Thursday, 17 September 2015

"Unlock The Lock: The Kent Records Story 1958-1962" by VARIOUS ARTISTS (2015 Ace 2CD Set - Duncan Cowell Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Everybody Needs To Know..."

In their unrelenting quest for chart hits it seems the Bihari Brothers of Kent Records USA (Jules, Saul & Joe) would throw just about any kind of musical paint at the American chart canvas to see what would make a splash. Hence this genre-varied double-CD (Volume 1 of 2 apparently) clobbers you with a myriad of styles - Vocal Groups, Blues, Rhythm 'n' Blues, Jump Blues, Wild Rockabilly & even wilder Rock 'n' Roll - and of course as it mooches into 1960 to 1962 - some traces of early Soul. And 30 of its 48 tracks are either previously unreleased or new to CD as well. Here are the details 'everybody needs to know'...

UK released August 2015 (September 2015 in the USA) – "Unlock The Lock: The Kent Records Story 1958-1962" by VARIOUS ARTISTS on Ace Records CDTOP2 1449 (Barcode 029667073226) plays out as follows:

Disc 1 -1958-1959 - (61:32 minutes):
1. Why Do Everything Happen To Me – B.B. KING (1958, Kent 301)
2. All Of Me – DANNY BOY (1958, Kent 300)
3. Hey Little Mama – THE BARKER BROTHERS (2015, Alternative of Kent 302)
4. "Baby, Bay" Every Night – ETTA JAMES (1958, Kent 304)
5. Sweet Lovin' Honey – DON COLE (1958, Kent 205)
6. On My Way Back Home – FLASH TERRY & HIS ORCHESTRA (2015, Extended Version of Kent 310)
7. Devil Doll – LEE DENSON (1958, Kent 306)
8. Madness – SONNY KNIGHT (1958, Kent 312)
9. Basis Of Rock 'n' Roll – VAN ROBINSON
(2015, Take 1 of a track that first turned up on the July 2000 CD compilation "Long Gone Daddies: Original 50s Rockabilly & Rock 'n' Roll from The Modern Label" on Ace CDCHD 768)
10. Bye Bye Baby – CHUCK "TEQUILA" RIO (2015, Take 5 of Kent 38)
11. That's My Baby – ARTIE WILSON (1958, Kent 313)
12. Dance The Thing – FLOYD DIXON and HIS ORCHESTRA (1958, Kent 311)
13. Please Accept My Love – B.B. KING (2015, Undubbed Version of a track on the 1969 "Boss Of The Blues" LP on Kent 5029)
14. Red Hot Rockin' Blues – JESSE JAMES (1958, Kent 314)
15. If It Ain't One Thing – BETTY & DUPREE (1959, Kent 318)
16. You You You – VAN ROBINSON (2015, Previously Unreleased)
17. South's Gonna Rise Again – JESSE JAMES (1958, Kent 314)
18. Worry Worry – B.B. KING (2015, Take 1 of Kent 317)
19. The Ballad Of Stagger Lee – THE SENDERS (2105, Extended Version of Kent 320)
20. The Thrill Is Gone – HADDA BROOKS (2015, Take 1 of Kent 321)
21. The Fool – B.B. KING (1959, Kent 319)
22. Everybody Needs To Know – THE SENDERS (2015, Alternative of Kent 324)
23. (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons – JESSE BELVIN (1959, Kent 326)
24. Mean Ole Frisco – B.B. KING (2015, Take 2 of Kent 329)
Tracks 3, 6, 9, 10, 13, 16, 18, 19, 20, 22 and 24 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

Disc 2 -1960-1962 - (67:32 minutes):
1. Sweet Sixteen Pts. 1 & 2 – B.B. KING (1960, Kent 330)
2. Your Cheating Heart – JIMMY WITHERSPOON (1960, Kent 343)
3. Unlock The Clock – JIMMY NELSON (2015, Alternate of Kent 354)
4. Good Man Gone Bad – B.B. KING (1960, Kent 346)
5. Tomorrow Night – HADDA BROOKS (1960, Kent 349)
6. You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now – B.B. KING (2015, Take 4 of Kent 350)
8. If Love Was Money – TONY ALLEN & THE WANDERERS (1961, Kent 356)
9. Bad Case Of Love – B.B. KING (2015, Take 1 of Kent 362)
10. Texas Queen – BILLY RAY (1962, Kent 367)
11. Dreamin' – TONY ALLEN & GROUP (1961, Kent 364)
12. Doing The Twist – JOE HOUSTON (1962, Kent 366)
13. Get In The Car – LITTLE JOE HINTON
(first appeared on the 1999 Japanese Various Artists CD compilation "West Coast Modern Blues Vol.2" on P-Vine PCD 3063)
14. Crazy Feeling aka Do Something Crazy – ETTA JAMES (1958, Kent 370)
15. The Whip Twist – LITTLE JOE HINTON (1962, Kent 368)
16. Goodnight My Love – PAT HUNT (1962, Kent 374)
17. Do You Wanna Twist – TEDDY REYNOLDS (1962, Kent 371)
18. Playboy – BILLY RAY (1962, Kent 367)
19. Camel Caravan – THE CLASSICALS (1962, Kent 379)
20. Without You – HAL DAVIS (1962, Kent 375)
21. Love You Baby – BOBBY "BLUE" BLAND (1962, Kent 378)
22. The Wonder Of Love – THE NEWPORTS (1962, Kent 380)
23. Maybe I'm Wrong – BOBBY SANDERS (2015, Extended Version of Kent 382)
24. Mashing The Popeye – B.B. KING (1962, Kent 381)
Tracks 3, 6, 9 and 23 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

The 16-page booklet has info-packed liner notes from TONY ROUNCE – a name associated with huge numbers of quality reissues. There’s lots of those colourful Kent American 45s repro’d, publicity photos of label heroes like B.B. King and Bobby Bland – but it's also nice to see shots of equally deserving names like The Barker Brothers, Jesse James, Flash Terry and Floyd Dixon, Jesse Belvin, Tony Allen, Jimmy Nelson, Teddy Reynolds and even a colour snap of Jimmy Witherspoon with his lone cover of the Hank Williams classic “Your Cheating Heart”. The vastly experienced DUNCAN COWELL has handled the transfers and Remasters and despite the often ramshackle and boisterous nature of the recordings – the audio is full of atmosphere, air and presence.

Disc 1 opens with a drum-slapping R&B shuffler (one of many) "Why Do Everything Happen To Me" by B.B. King where the Blues Boy tells us that his "...heart is full of misery..." (a condition he'll get to know well). We then get a doo-woppy version of the standard "All Of Me" by Danny Boy that doesn’t quite work - but better is the Bop of "Hey Little Mama" by The Barker Brothers sounding like Eddie Cochran and his brother singing a duo. Very cool R&B from Etta James follows where the firecracker is already sounding like a LaVern Baker superstar on ""Baby, Baby" Every Night" – a fabulous little R&B dancer. More Rockabilly from the echoed vocals of Don Cole on "Sweet Lovin' Honey" – a top class bopper from 1958 - while we get shuffling R&B from the suitably named Flash Terry featuring a prominent zippy guitar solo. "Madness" by Sonny Knight is the first cut clearly dubbed off a scratchy disc (still sounds boss though) while 50ts dancefloor twirlers will flip for "Basis Of Rock 'n' Roll" by Van Robinson (here in a Saxophone blasting first take – what a winner). "Bye Bye Baby" by Chuck "Tequila" Rio apes the stuttering vocals of Rock ‘n’ Rollers from 1956 and is undoubtedly one of the gems on here (girly vocals or no). It even comes with a giggling Chuck goofing around as the tape rolls out.

Both Artie Wilson and Floyd Dixon step up to the R 'n' R and R 'n' B plate respectively with two fantastic dancefloor fillers – "That's My Baby" and "Dance The Thing". But good as they truly are – they’re small beer to a wild Rockabilly winner called "Red Hot Rockin' Blues" by Jesse James – a tune so foottappingly good its liable to restore eyesight to the blind. But it's hardly surprising that the plodding Blues of Van Robinson on "You You You" was unreleased – heavy on the guitar for sure but all over the place despite his incendiary playing.

We get all rebel yell on the frantic Rockabilly of "South's Gonna Rise Again" while B.B. King is back to being a misery-guts on "Worry". It's a little shocking to hear the lead-in vocals of Hadda Brooks on "The Thrill Is Gone" as she mumbles to the boys in the band at the beginning of Take 1 (gorgeous audio and a Soulful rendering by her). B.B. King follows with a tasty R&B shuffler as he pleads "can you forgive me..." on "The Fool". We now get a classy and beautiful Vocal Group smoocher "Everybody Needs To Know" by The Senders with Carlton Beck handling Lead Vocals. This is apparently Take 1 and despite a dip or two in the tapes towards the end of the song - lovers of the genre will absolutely have to own this previously unreleased version (cream of the crop for me).

Disc 2 opens with a biggie from B.B. King – both parts of his Joe Turner cover version of "Sweet Sixteen" from January 1960 (6:14 minutes in full length). It rose to No. 2 on the US R&B charts and returned him to Hitsville after a near two-year absence ("You've Been An Angel" on Kent 315 in March 1958). The entire compilation's title comes from a witty and beautifully recorded R&B shuffler called "Unlock The Lock" by Jimmy Nelson where he assures his lady love that even though he’s been with the boys – Jimmy is free of sin (I'm not so sure dear). Two soppy turkeys turn up in Hadda Brooks attempting a string-laden cover of La Vern Baker's "Tomorrow Night" which is disappointingly awful while the hissy and even bizarre Charlie Owens/Ink Spots take on "Diane" (also ruined by strings) isn't much better. Far better is a crystal clear Take 4 of "You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now" by B.B. King (sweet work from the band on this one) while his bopping "Bad Case Of Love" is a fun brass-driven dancer (and kept Kent on the American charts). Again Vocal Group collectors have cause to celebrate and will want "Dreamin'" by Tony Allen sounding not unlike The Five Keys or The "5" Royales on a very good day. Other R&B Dancers include "Love You Baby" with a rare early showing for Bobby "Blue" Bland as Lead Vocalist, the infectious "Doing The Twist" by Joe Houston and a cocky "Playboy" by Billy Ray sounding like Clarence "Frogman" Henry fancying himself as something of a player with the opposite sex.

So there you have it - it’s not all genius by any means (I thought Disc 2 dipped a bit) – but as ever with Kent Records the good stuff is great and worth owning.

"...Everybody likes to rock...everybody likes to roll...everybody likes to bop...satisfy their souls..." – Floyd Dixon tells his Orchestra on the infectious "Dance The Thing". On the strength of this then...roll on Volume 2...

This review and 155 more like it are available to read in my SOUNDS GOOD Music Books Series. Check out the BLUES, VOCAL GROUPS, R 'n' B and R' n' R Version on Amazon as a Kindle read...

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