Sunday, 20 November 2011

"Slim Harpo Rocks" by SLIM HARPO. A Review Of The 2011 Bear Family CD Compilation.

"…I'm A King Bee…Buzzin' 'Round Your Hive…"

Saying that Slim Harpo 'rocks' is probably pushing it a tad – but that doesn’t stop this CD compilation from being another winner in a series that is fast becoming definitive. There’s a lot on here - so let’s the details out of the way first…

Released November 2011, Bear Family BCD 17129 AR breaks down as follows (75:41 minutes):

1. Wild About My Baby (1960 recording 1st issued on a 1978 USA 45 on Blues Unlimited 2015, A-side)
2. I Got Love If You Want It (1957 USA 45 on Excello 2113, B-side)
3. I'm A King Bee (1957 USA 45 on Excello 2113, A-side)
4. You'll Be Sorry One Day (1959 USA 45 on Excello 2162, B-side)
5. That Ain't Your Business (1957 recording 1st issued in 1976 on the UK LP called "Blues Hangover – The Legendary Jay Miller Sessions Volume 4" on Flyright 520)
6. Buzz Me Babe (1960 USA 45 on Excello 2171, A-side)
7. My Little Queen Bee (Got A Brand New King) (1964 USA 45 on Excello 2246, A-side)
8. I’m Waiting On You Baby (1964 recording 1st issued in 1993 on a UK CD called "I'm A King Bee" on Ace CDCHD 510)
9. Something Inside Me (1961 recording 1st issued in 1969 on a US LP called "Rural Blues Vol.2 – Saturday Night Function" on Imperial 94001)
10. Bobby-Sox Baby (from Slim Harpo's 1961 USA LP "Raining In My Heart" on Excello LP 8003)
11. I Need Money (Keep Your Alibis) (1964 USA 45 on Excello 2246, B-side)
12. Yeah Yeah Baby (1960 recording 1st issued in 1993 on a UK CD called "I'm A King Bee" on Ace CDCHD 510)
13. Shake Your Hips (1966 USA 45 on Excello 2278, B-side)
14. Harpo's Blues (1965 USA 45 on Excello 2265, B-side)
15. Don't Start Cryin’ Now (1961 USA 45 on Excello 2194, B-side)
16. Boogie Chillun (1964 recording 1st issued in 1993 on a UK CD called "I'm A King Bee" on Ace CDCHD 510)
17. Baby, Scratch My Back (1965 USA 45 on Excello 2273, A-side)
18. Buzzin' [Instrumental] (1963 USA 45 on Excello 2239, A-side)
19. Hey Little Lee (1968 USA LP called "Tip On In" on Excello LPS-8008)
20. The Music's Hot (1970 USA LP called "Slim Harpo Knew The Blues" on Excello LPS-8013)
21. Wondering And Worryin' (1958 USA 45 on Excello 2138, A-side)
22. Late Last Night (1959 recording 1st issued on the 1996 CD compilation "The Scratch – Rare And Unissued, Volume 1" on AV/Excello CD 3015)
23. That's Alright (aka "You'll Be Sorry One Day") (1959 recording 1st issued in 1976 on the UK LP called "Blues Hangover – The Legendary Jay Miller Sessions Volume 4" on Flyright 520)
24. That's Alright Baby (aka "Don't Start Cryin' Now") (1960 recording 1st issued in 1993 on a UK CD called "I'm A King Bee" on Ace CDCHD 510)
25. Cigarettes (1959 alternate version 1st issued on a 1986 UK LP called "Baton Rouge Blues – The Legendary Jay Miller Sessions Volume 42" on Flyright 607)
26. Buzz Me Babe (1959 recording 1st issued in 1993 on a UK CD called "I'm A King Bee" on Ace CDCHD 510)
27. I'm A King Bee (1957 alternate recording 1st issued in 1976 on the UK LP called "Blues Hangover – The Legendary Jay Miller Sessions Volume 4" on Flyright 520)
28. You Ain't Never Had To Cry (1959 recording 1st issued in 1976 on the UK LP called "Blues Hangover – The Legendary Jay Miller Sessions Volume 4" on Flyright 520)
29. I Got Love If You Want It (1957 recording 1st issued in 1980 on the UK LP called "Got Love If You Want It – The Legendary Jay Miller Sessions Volume 20" on Flyright 558)
30. Wondering And Worryin' (1957 recording 1st issued on the 1996 CD compilation "The Scratch – Rare And Unissued, Volume 1" on AV/Excello CD 3015)
31. Rainin' In My Heart (1961 USA 45 on Excello 2194, A-side)

[Note: As you can see from the track list above - there were many unreleased recordings put out on reissue vinyl albums by revered labels like Flyright, Imperial and England’s Ace Records – many of which (not all) are featured here on CD for the first time. Most songs however are Excello Recordings from 1957 to 1970 – American 7" singles and key album tracks.]

"Slim Harpo Rocks" comes in Bear's now standard packaging for this series – a 3-way foldout card digipak containing a detachable oversized booklet inside (32 pages for this issue). Pages 5 to 18 feature an in-depth essay on James Moore (his real name) by noted writer and musicologist JEFF HANNUSCH and Pages 19 to 29 have a full Discography on all 31 recordings by archivist BILL MILLAR. The text is peppered with trade adverts, black and white and colour photos of the great man with his guitar in hand and harmonica in mouth - as well as lovely repros of 3 rare album sleeves. It’s the usual classy act from Bear. And then of course is the great sound courtesy of JURGEN CRASSER. I’ve raved about his work before (see my TAG for him and reviews for the astonishing "Blowing The Fuse" series (16 compilations) and the "Sweet Soul Music" series (10 discs). It's old Blues and R'n'B for sure, but it sounds great - full of atmosphere, echo and life.

Second only to Jimmy Reed, Slim was the most successful Blues and R'n'B artist on the Excello label and a product of JAY MILLER'S legendary studio in Crawley, Louisiana. One of Slim's most famous and beloved songs "I'm A King Bee" defined his witty languid style for decades (lyrics above) – yet as his debut single - it never charted. "King Bee" would later however take on a life of its own – to a point where like Elmore James who found a riff and stuck with it – Slim would repeat the style again and again (both the CD and the inlay beneath the see-through tray picture the 7" of "I'm A King Bee" on Excello 2113). Slim pumped out more soundalikes for years (both Muddy Waters and The Rolling Stones covered it).

Highlights include "I Got Love If You Want It" (another signature hit for him) and the rockin' harmonica-driven of "That Ain't Your Business" where sauciness is always close to the surface ("…when I pulled down the shade…and turned out the light…"). The huge drum sound of "Buzz Me Babe" is irresistible foot-tapping stuff – in fact – there’s a great fun vibe about so many of the songs on here. "I'm Waiting On You Baby" first turned up on an Ace CD in 1993 and it's a "did me wrong girl" bopper – misery with a beat. "Shake Your Hips" was famously covered by the Stones on their 1972 2LP masterpiece "Exile On Main St." – it shuffles along like his cover of John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillun". But best of all is the slinky "Baby, Scratch My Back" which I've been featuring on R'n'B compilations for years in the shop shuffle – it now sounds just HUGE. And it all ends on the lovely "Rainin' In My Heart" - a winner from 1961.

Niggles - it’s a shame there isn’t more from the later years – the track "Hey, Little Lee" is from his 1968 LP "Tip On In" and the recording quality is fantastic – chugging along like a cool Sixties R'n'B tune should. "The Music's Hot" from the 1970 LP "Slim Harpo Knows The Blues" is the same – sounding tremendous – and both in STEREO. The song "Tip On In" is excellent too - but again a no-show when there was room. But still, it's a great listen overall and makes you ache for more...as a good compilation should.

The incomparable Bear Family folks – class and quality - they may cost you – but the best always does.

I’m off now to review the Chuck Berry set and hide the bills from the missus…and convince her that the recession is not my fault all in 'her' mind...

SLIM HARPO USA LPs referenced in the Bear Family discography:

"Slim Harpo Sings Raining in My Heart"
USA 1961 LP on Excello LP 8003 [Mono]

Side 1:
1. Rainin’ In My Heart [31]
2. Blues Hangover
3. Bobby-Sox Baby [10]
4. I Got Love If You Want It [2]
5. Snoopin’ Around
6. Buzz Me Baby [6]

Side 2:
1. I’m A King Bee [3]
2. What A Dream
3. Don’t Start Cryin’ Now [15]
4. Moody Blues
5. My Home Is A Prison
6. Dream Girl

"Baby Scratch My Back"
USA 1966 on Excello LP 8005 [Mono]

Side 1:
1. Shake Your Hips [13]
2. Midnight Blues
3. Harpo’s Blues [14]
4. Buzzin’ [18]
5. My Little Queen Bee [7]
6. I Love The Life (I’m Livin’)

Side 2:
1. Baby, Scratch My Back [17]
2. I’m Gonna Miss You (Like The Devil)
3. Rainin’ In My Heart
4. Wonderin’ Blues
5. We’re Two Of A Kind
6. I Need Money [11]

"Tip On In"
USA 1968 LP on Excello LPS-8008 [Stereo]
Hey Little Lee [19]


"Slim Harpo Knew The Blues"
USA 1970 LP on Excello LPS-8013 [Stereo]
The Music’s Hot [20]

PS: The "Rocks" Series by Bear Family features the following artists:

1. Chuck Berry [see REVIEW}
2. Pat Boone
3. Johnny Burnette [see REVIEW]
4. The Cadillacs
5. Eddie Cochran
6. Bobby Darin
7. Fats Domino
8. Connie Francis
9. Don Gibson
10. Glen Glenn
11. Bill Haley
12. Roy Hall
13. Slim Harpo [see REVIEW]
14. Dale Hawkins
15. Ronnie Hawkins
16. Screamin' Jay Hawkins
17. Wanda Jackson [see REVIEW]
18. Sonny James
19. Buddy Knox & Jimmy Bowen with the Rhythm Orchids
20. Sleepy LaBeef
21. Brenda Lee
22. Jerry Lee Lewis
23. Smiley Lewis [see REVIEW]
24. Little Richard
25. Bob Luman
26. Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers
27. Carl Mann
28. Amos Milburn [see REVIEW]
29. Ella Mae Morse [see REVIEW]
30. Ricky Nelson
31. Carl Perkins
32. Roy Orbison
33. Lloyd Price
34. Piano Red (aka Dr. Feelgood) [see REVIEW]
35. Charlie Rich [see REVIEW]
36. Jack Scott
37. Shirley & Lee
38. The Treniers
39. Big Joe Turner [see REVIEW]
40. Conway Twitty
41. Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps
42. Rusty York

The Bear Family "Rockin' Rollin'" Series features:

1. Johnny Horton
2. Marvin Rainwater
3. Marty Robbins Vol.1
4. Marty Robbins Vol.2
5. Marty Robbins Vol.3

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