Monday, 16 August 2010

“Rocks” by SMILEY LEWIS. A Review of the 2010 Bear Family CD Compilation.

"…I’m Goin’ Home…Never More To Roam…Spend The Rest Of My Life…Right There With My Wife…"

Released February 2010 on Bear Family BCD 16676 AR, "Rocks" offers up 36 slices of primo Smiley Lewis New Orleans style Rhythm 'n' Blues on the Colony and Imperial labels from 1950 through to 1958 - and at an envelope-pushing 85:36 minutes, doesn't scrimp it on content or value for money.

Like all the titles in this extensive series, "Rocks" comes in a 3-way foldout card digipak with a large detachable booklet in the centre (40-pages for this one). The CD label itself repros the 1953 7"single of “Blue Monday” complete with its Imperial Records record bag - and that's again repro’d in full on the flap beneath the see-through tray (a nice touch). The substantial booklet features extensive liner notes from Page 2 to 28 by BILL DAHL who did such stunning work on Bear's "Sweet Soul Music" Series from 1961 to 1971 (see separate reviews for all 10 compilations). There's even a Discography for all 36 tracks from Page 29 to 39 by WOOTER KEESING and Bear Family’s own RICHARD WEIZE which in itself pictures each 78" and 45" at the base of every page (very tasty to look at). Knowledgeable people like DAVE “DADDY COOL” BOOTH and others contributed information and illustrations too.

The remastered sound is by one of their best tape engineers JURGEN CRASSER who handling the “Sweet Soul Music” series I raved about. One or two tracks are rough (“Dirty People” is one) because they’re dubbed off discs, but the sound on the others is fabulous - far better than previous CDs I've had of the same material.

Musically Smiley Lewis was like Louis Jordan, Amos Milburn and Louis Prima - an irrepressible force of rockin' joy. His big pipes had the room-filling fun of Big Joe Turner at his Atlantic Records best, while his rolling piano fills made every track a Fats Domino blast. You can just 'feel' the good vibes of a hot gig on a Saturday Night at the local bar coming off these songs (his mischievous lyrics to "Ain’t Gonna Do It" title this review).

Given the vintage of the material, this CD is expensive for sure (as most of Bear Family's product is), but it's the best representation of Lewis’ material I've ever heard or seen. If you want to go deeper, there’s the “Shame, Shame, Shame” 4CD Box Set they issued in 1993. But if you want to get a taster of the songs and sound quality for a reasonable cost - try the 36-track "All We Wanna Do Is ROCK" sampler for this series - it has the 1953 Imperial single of "Big Mamou” (see separate review).

Great stuff – and such fun. In the vernacular - recommended the most daddy-o...

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

1. Pat Boone
2. Johnny Burnette
3. The Cadillacs
4. Eddie Cochran
5. Bobby Darin
6. Fats Domino
7. Connie Francis
8. Don Gibson
9. Glen Glenn
10. Bill Haley
11. Roy Hall
12. Dale Hawkins
13. Ronnie Hawkins
14. Screamin' Jay Hawkins
15. Wanda Jackson
16. Sonny James
17. Buddy Knox & Jimmy Bowen with the Rhythm Orchids
18. Sleepy LaBeef
19. Jerry Lee Lewis
20. Smiley Lewis
21. Bob Luman
22. Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers
23. Carl Mann
24. Amos Milburn
25. Ella Mae Morse
26. Ricky Nelson
27. Carl Perkins
28. Roy Orbison
29. Lloyd Price
30. Piano Red
31. Charlie Rich
32. Jack Scott
33. Shirley & Lee
34. The Treniers
35. Conway Twitty
36. Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps
37. 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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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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