Sunday, 14 June 2015

“Kicking Back” by JOE HOUSTON (May 2015 Ace/Beat Goes Public CD Remaster of a 1978 Big Town Records LP) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"...Trippin' In..."

Texas Saxophonist JOE HOUSTON was 51 in 1978 when he recorded the long-forgotten and overlooked “Kicking Back” LP for Big Town Records - a Los Angeles based label run by Jules Bihari of Fifties Modern Records fame. In fact Houston’s younger talents formed a band in the late Forties for none other than Atlantic Records legend Big Joe Turner (Turner’s first recordings for Freedom). But those glory days were long behind Houston when he came to record this mixture of old Rhythm ‘n’ Blues married with Saxophone Funk and Blues Guitar.

In some ways Big Town Records felt like the graveyard for old guys trying to get a new break in the post Disco world – so their LPs got ignored at the time and deleted quickly. Decades later DJs in the USA and UK began to plunder these late Seventies recordings for anything that contained Deep Funk Grooves – and on certain cuts like the two-part title track – they found what they were looking for. And that’s where this CD reissue comes boppin’ in. Here are Tenor Trippin’ details...

UK released May 2015 (June 2015 in the USA) – Ace/Beat Goes Public CDBGPM 292 (Barcode 029667529228) is a straightforward CD reissue (mid-price) of the 1978 LP “Kicking Back” by Joe Houston on Big Town Records BT 1004 – produced by Jules Bihari and Joe Houston. All songs are Houston/Bihari originals with Bihari credited under the pseudonym Jules Taub. The 8-page liner notes are by noted writer and genre-expert DEAN RUDLAND - a name that's been on a huge number of quality CD reissues. The CD has been superbly remastered from first generation master tapes by NICK ROBBINS at Sound Mastering in London and plays out as follows (34:36 minutes):

1. Hawaiian Disco
2. T-Bone Disco
3. Mr. Big “H”
4. Baby What You Want Me To Do
5. Trippin’ In [Side 2]
6. Why Don’t You Rock Me
7. Kicking Back Part 1
8. Kicking Back Part 2

JOE HOUSTON – Tenor & Soprano saxophone
LARRY JOHNSON – Guitar & Bass
TED BUTLER – Guitar & Bass
BO RHAMBO – Alto & Tenor Saxophone
FREDDY CLARK – Baritone & Tenor Saxophone 
ROSS SOLOMINE – Drums

The Audio is amazing – full of punch and vigour – very well done and DJs will love it. The album opens badly with two very dated tunes sounding like cod Rock ’n’ Roll - both with the word “Disco” in them (the pair are best left alone I’m afraid). Track 3 on Side 1 however is different. Had the album opened with “Mr. Big “H”” you might have felt you’d stumbled on a forgotten monster that somehow slipped out of the James Brown school of Funk without anyone noticing. A wicked driving bass and flicky guitar rhythm section back up Houston as he gives it some JBs Saxophone stabs and jabs – blasting away for five minutes duration with a superb BB King type guitar solo half way through (a bit of a winner frankly – man would this be cool on a 12” single). We go straight into old time Rhythm ‘n’ Blues with the vocals of “Baby What You Want Me To Do” where Houston sounds like 1978 Chuck Berry.

Side 2 opens with another potential discovery – the near six-minute instrumental “Trippin’ In” - a chugging Bluesy piece peppered with funky Houston soloing. The three-minute “Why Don’t You Rock Me” is more of the same – grooving R&B with tasty fills and a classy George Benson-type guitar solo. The album finishes with the two parts of the title track – and immediately it goes for the dancefloor jugular by upping the tempo into a frantic pace. Both parts of “Kicking Back” feature a funky wah-wah guitar against a driving drum backing that’s overlaid by wild Houston soloing – Mr. H going at it like James Brown is going to fine him any minute for missing a beat. Both parts are irresistible DJ bate and you can so hear why these tracks on the album have been sought after...

So there you have it – it’s not all Funky Nirvana by any means – but the good stuff is worth seeking out/owning. And in this great Audio quality – Joe Houston’s “Kicking Back” is yet another clever choice by those fingers-on-the-pulse bods down at Ace Records in Londinium’s Steele Road. Way to go boys...

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