving off a plane in Kingston Jamaica in 1957.

ERICK LABSON, who has almost exclusively handled the vast CHESS catalogue across the decades (over 800 mastering credits to his name), has outdone himself on this compilation with tape transfers, because the clarity of sound is just BEAUTIFUL – clear as a bell – warm and lovely all the way.

Two principal songwriters loom large too – his fellow label mate and Piano player PAUL GAYTEN (wrote 4 of the songs and played on others) while ROBERT GUIDRY (stage name Bobby Charles of “See You Later, Alligator” fame) had his hand in 7 of the others.

“Long Lost And Worried” is a DR. JOHN cover version while “Standing in The Need Of Love” and the infectious “On Bended Knees" feature BOOTS RANDOLPH on Tenor sax, BILL JUSTIS on Guitar and FLOYD CRAMER on Piano. Another superb contributor was ALLEN TOUSSAINT whose Piano featured on “You Always Hurt The One You Love”, “Lonely Street”, the sweet “Just My Baby And Me” and my personal favourite – the lovely “Your Picture”.

Fans should also note that a really good previously unreleased Henry recording called "Lady With The Hat Box" turned up on Disc 2 of the stunning "Chess Rhythm & Roll" 4CD Box Set from 1994 on USA MCA (recorded in June 1957 in New Orleans) - it's not included on here unfortunately - but it and the box are worth seeking out - see my separate review.

It all ends with the slow reminiscing of “Looking Back”, an apt choice of song that BROOK BENTON co-wrote with CLYDE OTIS and BILL HENDRICKS – very nice indeed.

While the huge shadow of Fats Domino and his New Orleans Rhythm ‘n’ Blues style hangs over almost every track, Henry wasn't just a mere copyist, he had a charm all of his own - and this is still far better than I ever expected it to be.

A lovely CD and well done to all involved. Recommended.

No comments:

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

INDEX - Artists, Albums, Record Labels, CD Remaster Engineers, Liner Notes Authors, Links etc