Thursday, 7 October 2010

“Blowing The Fuse – 28 R&B Classics That Rocked The Jukebox In 1950” by VARIOUS ARTISTS. A Review Of The Award-Winning 2004 Bear Family CD Compilation

"…Gonna Drink Myself A Whole Wad Of Gin…Let The Good Times Roll ‘Til The Cops Come In…"

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 quality 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 I've laboured with all of these time-consuming detailed reviews because these reissues are the business...they truly are.

"Blowing The Fuse - 28 R&B Classics That Rocked The Jukebox In 1950" is on Bear Family BCD 16705 AS and was released November 2004 in Germany. Each US-based yearly compilation comes in a 3-way foldout card digipak sleeve. The left flap pictures an original record relevant to the year (1950 has "Please Send Me Someone To Love" by Percy Mayfield on Specialty), the centre flap holds a 70 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 1950 issue has 72-pages in its booklet and the CD runs to a jam-packed 79:58 minutes.

Compiler 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.

Bear Family have gotten all the ORIGINAL master tapes from each record company (or in many cases, the best disc available) and their resident expert JURGEN CRASSER has mastered them with care - and given their age and wildly varying sources, the sound is uniformly great. But - it has to be said that in comparison to 1951 to 1960, the sound on 1950 is a lot rougher - the music is as blissfully exuberant as ever (“Stack–A ‘Lee” and “The Fat Man”), but the sound has definitely taken a dip…

The proceedings open with two songs about women – the man in the first song doesn’t understand the signals they send out - and the woman in the second song won’t “put out” at all - "Information Blues" by Amos Milburn and "Sittin’ On It All The Time" by Wynonie Harris. Cleverly chosen instrumentals go to “Strollin’ With Bones” by T-Bone Walker and “Old Time Shuffle Blues” by Lloyd Glenn – both are easy on the ear shuffles – while two overly familiar tracks (and personal favourites of mine) now sound fantastic – the best I’ve ever heard them – they are “Teardrops From My Eyes” by Ruth Brown (see track notes below) and “Please Send Me Someone To Love” by Percy Mayfield.

There’s a lot of great dancers on here too – “Well Oh Well” by Tiny Bradshaw, “Come On Let’s Boogie” by Goree Carter (great guitar work) and “Safronia B.” by Calvin Boze who was as musically and lyrically sophisticated as Louis Jordan. A superb coupling is tracks 18 and 19 – they are “Count Every Star” by The Ravens (which some claim practically started the Doo Wop and Vocal Groups craze) and “Blue Shadows” by guitarist Lowell Fulson – an infectious R&B groove that perfectly compliments its predecessor. Great stuff…

After 22 slices of hip R&B dancers and commercially astute smoochers, the straight-up acoustic blues of Lightnin’ Hopkins then comes as both a genuine shock and thrill. “Shotgun Blues” was written by Sonny Boy Williamson and is so sparse and moody that it’s like a dark past licking at your feet – echoes of Robert Johnson. And that voice – wow - his presence too – extraordinary stuff.

Criminally forgotten gems go to "Double Crossing Blues" by Johnny Otis which introduced the wonderfully expressive vocals of “Little” Esther Phillips to the world, Eddie Mack swigs back a few drinks on his “Hoot And Holler Saturday Night” (lyrics above) and Roy Hawkins practically writes the handbook on “poor me” blues songs on his “misery…lonesome…strange things happening…” whiner “Why Do Everything Happen To Me”. And it all ends as it started – a blasting rocker by Jimmy Preston (written by Louis Prima years before he went solo in 1956). It’s impressive stuff…

Although slightly different in layout, like the "Sweet Soul Music" series, the booklet is to die for. A couple dancing grace Page 3 (and the front sleeve), there's an intro on Page 4 with the text for the songs beginning on Page 5 and ending on Page 70, so there's almost no wasted space. Each artist is pictured using quality publicity shots, and every now and then, a beautiful full colour plate of lesser-seen records and their label bag graces an entire page (“I Almost Lost My Mind” by Ivory Joe Hunter on M-G-M and "Rag Mop” by Doc Sausage and his Mad Lads on Regal and are on Pages 11 and 12). Each song then has an essay on its history by noted writer COLIN ESCOTT with knowledgeable contributions from BILL MILLAR, DAVE BOOTH, Larry Cohn, Walter DeVenne and many more (photos from Michael Ochs Archives, Victor Pearlin & others). 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.

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 - "1950" is 'the' place to start.

Track List for the CD "Blowing The Fuse 1950"
(Label & Catalogue Number For The US 78" Follow The Title. If There's TWO Catalogue Numbers, The First Is The Original; The 2nd Is The Reissue)

1. Information Blues – ROY MILTON and his Solid Senders (Specialty 349)
2. Sittin’ On It All The Time – WYNONIE HARRIS (King 4330)
3. I Almost Lost My Mind – IVORY JOE HUNTER (MGM 10578)
4. Rag Mop – DOC SAUSAGE and his Mad Lads (Regal 3251)
5. The Fat Man – FATS DOMINO (Imperial 5058)
6. Double Crossing Blues – JOHNNY OTIS QUINTETTE (Savoy 731)
[Featuring “Little” Esther Phillips and Mel Walker on Duet Vocals]
7. Hoot And Holler Saturday Night – EDDIE MACK and Orchestra (Apollo 417)
8. Mardi Gras In New Orleans – PROFESSOR LONGHAIR and his New Orleans Boys (Atlantic 897)
9. 3 x 7 = 21 – JEWEL KING (Imperial 5055) [Mary Jewel King]
10. Why Do Everything Happen To Me – ROY HAWKINS and his Orchestra (Modern 734)
11. Pink Champagne – JOE LIGGINS and his Honeydrippers (Specialty 355)
12. Strollin’ With Bones – T-BONE WALKER, his guitar and his Orchestra (Imperial 5071)
13. Well Oh Well – TINY BRADSHAW (King 4357)
14. Still In the Dark – JOE TURNER and Orchestra (Freedom 1531)
15. Stack-A’ Lee, Parts 1 & 2 – ARCHIBALD and his Orchestra (Imperial 5068)
16. Come On Let’s Boogie – GOREE CARTER (Freedom 1536)
17. Safronia B. – CALVIN BOZE and his All-Stars (Aladdin 3055)
18. Count Every Star – THE RAVENS (National 9111)
19. Blue Shadows – LOWELL FULSON (Swing Time 226)
20. Blue Light Boogie Parts 1 & 2 – LOUIS JORDAN and his Tympany Five (Decca 27114)
21. Love Don’t Love Nobody – ROY BROWN and his Mighty, Mighty Men (DeLuxe 2306)
22. Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere – JOE MORRIS and his Orchestra (Atlantic 914)
[Uncredited Lead Vocals by LAURIE TATE; Atlantic’s first No. 1 R&B hit]
23. Shotgun Blues – LIGHTNIN’ HOPKINS (Aladdin 3063)
[Written by Sonny Boy Williamson]
24. Teardrops From My Eyes – RUTH BROWN with Budd Johnson’s Orchestra (Atlantic 919)
[In October 1950 in reached No. 1 on the R&B charts (their 2nd number one) and was the first Atlantic track issued on the new 45 RPM 7” single format as well as a 78”]
25. Boogie Rambler – CLARENCE ‘GATEMOUTH’ BROWN, his guitar and his Orchestra (Peacock 1505)
26. Please Send Me Someone To Love – PERCY MAYFIELD and Orchestra (Specialty 375)
27. Old Time Shuffle Blues – LLOYD GLENN with Th’ Fulson Unit (Swing Time 237)
[Featuring Lowell Fulson on Guitar, Lloyd Glenn on Keyboards]
28. Oh, Babe! – JIMMY PRESTON and his Band (Derby 748)


LINDA WARN said...

I like your description of ESTHER
"The wonderfully expressive LITTLE

Thank you for giving her the flowers--I just wish she had the adoration
when she was here with us and could
have enjoyed it!


Mark Barry said...

Thanks Linda

I've had a Charly Records LP on Littkle Esther for years called "Bad, bad Girl" - it has a top tune on it called "Aged & Mellow Blues".

I'm so loving these "Blowing The Fuse" sets - they cost me - but they were so worth it.



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