Tuesday, 18 August 2015

"Blowing The Fuse: 28 R&B Classics That Rocked The Jukebox In 1947" by VARIOUS ARTISTS (November 2004 Bear Family CD – Jurgen Crasser Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…Big Legs Is All I Crave..."

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 3 of the R&B Series "Blowing The Fuse"…(where the compilations really start to shine for me)...

"Blowing The Fuse - 28 R&B Classics That Rocked The Jukebox In 1947" is on Bear Family BCD 16702 AS (Barcode 4000127167026) 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 (1947 has "Sally Zu-Zaz" by JOE TURNER on National 4016), 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 1947 issue has 72-pages in its booklet and the CD runs to a trouser-pleasing 79:48 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 Black & White, Mercury and National). What’s noticeable about the 1947 Volume (over 1945 and 1946) is that there’s more advert repros and is massively evocative of the time period because of it (there’s even a colour photo of Louis Jordan on a 25c 'Color' fanzine on Page 58). 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 3 of 16 opens with the irrepressible Louis Jordan giving it his mantra "Let The Good Times Roll" and that's exactly what happens. And what you also notice as we slide into the joyous barrelhouse piano boogie of "Swanee River Boogie" by Albert Ammons – compared to some of the seriously rough cuts on 1945 and 1946 – the audio leaps forward a million miles into wonderful clarity. Even on the seriously bluesy and mellow "Bobby Sox Baby" – the transfer is so clean it’s almost unnerving. The witty "Open The Door Richard!" has a clearly worried Jack McVea talking to his band as they try to get Richard out of bed – banging the drums for every chorus (knocks on the door) as they sing "...let me in!" but the numbskull doesn't reply. There's even a photo on Page 15 of McVea's All Stars Band standing in the dark knocking on Richard's door with Sombreros on their heads, a Saxophone in hand and several guns pointed at the lock.

We continue in the fat Boogie Woogie vein with a wicked piano-pounding gem from Amos Milburn doing "Down The Road Apiece". It was a revival of a 1940 hit and he seems determined to impress and he tears up the keys (great stuff). The audio takes a major dip with the slow and romantic Vocal Group of "I Want To Be Loved (But Only By You)" which has clearly been dubbed from 78". But what a brilliant and worthy inclusion! It's by the lesser heard Savannah Churchill (backed up by The Four Tunes) and is properly gorgeous stuff (stayed at No.1 on the Harlem hit parade for 7 weeks) – a truly evocative sentimental lilt that I’ll be playing again real soon (crackle or no). We return to Boppin' R 'n' B with Eddie Vinson who tells his gal in "Old Maid Boogie" that she should wake up because in ten more years her youth will be gone. We now get a real blast from Sonny Boy Williamson whose distinctive Harmonica wailing never ceases to thrill. Shockingly good too is Dinah Washington doing smoochy Blues with Lionel Hampton’s band on "Blow Top Blues" where she informs her squeeze that she's "...got bad news baby and you're the first to know...I’ve been rocking on my feet and talking all out of my head..." – oh dear Dinah.

It's hardly surprising to find the mighty Joe Turner and his wonderful "Sally Zu-Zaz" is pictured on the inner flap. What an absolute R 'n' B winner it is – racy, rude and full of life. Tom Jones did a belting cover of it with Jools Holland on their self-titled CD compilation in 2004 - smartly airing a criminally forgotten masterpiece. Hadda Brooks based her version of the 1931 hit "That's My Desire" on a Frankie Lane performance she saw live (hers is a lovely version). Chess Records in-house genius Willie Dixon and his impossibly commercial wit imbibes the Big Three Trio's "Signifying Monkey" with such great fun - a slagging match in the jungle between a monkey and a lion where the supposed king of the realm has to survive an elephant as well the primate's relentless jibes. Future History kicks in with Arthur Crudup's cool original of "That's All Right" which would of course be taped in 1954 at Sun Records by some punk kid from Tupelo whereupon he and it would thereafter alter the fabric of our known Universe (cheeky bugger). "...I'm in love with you baby...and I just can't help myself..." - a pleading Roy Milton tells his punters in the neck-jerking shuffle of "True Blues" – a wicked groove that grabs you and just won't let go (sometimes simplicity is best). Jump piano dancing comes in the shape of "Chicago Boogie" from the Five Blazes (Ernie Harper dominating both the vocals and the keys) where small-town boys speak of the windy city with awe. Roughest of transfers goes to the beautiful "Don't You Think I Ought To Know" which features the silk vocals of Bill Johnson – it's covered in crackle but is also full of pathos and atmosphere and a smart inclusion. I've reviewed Nellie Lutcher's 5CD Box Set on Bear Family (a treasure I own) and her "He's A Real Gone Guy" will be a thrill to does new to her fantastic stint at Capitol Records. Best Audio returns for The Ravens who put in a winner with the 1927 "Show Boat" musical stalwart - "Ol' Man River". Lead vocals are handled by the astonishing voice of Jimmy Ricks who could make any hokum sound utterly convincing. He warns "...you'll get drunk and land in jail..." – well I’m glad his voice landed here. And on it goes with wicked danceable Forties R 'n' B winners from Louis Jordan, Julia Lee and the lewd "Big Legs" from Gene Phillips who is clearly enjoying himself way too much as he sings "...big legs is all I crave...let big-legged women carry me to my grave..." Amen...

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 - "1947" is 'the' place to start. I've collected and reviewed the whole set (16 titles)...and they're amongst my favourite reissues...

TRACK LIST for "Blowing The Fuse - 1947" (79:48 minutes) 
Volume 3 of 16
Song Title, ARTIST (Record Label and US 78" Catalogue Number, A-Side or B-Side)

1. Let The Good Times Roll- LOUIS JORDAN and his Timpany Five (Decca 23741, A)
2. Swanee River Boogie – ALBERT AMMONS and his Rhythm Kings (Mercury 8022, A)
3. Bobby Sox Blues – T-BONE WALKER and his guitar with Jack McVea and his All Stars (Black & White 110, A)
4. Open The Door Richard! – JACK McVEA and His All Stars (Black & White 792, A)
5. Down The Road Apiece – AMOS MILBURN (Aladdin 161, A)
6. I Want To Be Loved (But Only By You) – SAVANNAH CHURCHILL with The Four Tunes (Manor 1046, A)
7. Old Maid Boogie – EDDIE VINSON and his Orchestra (Mercury 8028, A)
8. Shake That Boogie – SONNY BOY WILLIAMSON (RCA 20-2056, A)
9. Blow Top Blues – LIONEL HAMPTON and his Septet - Vocal by Dinah Washington (Decca 23792, A)
10. Time To Change Your Town – WYNONIE ‘Blues’ HARRIS with Oscar Pettiford and his All Stars (Apollo 378, A)
11. Sally Zu-Zaz – JOE TURNER and his Boogie Woogie Boys (National 4016, B)
12. That's My Desire – HADDA BROOKS (Modern 147, A)
13. Signifying Monkey – BIG THREE TRIO (Columbia 37358, A)
14. That's All Right – ARTHUR 'Big Boy' CRUDUP (RCA 20-2205, A)
15. New Orleans Blues – JOHNNY MOORE'S THREE BLAZERS (Exclusive 240, A)
16. True Blues – ROY MILTON and his Solid Senders (Specialty 510, A)
17. Chicago Boogie – 5 BLAZES – Vocal and Piano by Ernie Harper (Aristocrat 201, A)
18. Don't You Think I Ought To Know – BILL JOHNSON and his Musical Notes (Harlem 1011 / King 417, A)
19. W.B. Blues – WALTER BROWN with Jay McShann's Quartet (Mercury 8046, A)
20. He's A Real Gone Guy – NELLIE LUTCHER and her Rhythm (Capitol 40017, A)
21. Ol' Man River – THE RAVENS [Lead Vocals Jimmy Ricks] (National 9035, A)
22. Boogie Woogie Blue Plate – LOUIS JORDAN and his Tympany Five (Decca 24104, A)
23. (Opportunity Knocks But Once) Snatch And Grab It – JULIA LEE and her Boyfriends (Capitol 40028, A)
24. Lollypop Mama – CLARENCE SAMUELS with Dave Young’s Orchestra (Aristocrat 1001, A)
25. Since I Fell For You – ANNIE LAURIE with Paul Gayten and his Trio (DeLuxe 1082, A)
26. Big Legs – GENE PHILLIPS and the Rhythm Aces (Modern 527, A)

27. Guitar In My Hand – CLARENCE 'Gatemouth' BROWN with Maxwell Davis and his Orchestra (Aladdin 199, A)

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