Monday, 17 August 2015

"Blowing The Fuse: 27 R&B Classics That Rocked The Jukebox In 1946" by VARIOUS ARTISTS (November 2004 Bear Family CD – Jurgen Crasser Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…Let’s Drink Some Mash And Talk Some Trash..."

Bear Family's truly fabulous "Blowing The Fuse" series of CD compilations chronicles the transition of minority ghettoized Blues into national Rhythm 'n' Blues and stretches across 16 individual single-disc volumes that cover the years 1945 to 1960. Released across 2004 and 2005 –"Blowing The Fuse" was then followed in 2008 and 2009 by Bear’s equally magnificent "Sweet Soul Music" series of 15 sets from 1961 to 1975 - complimented in turn by their spiritual and musical partners - 15 volumes of Vocal Group sets called "Street Corner Symphonies" covering 1939 to 1963 (released 2012 and 2013). I suppose you could argue that I just say, "Buy the lot man!" in a very loud voice - but bluntly they're so good - each deserves a thorough review (and that’s what I’ve done). So here goes with Volume 2 of the R&B Series "Blowing The Fuse"…

"Blowing The Fuse - 27 R&B Classics That Rocked The Jukebox In 1946" is on Bear Family BCD 16701 AS (Barcode 4000127167019) 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 (1946 has "I Cover The Waterfront" by Cats 'N Jammer Three on Mercury 2003), 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 15 volumes of "Sweet Soul Music" and "Street Corner Symphonies" - each of the "Blowing The Fuse" 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). Siding the text and black/white publicity photos are uber rare trade adverts and of course those equally scarce 78’s in their lovely label bags. This 1946 issue has 72-pages in its booklet and the CD runs to a bruising 79:52 minutes.

Sourcing the best disc available (or occasional tape) Bear’s Audio Engineer genius JURGEN CRASSER has mastered each cut with care. Depending on the condition of the disc – the audio varies wildly - and as you can imagine it’s a case of astonishingly clean transfer one moment and hiss & cackle-laden version the next. Overall though I’m more than pleased with what I’m hearing...all of it imbibed with huge musical and lyrical talent and a sheer sense of to "hell-with-it-all!" – let's have some fun...

The booklet in each of these reissues is to die for. 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 page plate of lesser-seen trade adverts, or a rare 78” in its label bag (long ago American Record labels like Majestic, Bluebird, Victor, Decca, Exclusive, Philo and others). Each song then has an essay on its history by noted writer COLIN ESCOTT and because the booklet allows him to spread out on each song, the details come thick and fast - it's a fabulously entertaining and informative read.

Volume 2 of 16 opens with a boozy crowd-pleaser by Wynonie Harris (lyrics from it title this review) simply called "Wynonie's Blues" and despite its lo-fi dubbed-from disc sound is charged with post-war mischief and extramarital shenanigans. Joe Liggins goes into a very cool dancefloor shuffle for his "Got A Right To Cry" while Johnny Moore's "Drifting Blues" is a straight up piano and voice moaner ("...I give you all my money...tell what more can I do..."). Big and brassy describes "Just A-Sittin' And A-Rockin'" by The Delta Rhythm Boys – it's great fun but behind those fabulous voices is heavy-duty crackle in the transfer of this uber rarity. 

Sporting impressive audio - the Louis Jordan cut "Buzz Me" is incredibly clean and full of vim - as is the stunning smoocher "Joy Juice" where Dinah Washington advises women to get their man down to the nearest joint to get him "nice and stewed" because he's a better Casanova that way - but get him home before he starts getting funny ideas with the fine brown frames at the bar. Equally juicy is the shout-and-call of "Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop" by Lionel Hampton where he tells us someone in the family is "...on the floor blowing his natural top..." We go into Fats Domino piano-stroller territory with the wickedly slick "R.M. Blues" by Roy Milton & His Solid Senders - but the honours belong to Camille Howard who fills the song with some truly brilliant runs on the old Joanna. Rough describes "I Cover The Waterfront" which I'm sure is included for historical reasons. It was inspired by (not in) the Claudette Colbert movie of the same name and was instrumental in putting Mercury as a label on the chart map when it reputed sold over 4 million copies.

Back to a giggle with "Voo-it! Voo-it!" credited to Blues Woman who turns out to Marion Abernathy – but even that's trumped by the barnstorming piano boogie-woogie of "Chicago Breakdown" by Big Maceo – three minutes of keyboard-pounding joy (feels like Piano Red letting rip - Peace on them both). Onwards to a wonderful vocal group romancer with "I Know" by Andy Kirk and his Orchestra where the song is made genius by the deep crooning of The Jubalaires (a highlight on the whole disc for me). It's a little jarring to hear Nat King Cole's "(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66" on here but I can understand its inclusion (maybe its overly familiar to me). I love "Cherry Red Blues" by Eddie Vinson because it reminds me of the mighty Big Joe Turner who of course wrote and recorded it with Pete Johnson in 1939. Wit returns with Bull Moose Jackson who wants to tell us to a hand-clapping R&B rhythm that it was possibly Caldonia's mammy who "...threw the whiskey in the well..." (naughty woman). More vocal group magic comes in the shape of The Ink Spots classic "The Gypsy" sounding amazingly clean here (compared to versions I've had before anyway). Not so clear is the really-rough-sounding "Red Light" - but that doesn't stop the tune from bringing out the finger-clicking rhythm in us all (great little song). And on it goes through more crowd-pleasing dancefloor R&B with Joe Turner on National and the irrepressible Louis Jordan on Decca – ending with a wicked Julia Lee witticism on Capitol...

To sum up - even though they were initially expensive as imports - as the years have gone by they've gone down in price (some online retailers via Amazon or eBay are selling them for about £8.50. But I can't help thinking that once long-time collectors actually get their hands on even one of these compilations (no matter what the date) - they'll be irresistibly hooked and need to own the lot.

For the casual buyer just looking for a great one-stop account of R&B Music for a given year - "1946" is 'the' place to start. I've collected the whole set...and they're amongst my favourite reissues...

TRACK LIST for "Blowing The Fuse - 1946" (79:52 minutes):
Volume 2 of 16
Song Title, ARTIST (Record Label and US 78” Catalogue Number, A-Side or B-Side)

1. Wynonie’s Blues – WYNONIE "Blues" HARRIS with Illinois Jacquet and his All Stars (Apollo 362, A)
2. Got A Right To Cry – JOE LIGGINS and his Honeydrippers (Exclusive 210, A)
3. Drifting Blues – JOHNNY MOORE’S THREE BLAZERS (Philo P 112 and Aladdin A 112, A)
4. Just A-Sittin' And A-Rockin' – DELTA RHYTHM BOYS (Decca 18 739, A)
5. Buzz Me – LOUIS JORDAN and his Tympany Five (Decca 18 734, A)
6. Joy Juice – DINAH WASHINGTON with Gus Chappel's Orchestra (Mercury 2052, B)
7. Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop – LIONEL HAMPTON and his Orchestra (Decca 18 754, A)
8. R.M. Blues – ROY MILTON and his Solid Senders (Specialty 504, A)
9. I Cover The Waterfront – CATS N’ JAMMER THREE Vocals by Bill Samuels (Mercury 2003, A)
10. Voo-It! Voo-It! – THE BLUES WOMAN with the Buddy Banks Sextet (Jukebox 502, A)
11. Chicago Breakdown – BIG MACEO (Bluebird 34-0743, A)
12. I Know – ANDY KIRK and his Orchestra Vocal by The Jubalaires (Decca 18 782, A)
13. (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 – NAT COLE TRIO (Capitol 256, A)
14. Cherry Red Blues – EDDIE VINSON and his Orchestra (Mercury 8003, A)
15. I Know Who Threw The Whiskey (In The Well) – BULL MOOSE JACKSON and his Orchestra (Queen 4116, A)
16. The Gypsy – THE INK SPOTS (Decca 18 817, A)
17. Red Light – RED CALLENDER (Black & White 781, A)
18. If I Were A Itty Bitty Girl, Part 1 – VELMA NELSON with Will Rowland and his Band (Aladdin 139, A)
19. Sunny Road – ROOSEVELT SYKES with his Original Honeydrippers (RCA Victor 20-1906, A)
20. My Gal's A Jockey – JOE TURNER with Bill Moore’s Lucky Seven Band (National 4002, A)
21. Choo Choo Ch' Boogie – LOUIS JORDAN and his Tympany Five (Decca 23 610, A)
22. So Glad You're Mine – ARTHUR 'Big Boy' CRUDUP (RCA Victor 20-1949, A)
23. Voodoo Woman Blues – JAY McSHANN and his Sextet (Mercury 8020, A)
24. After Hours – ERSKINE HAWKINS and his Orchestra (featuring Avery Parrish on Piano) (Bluebird 10879 / RCA Victor 20-1977)
25. Port Wine – BILL SAMUELS and The Cats 'n Jammer Three (Mercury 8012, A)
26. Come Back To Me Baby – T-BONE WALKER with Marl Young's Orchestra (Mercury 8016, A)
27. Gotta Gimme Whatcha' Got – JULIA LEE and her Boyfriends (Capitol 308, A)

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