Tuesday, 31 August 2010

“Blowing The Fuse – 31 R&B Classics That Rocked The Jukebox In 1957” by VARIOUS ARTISTS. A Review Of The Award-Winning 2006 Bear Family CD Compilation

"…Come On Sugar And Think…About The Good Things…"

The "Blowing The Fuse" series of CD compilations stretches across 16 volumes from 1945 to 1960 and was then followed by Bear Family's equally magnificent "Sweet Soul Music" series of 10 sets from 1961 to 1970 (I've reviewed all 10 of those in detail). Having been drawn in by the truly beautiful sound and presentation of the Soul discs, I knew it would be a big blow to my bank balance buying even one of these R&B issues – and it was - but they are absolutely so worth it…

"Blowing The Fuse - 31 R&B Classics That Rocked The Jukebox In 1957" is on Bear Family BCD 16712 AS and was released April 2006. Each US-based yearly compilation comes in a 3-way foldout card digipak sleeve. The left flap pictures either a 7" single or album relevant to the year (1957 has the 7" single of "Little Darlin’” by The Gladiolas), the centre flap holds a 80 to 90 page oversized booklet that slips out so you can read it separately and the right flap a colour-themed CD that matches the outer packaging. As with the 10 "Sweet Soul Music" compilations, each of the 16 R&B spines makes up a whole photo when placed alongside each other (a fantastic black & white shot of a crowd of hip dudes and their gals dancing at some Saturday night bar). As you can see from the cover photos of these compilations too, the theme of people dancing and artists enjoying themselves is repeated right across all of these wonderfully restored photographs (they're from The Showtime Music Archive in Toronto). This 1957 issue has 84-pages in its booklet and the CD runs to a generous 77:39 minutes.

Dave "Daddy Cool" Booth took his time with this - actually playing the set through - mixing in the famous with the obscure but in a new order - and the result is a truly satisfying listen rather than a patchy one. The compilation begins in January and in rough chronological order ends in December. And even the way-too-familiar tracks on here like "Ain’t Got No Home", "Come Go With Me" and "Lucille" are sorted out by the next big plus...the beautifully clear sound...

Bear Family have gotten all the ORIGINAL master tapes from each record company (both Mono and Stereo) and their resident expert JURGEN CRASSER has mastered them with care - and given the wildly varying sources, the sound is uniformly GLORIOUS.

Little prepares you for the clarity and wallop of a great opening double act – “Blue Monday” by Fats Domino and the joyful “Jim Dandy” by LaVern Baker. Both sound fabulous – piano, drums, brass – all of it – far better than the versions I already have. In fact, it’s a bit of a thrill for me as a collector of the Atlantic label to hear just how good their tracks sound on here – “Lucky Lips”, “Searchin’”, “C.C. Rider” and especially “Since I Met You Baby” by Ivory Joe Hunter – revelatory stuff.

Obscurities and genius choices go to the melodrama doo-wop of Johnnie & Joe on “Over The Mountain, Across The Sea" and the beautiful sound quality on “Think” by The “5” Royales when the sax solo kicks in (lyrics above). The teen dating smoocher “Happy, Happy Birthday Baby” is cleverly followed by Slim Harpo’s slinky and sexy “I’m A King Bee” (the kind of man your Fifties mother warned you about), while again little prepares you for the staggeringly lurid lyrics of “Jailbait” which would probably get a performer arrested in 2010! It’s also nice to hear the original of “Farther Up The Road” after so many bar bands have covered it, which in turn is brilliantly followed by the instrumental “Raunchy”. It all ends with the joy of “Reet Petite” sounding like it was recorded yesterday. In fact - of the titles I’ve reviewed so far (1960, 1959 and 1958) - this is my favourite in the series - an embarrassment of riches from start to finish and presented in a genuinely classy way by people who care.

Although slightly different in layout, like the "Sweet Soul Music" series, the booklet is to die for. With an intro on Page 4, the text for the songs begins on Page 5 and ends on Page 81 (pictures of Jackie Wilson and his Brunswick 45 “Reet Petite” grace Pages 82 and 83), so there's very little wasted space. Each artist is pictured using quality publicity shots, the 7" single itself is there - or if not a trade advert for the label - and every now and then - a beautiful full colour plate of lesser-seen album sleeves (The Dell-Vikings rare "Come Go With Us" LP on Dot and "The King Of The Stroll” LP by Chuck Willis on Atlantic are on Pages 28 and 46). Each song then has a 2 to 3 page essay on its history by noted writer COLIN ESCOTT with knowledgeable contributions from BILL MILLAR and DAVE BOOTH and Marv Goldberg's online R&B site. And because the booklet allows Escott to spread out on each song, the details come thick and fast - like Dahl's work on "Sweet Soul Music" - it's a fabulously entertaining and informative read.

Niggles - the glossy card sleeve is easy to smudge and mark and that's about it! Mostly there's just too much great stuff on here to whinge about.

To sum up - even though they're expensive as imports, I think once long-time collectors actually get their hands on even one of these compilations (no matter what the date) - they'll be irresistibly hooked. For the casual buyer just looking for a great one-stop account of R&B Music for a given year - "1957" is 'the' place to start.

Compilations like this live or die based on a few key ingredients - great track choices, properly remastered sound and all of it wrapped up in knowledgeable and (if you're lucky) sumptuous presentation. Well "Blowin The Fuse" wins on all counts - it really does. The entire series is gorgeous to look at and especially to listen to. Well done to all involved…

Track List for the CD "Blowing The Fuse 1957"
(Label & Catalogue Number For The US 7" Single Follow The Title. If There's TWO Catalogue Numbers, The First Is The Original; The 2nd Is The Reissue In That Year)

1. Blue Monday – FATS DOMINO (Imperial 5417)
2. Jim Dandy – LaVERN BAKER And THE GLIDERS (Atlantic 1116)
[Written by Lincoln Chase; The Gliders were the vocal group The Cues]
3. Love Is Strange – MICKEY And SYLVIA (Groove 0176)
[Mickey Baker And Sylvia Vanderpool]
4. Ain’t Got No Home – CLARENCE “FROG MAN” HENRY (Argo 5259)
5. Since I Met You Baby – IVORY JOE HUNTER (Atlantic 1111)
6. Little Darlin’ – THE GLADIOLAS (Excello 2101)
[Features Maurice Williams]
7. Next Time You See Me – LITTLE JUNIOR PARKER With BILL HARVEY’S BAND (Duke 164)
8. Come Go With Me – THE DELL-VIKINGS (Fee Bee 205/Dot 15538)
9. Lucky Lips – RUTH BROWN (Atlantic 1125)
[Written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller]
10. Just Because – LLOYD PRICE (KBC 587/ABC-Paramount 9792)
11. Searchin’ – THE COASTERS (Atco 6087)
[Written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller]
12. Lucille – LITTLE RICHARD And His Band (Specialty 598)
13. I’m Walkin’ – FATS DOMINO (Imperial 5428)
14. Over The Mountain, Across The Sea – JOHNNIE And JOE (J&S 1664/Chess 1654)
[Johnnie Richardson and Joe Rivers]
15. C.C. Rider – CHUCK WILLIS (Atlantic 1130)
16.Short Fat Fannie – LARRY WILLIAMS (Specialty 608)
17. School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes The Bell) – CHUCK BERRY (Chess 1653)
18. Glory Of Love – THE VELVETONES (Aladdin 3372)
19. Louie Louie – RICHARD BERRY (Flip 321)
21. Think – THE “5” ROYALES (king 5053)
22. Let The Four Winds Blow – ROY BROWN (Imperial 5439)
23. Happy, Happy Birthday Baby – THE TUNEWEAVERS With Frank Paul’s Orchestra (Casa Grande 4037/Checker 872)
24. I’m A King Bee – SLIM HARPO (Excello 2113)
25. Rockin’ Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu, Part 1 – HUEY ‘PIANO’ SMITH And His Clowns (Ace 530)
26. Little Bitty Pretty One – THURSTON HARRIS And The Sharps (Aladdin 3398)
27. Jailbait – ANDRE WILLIAMS (Mr. Rhythm) With THE CHARLIE MORRIS ORCHESTRA (Fortune 837)
28. Flat Foot Sam – OSCAR ‘T.V. SLIM’ WILLS With The PAUL GAYTEN ORCHESTRA (Argo 5277)
29. Farther Up The Road – BOBBY “BLUE” BLAND With The BILL HARVEY ORCHESTRA (Duke 170)
30. Raunchy – ERNIE FREEMAN And His Combo (Imperial 5474)
31. Reet Petite (The Finest Girl You Ever Want To Meet) – JACKIE WILSON (Brunswick 9-55024)
[Co-written by Tyran Carlo [aka Billy Davis] and Berry Gordy (founder of Motown)]

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