Friday, 19 November 2010

“Rocks” by ELLA MAE MORSE. A Review Of The 2010 Bear Family CD Compilation.

"…Just Love Me…All Night Long…"

Released November 2010 on Bear Family BCD 16672 AR, "Rocks" offers up 34 slices of Ella Mae Morse’ varying styles – Easy Listening, Jazz Vocals, pumping Rhythm 'n' Blues and even Rock ‘n’ Roll – and it’s a peach. “Rocks” covers 1942 to 1957 on the Capitol label and at a stonking 84:33 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 (52-pages for this one). The CD label itself repros the 78” for “House Of Blue Lights” – a big hit for her and Freddie Slack in 1946 - complete with its Capitol Records label 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 30 by KEVIN COFFEY with a Discography for all 34 tracks from Page 31 to 45 by Kevin Coffey, LAWRENCE J. ZWISOHN and Bear Family’s owner RICHARD WEIZE. Especially worth noting is that the 40-page album-sized booklet which came with Bear’s extensive 5CD box set (from way back in 1997) was a dull black & white pictures affair… “Rocks” has considerably improved on that – there are lovely full-page colour shots of her two important album covers, “Barrelhouse, Boogie, And The Blues” (1954) and “The Morse Code” (1957). Added to that are in-studio-recording snaps which are new, trade adverts, sheet music and many of her American Capitol singles are pictured throughout - a typically top job done by Bear.

The remastered sound is by one of their best tape engineers JURGEN CRASSER – he handling the stunning “Blowing The Fuse” series (1945 to 1960 - I’ve reviewed all 16 volumes) and the “Sweet Soul Music” series (1961 to 1970 – all reviewed too). Alive, clean and full of well-recorded Capitol Records class - the sound is wonderful.

Musically - although Morse looked like some squeaky-clean 20-year old usherette serving popsicles in the movie theatre during World War II, musically this belied her vocal delivery. Ella was like a female Louis Jordan or a Bessie Smith, a white gal from Texas often mistaken for a black singer because of her slightly raunchy delivery when she got her hands on good R’n’B material (covers of Atlantic artist like Ruth Brown and LaVern Baker). A good case in point for this is the 10” LP of “Barrelhouse, Boogie, And The Blues” which to my mind is a criminally forgotten R’n’B masterpiece - and I’m glad to report that someone has been smart enough to put 7 of its 8 tracks on here. It opens with “Rock Me All Night Long” (lyrics above). Don’t get me wrong – not every track on here is rocking by any means – there are easy moments too - but they’re really good also. It just depended on the material she was given.

Speaking of history – when Capitol launched its first nine 78"s on 1 July 1942, Ella Mae Morse was there on Day 1. She sang lead with Freddie Slack and his Orchestra on the A-side of Capitol 102 - "Cow-Cow Boogie". It was a huge hit and quickly climbed to Number 1 - putting the fledgling label on the map. By 1946 Capitol had shifted 46 million records, by the mid Fifties they boasted two of the best selling singers in the Universe (Nat "King" Cole and Frank Sinatra) and by the mid Sixties they'd acquired some band from Liverpool in England (who also shifted some records - apparently). So you could say with confidence that Nick Tosche's assertion that she was one of 'the great unsung heroes of rock 'n' roll' is right. A musical chameleon, a sassy vixen, or just a good old gal with a nice voice – take your pick - but the world owes Ella Mae Morse for what her breakthrough led to.

Another cracker from those nice reissue people in Germany - and such good fun too.

In the vernacular - recommended the most...

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 [see REVIEW]
21. Bob Luman
22. Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers
23. Carl Mann
24. Amos Milburn [see REVIEW]
25. Ella Mae Morse
26. Ricky Nelson
27. Carl Perkins
28. Roy Orbison
29. Lloyd Price
30. Piano Red [see REVIEW]
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

PPS: I’ve reviewed the box set separately with attached 78”, 45” and LP discographies

1 comment:

Gregory Lee said...

Mark, great review of this fantastic album. I bought it used on eBay and the seller shipped the disc in an empty jewel case with no art or liner notes. :(

This isn't really a huge deal, since my goal is to import it into iTunes anyway, but all the tracks come in as "2010". This kills me, as I like to label each track with the year it was recorded. I like to shuffle through playlists of all the songs from, say, 1942-1950.

I tried researching this album all day online but cannot find a single place where the recording years are associated with all 34 tracks. Can you help out a fellow music fan and post them here or email them to me?

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