Sunday, 4 July 2010

“See You Later, Alligator” by BOBBY CHARLES. A Review of the 2010 Bear Family CD Compilation Covering His Legendary Chess Label Recordings.

“…After A While Crocodile...”

As a voracious collector of Chess and all its subsidiary labels, I’ve amassed nearly 900 tracks by diligently acquiring heaps of hefty box sets and individual compilations. But even with all that, I’ve only 3 tracks by Bobby Charles. So as you can imagine this fantastically well put-together haul of the Louisiana Rhythm ‘n’ Blues man’s rare sides is a godsend. There’s a lot on here, so let’s get to the details first…

1. LATER ALLIGATOR (SEE YOU LATER, ALLIGATOR)
2. ON BENDED KNEE
3. WATCH IT SPROCKET
4. WHY DID YOU LEAVE
5. DON'T YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU (YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU)
6. WHY CAN'T YOU
7. TAKE IT EASY GREASY
8. TIME WILL TELL
9. AIN'T GOT NO HOME
10. NO USE KNOCKING
11. YOU CAN SUIT YOURSELF
12. LAURA LEE
13. I'M A FOOL TO CARE
14. MR. MOON
15. I'LL TURN SQUARE FOR YOU
16. LONELY STREET
17. OVER YONDER
18. PUT YOUR ARMS AROUND ME HONEY
19. ONE EYED JACK
20. YEA YEA BABY (YEAH YEAH)
21. GOOD LOVIN'
22. YOUR PICTURE
23. TEENAGERS
24. I'D LIKE TO KNOW
25. TELL ME BABY
26. LOVESICK BLUES
27. HEY GOOD LOOKIN'
28. NO MORE (I AIN'T GONNA DO IT NO MORE)

Released June 2010 in Europe, “See You Later, Alligator” has 28-tracks (67:03 minutes) covering the debut part of his career on Chess Records between October 1955 and March 1961 (Bear Family BCD 17207 AH). It will finally allow fans to sequence all of Charles’ 7” singles for the label as follows:

1. Later Alligator b/w On Bended Knee
Chess 1609, November 1955 [Tracks 1 and 2]
[Note: Only later reissues carry the more famous title, “See You Later, Alligator”; it finally charted in March 1956 for only 1 week at Number 14; Bill Haley and His Comets had a hit with it as “See You Later, Alligator” in February 1956 on Decca; Track 1 features studio dialogue at the end of it that leads into Track 2]

2. Don’t You Know I Love You b/w Why Did You Leave
Chess 1617, March 1956 [Tracks 5 and 4]

3. Time Will Tell b/w Take It Easy Greasy
Chess 1628, July 1956 [Tracks 8 and 7]
[Note: initial adverts ran the A side as “Only Time Will Tell” and subsequent discographies have sometimes carried this title, but it was issued as “Time Will Tell” on record and later adverts carried the shortened title]

4. No Use Knocking b/w Laura Lee
Chess 1638, November 1956 [Tracks 10 and 12]

5. Put Your Arms Around Me Honey b/w Why Can’t You
Chess 1647, January 1957 [Tracks 18 and 6]

6. No More (I Ain’t Gonna Love You No More) b/w You Can Suit Yourself
Chess 1658, May 1957 [Tracks 28 and 11]

7. One Eyed Jack b/w Yea Yea Baby
Chess 1670, September 1957 [Tracks 19 and 20]

Bobby Charles never had an LP of his own during his stay at the famous label, but there were many recording sessions with unaired material. First to document released and previously unreleased material was the 1984 US album compilation “Chess Masters” on CH-9175. This CD will allow fans to sequence that LP as follows:

Side 1:
1. Watch It Sprocket [3]
2. Yeah Yeah [20]
3. You Know I Love You [5]
4. Good Loving [21]
5. I'd Like To Know [24]
6. Ain't Got No Home [9]
7. Time Will Tell [8]
8. Take It Easy Greasy [7]
9. You Can Suit Yourself [11]
Side 2:
1. See You Later Alligator [1]
2. On Bended Knee [2]
3. I'll Turn Square For You [15]
4. I Ain't Gonna Do It No More [28]
5. Put Your Arms Around Me [18]
6. Lonely Street [16]
7. Mr. Moon [14]
8. One Eyed Jack [19]
9. Hey Good Looking [27]

Finally – a further retrospective referenced in the Discography is a rare 1996 28-Track Japanese CD also called “Chess Masters” On MCA/Chess MVCM-22078. It carried six more previously unreleased tracks - “I’m A Fool To Care” [13], “Over Yonder” [17], “Your Picture” [22], “Teenagers” [23], “Tell Me Baby” [25] and a cover of the Hank Williams classic “Lovesick Blues” [26].

The reissue producer is DAVE SAX, while Bear Family’s own JURGEN CRASSER has done the remasters to beautiful effect (as always) and the 30-page liners notes are by New Orleans Rhythm 'n' Blues authority RICK COLEMAN who wrote “Blue Monday: Fats Domino And The Dawn Of Rock ‘n’ Roll” (winner of the Best Music Biography award for 2007). The outtake “Ain’t Got No Home” sounds rough, but most of the cuts here are clean and clear in all the right ways. Once the gatefold is open, there is a Chess themed CD inside with a photo of his debut 7” pictured beneath the see-through tray on the right with an attached booklet to the left.

Staying with packaging – over the last few years Bear Family have moved away from their distinctive white tray jewel cases of old and now issue almost everything in a chunky card digipak of varying sizes. I love them. Visually they are gorgeous and read-wise, they’re the absolute business. They’re always substantial and this is no different. The booklet is awash with trade adverts, pictured Chess singles and a fantastic session-by-session Discography at the rear. Better still is the detail on every release and Charles’ chequered career – both good and bad. Cole’s tales of Chuck Berry doing Bobby’s hair curl for $15 on the Chess tour bus, Leonard Chess’s reaction to him being a white guy on all-black label, Bobby losing two homes – one to fire in 1996 and the other to Hurricane Rita in 2006 and right back to the drunk girl in the “Ol’ Midway” 24-hour restaurant in 1955 who gave the 17-year old young musician the “After A While Crocodile…” idea in the first place - are all fab. The usual classy stuff…

But what really shocks you is the quality of the music… Although Guidry worshiped Fats Domino and clearly followed his New Orleans rolling piano style, Bobby was no cheap imitator. Guidry wrote 15 of the 28 tracks on here with most of the others co-written with his friend and fellow label mate PAUL GAYTEN and they’re uniformly excellent. WILLIE DIXON is on here too and Doo Wop fans should also note that THE CARDINALS are featured on Tracks 1 to 3. Highlights for me are the slow almost soulful blues of “Why Did You Leave”, the lovely jaunt of “Time Will Tell” and the sax boogie of “No Use Knocking”.

Robert Charles Guidry died in January 2010 and probably received a few small obits around the world - this CD may elicit the same lack of interest. But for me, “See You Later, Alligator” is one of the very real reasons why Bear Family is held in such affection among music lovers. It’s beautiful and they’ve done him and his memory proud.

Fabarooney boys and well done. Recommended to lovers of New Orleans everywhere.

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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