Sunday, 31 July 2016

"Welcome Here Kind Stranger" by PAUL BRADY (1994 Mulligan CD Reissue) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Filled My Heart With Longing For..."

With a near fifty-year musical career behind him - Northern Ireland's Paul Brady is better known in 2016 as a singer-songwriter than a rabble-rousing Folky (Tina Turner, Santana and Dave Edmunds have covered his Rock tunes).

But back in the day (September 1978 to be exact) - he was bestowed the mighty honour of 'Folk Album Of The Year' by the influential British music newspaper Melody Maker - and they were more than on the money. I was living in Dublin when Mulligan Records released LUN 024 on LP and Cassette and it was a very big deal indeed.

Brady had already clocked up an entire densely-packed decade of Folk credentials – a whopping seven albums with The Johnstons in the UK on Transatlantic Records between 1968 and 1971 – four more LP credits in Ireland with fiddle players Tommy Peoples, Andy McGann, Paddy Reynolds and John Vesey - and just before "Welcome..." hit the streets - a fondly-remembered shared first solo LP in 1976 with Ireland's ANDY IRVINE - not surprisingly called "Paul Brady And Andy Irvine" (Mulligan Records LUN 008). As well as stints in and out of Ireland's premier Folk export PLANXTY - Strabane's finest had been a very busy boy indeed.

So people in Ireland particularly had been waiting for the guts of a decade to see his name right up there on its own - and "Welcome Here Kind Stranger" didn't disappoint. Playing multiple Acoustic Guitars, Tin-Whistles, Bouzoukis, Mandolins, Harmonium and everything else bar the kitchen sink – the record was Engineered by the vastly experienced BRIAN MASTERSON and co-produced by PAUL BRADY and The Bothy Band’s DONAL LUNNY. It was always going to be classy and I can remember how beautifully produced this LP felt – accomplished and sophisticated – yet still brimming with heart and forgotten Folk songs like the truly beautiful “Lakes Of Pontchartrain” - a song so potent it could convince Rasputin or Simon Cowell to finally leave those poor women alone (well maybe). Let's get to the postcards from the past...

UK released June 1994 - "Welcome Here Kind Stranger" by PAUL BRADY on Mulligan LUNCD 024 (Barcode 501636430188) is a straightforward reissue CD transfer of the 9-track 1978 Mulligan Records LP (LUN 024) and plays out as follows (43:35 minutes):

1. Don't Come Again
2. I Am A Youth That's Inclined To Ramble
3. Jackson And Jane
4. The Lake Of Pontchartrain
5. The Creel [Side 2]
6. Out The Door And Over The Wall
7. Young Edmund In The Lowlands Low
8. The Boy On The Hilltop/Johnny Goin' To Ceilidh
9. Paddy's Green Shamrock Shore
Tracks 1 to 9 are the album "Welcome Here Kind Stranger" - released in Ireland and in the UK on Mulligan Records LUN 024 and in the USA on Green Linnet SIF 3015. Recorded at Lombard Studios in Dublin, April and May 1978.

PAUL BRADY - Lead Vocals, Acoustic and 12-String Guitars, Tin-Whistles, Mandolins, Bouzouki and Harmonium
(Acapella Vocals alone on "Young Edmund In The Lowlands Low")
TOMMY PEOPLES - Fiddle on "Don't Come Again", "Jackson And Jane", "The Creel" and Fiddle/Mandolin on "The Boy On The Hilltop..."
ANDY IRVINE - Hurdy Gurdy (Arranged and Played) on "I Am A Youth That's Inclined To Ramble" and "Jackson And Jane"
Mandolin and Harmonicas (Arranged and Played) on "Paddy's Green Shamrock Shore"
DONAL LUNNY - Bass Bouzouki (Arranged and Played) on "Out The Door And Over The Wall"
NOEL HILL - Concertina on "Don't Come Again" and "Jackson And Jane"

Those who bought and maybe still have the rare Irish or England vinyl pressing of "Welcome Here Kind Stranger" will know that it's 'postcard' artwork single sleeve came with a gatefold insert lavished with photographs on his long Folk history as well as the lyrics, players and a short history of each song (historical context). Luckily the guts of that album-sized gatefold insert has been reproduced in the 8-page inlay. As for mastering - typical of all Mulligan CD reissues that I've ever bought - there are zero reissue credits let alone who mastered what and where and from what. But like "The Bothy Band" (their self-titled March 1976 debut LP on Polydor – reissued on Mulligan later - hence the Mulligan CD) – the audio is fabulous on some tracks (clean and clear) – but only o.k. on others. The Acapella "Young Edmund..." sounds better than "The Lakes Of Pontchartrain" even if it clicks and pops in places - while the wild and fast instrumental "Out The Door And Over The Hill" is wonderfully in your face and for all the right reasons.

Suggested to Brady by Derry singer and songsmith Eddie Butcher - Brady takes his cue for his version of "Don't Come Again" from their 1975 version (Butcher recorded it with his wife Gracie). It's pure Irish Folk storytelling - 2 Mandolins doing battle with 2 Tin Whistles and a Guitar as our poor hero initially gets no joy from his 'bonnie wee lass' - but after time she hints he 'might come again'. That's gets left behind by one of the album's three ballad masterpieces - "I Am A Youth That's Inclined To Ramble". I used to hitch down to Lisdoonvarna and Spiddle's Folk Festivals in the summers of '78, '79 and '80. I can still feel those steel guitar strings rattling out over the PA and the fields - the crowd being swayed and taken away in the afternoon sunshine by the beautiful melody - a ramblin' tale of Jamie going to Amer-e-kay with one eye on fame and fortune while his true heart pines for the fair maids of Erin (Andy Irvine's Hurdy Gurdy grounds it so beautifully). "Jackson And Jane" is one of his own Folk melodies put to words - those nouns being from 'Folk Songs Sung In Ulster' - a dubious tale about jockey Hugh Jackson and his grey mare Jane who apparently talked to him as they larruped around the race course chasing down yet another Cootehill Cup. Side 1 ends with number two masterpiece - his defining version of "The Lakes Of Pontchartrain" (learnt from Christy Moore who in turn picked it up from Mike Waterson of The Watersons). Brady plays 3 Guitars, 4 Tin Whistles and a Harmonium as the tale of a Confederate soldier trying to make his way to Cuba unfolds. He meets a 'creole' girl with 'flowing hair' and a kind heart by "The Lakes Of Pontchartrain" who takes him in and treats him 'right good' - but he must part, as the militia are hot on his trail. Unfortunately there's noticeable hiss on this track and I can understand why he re-recorded it as 'New Recording' on his September 1999 "Nobody Knows: The Best Of..." CD set on Rykodisc.

Side 2 opens with a very traditional folk tune "The Creel" that segues around 5:20 minutes into some stunning Bouzouki playing on "Out The Door And Over The Wall" by The Bothy Band's main man Donal Lunny sounding not unlike an Irish Zorba the Greek. The six-minutes of his lone voice on "Young Edmund In The Lowlands Low" is hard work at the best of times and the sporadic clicks and pops (like its been dubbed off a fairly clean LP) only gets on your nerves. The instrumental "The Boy On The Hillside/Johnny Goin' To Ceilidh" is short and sweet but only a shoe-in for the gorgeous "Paddy's Green Shamrock Shore" - yet another tearful pint-of-Guinness moment. I once had an Ireland-only 7" single (in a picture sleeve of all things) by Barry Moore (Christy Moore's brother now more commonly known as Luka Bloom) who did a stunning cover version of that 100-year old Irish gem "Danny Boy" by adding a sort of Bob Dylan Harmonica to the melody. Brady does the same for "Paddy's Green Shamrock Shore" - but also throwing in multiple guitars and mandolins - giving the whole soundscape this huge Waterboys "This Is The Sea' kind of magic. I've seen Irish immigrants in London and New York hear this song and dig deep into their fourth whiskey to no avail - thinking of the lassie they left on...

Newly signed to WEA for Ireland and England - in 1981 Brady wisely made the big musical move away from straight-up Folk into Rock with his "Hard Station" LP (June 1981 on WEA Ireland K 58312) - an album that even today is liable to make many a sane Irishman go misty into his Guinness of a Saturday night's lonesome reverie Santana covered "Night Hunting Time" from “Hard Station” on their "Shango" LP in 1981 - while Tina Turner added his "Steel Claw" from Brady’s brilliant 1982 set "True For You" to her massive comeback LP "Private Dancer"). Dobro specialist Jerry Douglas covered Paul's lovely ballad "Follow On" on his 1998 CD set "Restless On The Farm" with Maura O'Connell on Lead Vocals - while Brady hooked up with Bonnie Raitt when they covered Richard Thompson's mournful "The Dimming Of The Day" on her 1994 CD "Longing In Their Hearts". 

I reviewed "The Bothy Band" from 1976 (also on Mulligan) and it has better Audio than this CD. I can't help hoping that some day someone will return to this great Folk record and dig out those out proper tapes (and surely there must be outtakes and demos) and do the Remaster job this forgotten and overlooked gem deserves. Now that really would a reissue 'Folk Album Of The Year' award winner. In the meantime we'll have to do with a five-star album on a three-star reissue.

"...Drink a health to old Ireland..." - Paul Brady sings on the wonderful "Paddy's Green Shamrock Shore". Time to get this round in...round your favourite tavern...

Saturday, 30 July 2016

"Free As The Wind" by THE CRUSADERS (2016 Japan-Only Universal SHM-CD Reissue/Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

This Review Along With 100s Of Others Is Available in my
SOUNDS GOOD E-Book on all Amazon sites
SOUL, FUNK and JAZZ FUSION On CD - Exception Remasters  
Just Click Below To Purchase for £3.95
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"...I Felt The Love..." 

Re-issued as part of Universal's Japan-Only 'Fusion Best Collection 50' Series of SHM-CD reissues - one of the very best Crusaders studio efforts "Free As The Wind" gets another go-round on CD. I've bought both 1977's single "Free As The Wind" and the 1974 double-album "Southern Comfort" (2LP set onto 1CD) on these SHM-CDs and they sound beautiful to say the least. Here are the breezy details...

Japan-Only released 6 July 2016 (deleted 5 Jan 2017) - "Free As The Wind" by THE CRUSADERS on Universal/MCA UCCU-90187 (Barcode 4988031159606) is a straightforward CD Reissue/Remaster from the 'Fusion Best Collection 50' Series onto SHM-CD of the 1977 ABC Records LP and plays out as follows (42:49 minutes):

1. Free As The Wind
2. I Felt The Love
3. The Way We Was
4. Nite Crawler
5. Feel It [Side 2]
6. Sweet 'n' Sour
7. River Rat
8. It Happens Everyday
Tracks 1 to 8 are their album "Free As The Wind" - released July 1977 in the USA on Blue Thumb Records BT-6209 and July 1977 in the UK on ABC Records ABCL 5226. "Free As The Wind", "Sweet 'n' Sour" and "It Happens Everyday" written by Joe Sample - "I Feel The Love" by Norbert "Stix" Hooper - "The Way We Was" by Robert "Pops" Popwell - "Nite Crawler" by Larry Carlton - "River Rat" by Wilton Felder and "Feel It" by Larry Carlton, Lamont Dozier, Robert "Pops" Powell, Norbert "Stix" Hooper and Wilton Felder. Produced by STEWART LEVINE and THE CRUSADERS - the LP peaked at No. 8 on the US R&B charts.

JOE SAMPLE - All Keyboards

DEAN PARKS - Guitar (All Tracks)
ARTHUR ADAMS - Guitar on "It Happens Everyday"
ROLAND BAUTISTA - Guitar on "Feel It" and "River Rat"
RALPH McDONALD - Percussion (All Tracks)
PAULINHO Da COSTA - Percussion on "Feel It"

Disappointingly you get a gatefold slip of paper as your inlay - SHM-CD or not - and an outer Obi strip with the 'Fusion Best 50' logo - but nothing else. It's threadbare for sure but the Audio isn't. There is no mention of mastering or remastering anyway - or least I can't make out if its there because none of the Japanese notes, Obi or inlay has any English. But I can tell you this thing sounds gorgeous.

There can't be too many Crusaders fans out there who don't hold a candle for "Free As The Wind" - two 4-track sides of brilliant Jazz Funk with a Soulful twist (the "Gold" 2CD anthology set features no less than 6 of its 8 tracks). The second those cymbals and strings kick in for Joe Sample's title track "Free As The Wind" - I'm in Funky Nirvana and mush (God I miss that guy). We go commercial Funk with Stix Hooper's "I Felt The Love" - and we finish the side with two out-and-out winners - Popwell bopping "The Way We Was" and Larry Carlton's Steely Dan brilliant "Nite Crawler" - a genius groove he would revisit the following year when he did his own version on his Warner Brothers debut LP "Larry Carlton" in 1978.

Side 2 opens with the carnival vibe of "Feel It" giving listeners the first of two guest appearances on Guitar by Roland Bautista - the second being the cool "River Rat". Things go Fusion Funk with Sample's second track on the LP - "Sweet 'n' Sour" - a near nine-minute Crusaders neck-jerker. "River Rat" Funks like Graham Central Station or even the Average White Band - 2:29 minutes of Saxophone grooveiness. It ends on Joe Sample's beautiful and classy "It Happens Everyday" - a slow and sweet piano instrumental that may well put you in the mood for 'lurve'. Sample did an updated version of it on his 1997 CD set "Sample This" and Hubert Laws did a flute cover of the song on his 1978 LP "Say It With Silence" (you can't keep a good melody down).

The SHM-CD format doesn't require Audiophile equipment and will play on all standard players. It's just a better form of the CD format with deeper retrieval of the musical details - I have about 20 and the sound is brill on the lot of them.

It's presently about 1500 Yen – that’s about $15 or £11 - and "Free As The Wind" is an all-time crave - I had to own it. Despite the slight let down on the presentation front - it's a stone cold five-star mother for me. Buy and enjoy and God Bless you Joe Sample for all the decades of musical brilliance...

PS: CRUSADERS and other related titles in Japan's 'FUSION BEST 50' Series of SHM-CD reissues (all released 6 July 2016):
Use the Barcode to locate them on Amazon...

1. LARRY CARLTON - Discovery (Universal UCCU-90179 - Barcode 4988031159521)
2. LARRY CARLTON - Kid Gloves (Universal UCCU-90180 - Barcode 4988031159538)
3. LARRY CARLTON and LEE RITENOUR - Larry & Lee (Universal UCCU-90181 - Barcode 4988031159545)
4. THE CRUSADERS - Chain Reaction (Universal UCCU-90186 - Barcode 4988031159590)
5. THE CRUSADERS - Crusaders 1 (Universal UCCU-90190 - Barcode 4988031159637)
6. THE CRUSADERS - Free As The Wind (Universal UCCU-90187 - Barcode 4988031159606)
7. THE CRUSADERS - Images (Universal UCCU-90188 - Barcode 4988031159613)
8. THE CRUSADERS - Southern Comfort (Universal UCCU-90185 - Barcode 4988031159583)
9. THE CRUSADERS - Standing Tall (Universal UCCU-90189 - Barcode 4988031159620)
10. JOE SAMPLE - Voices In The Rain (Universal UCCU-90191 - Barcode 4988031159644)

PPS: see also my review for the Platinum SHM-CD reissue of Joe Sample's "Rainbow Seeker" - also from Japan - use Barcode 4988005865526

"Celestial Blues: Cosmic, Political & Spiritual Jazz 1970-74" by VARIOUS ARTISTS (July 2016 Beat Goes Public CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

This Review Along With 100s Of Others Is Available in my
SOUNDS GOOD E-Book on all Amazon sites
SOUL, FUNK and JAZZ FUSION On CD - Exception Remasters  
Just Click Below To Purchase for £3.95
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"...Let It Take Your Mind..."

In a crowded marketplace - the 'Various Artists' compilation is something of an endangered beast - especially if it's even slightly 'jazzy', 'progressive' or 'experimental' - and 2016's utterly brilliant "Celestial Blues" from Ace's 'BGP' label imprint is all three and more.

I review a lot and I'll admit that I have a 'thing' for Ace Records of the UK in all their varying reissue magnificence - Kent-Soul, Beat Goes Public (BGP), the 'Hip Pocket' Series, their amazing Rock 'n' Roll and Blues LP and CD reissues that stretch back 40 years and more. So it's not something new that I say Ace is really good at 'this sort of thing' - but holy crap - they really are. I love my Soul, Funk and Jazz Fusion (check out my 'Sounds Good: Exceptional CD Remasters for SOUL, FUNK and JAZZ FUSION' e-Book available on Amazon with over 1000 pages and a reasonable price tag) - but even with a real knowledge and love for the fields - I'll admit I don't know 90% of what's on here - and yet I'm digging most of it and wondering how I missed so much of this. And isn't that the best after all these years in the musical trenches. Let's get to the cosmic details...

UK released Friday 29 July 2016 (5 August 2016 in the USA) - "Celestial Blues: Cosmic, Political And Spiritual Jazz 1970 to 1974" by VARIOUS ARTISTS on Ace/Beat Goes Public CDBGPD 300 (Barcode 029667530026) is a single-CD 10-track compilation of mainly Milestone and Prestige labels Jazz and Fusion tracks that play out as follows (79:10 minutes):

1. Celestial Blues - GARY BARTZ NTU TROOP (from the 1970 US LP "Harlem Bush Music - Uhuru" on Milestone MSP 9032)
2. Fire  - JOE HENDERSON and ALICE COLTRANE (from the 1974 US LP "The Elements" on Milestone M 9053)
3. Warriors Of peace – AZAR LAWRENCE (from the 1974 US LP "Bridge Into The New Age" on Prestige P-10086)
4. Brown Eyes – CHARLES EARLAND, FREDDIE HUBBARD and JOE HENDERSON (from the 1974 US LP "Leaving This Planet" on Prestige P-66002)
5. The Free Slave – ROY BROOKS (from the 1972 US LP "The Free Slave" on Muse MR 5003)
6. The Almoravid – JOE CHAMBERS (from the 1974 US LP "The Almoravid" on Muse MR 5035)
7. Let Us Go (To Higher Heights) – CARLOS GARNETT (from the 1974 US LP "Journey To Enlightenment" on Muse MR 5057)
8. Let It Take Your Mind – BAYETE UMBRA ZINDIKO (from the 1973 US LP "Seeking Other Beauty" on Prestige PRST 10062)
9. Josie Black – HAMPTON HAWES (from the 1972 US LP "Universe" on Prestige P-10046)
10. Aftermath – OLIVER NELSON (Previously Unreleased 'Edited Version' from the 1970 LP "Black, Brown And Beautiful" on Flying Dutchman FDS 116)

As you can see from the track list and generous near 80-minute playing time - "Celestial Blues..." gives you 10 lengthy Jazz and Fusion tracks from 1970 to 1974 (one of which is a Previously Unreleased edit) mostly culled from the Milestone and Prestige sets of labels with some Fling Dutchman and Muse thrown in. The 16-page booklet has superbly detailed and informative liner notes from DEAN RUDLAND - a name known to every lover of Soul, Funk and Fusion compilations. He's written for Ace, Edsel and many more and smartly accompanies the paragraphs with repros of the LP artwork so you can get a visual lay of the land too. Above all the text is musician credits and discography info for each entry and Ace's long-time Audio Engineer NICK ROBBINS has carried out the stunning remasters. Beautifully recorded and produced in the first place - this is an amazing-sounding CD reissue - huge presence as all that expert playing fills your room. Test drive the busy Joe Chambers track "The Alomoravid" to see what I mean - wonderful stuff...

It opens with the Gil Scott-Heron moaning of Andy Bey on Vocals while Gary Bartz gives it some backing Saxophone on "Celestial Blues" – an 'expand your mind' track I do recognise from other Jazz-Funk compilations on vinyl - very cool stuff. Tenor Saxophonist Joe Henderson penned the instrumental "Fire" - 11:07 minutes of instrument sparring between him and Alice Coltrane (Piano, Harp, Tamboura and Harmonium) and Michael White on Violin. A funky groove is set up right from the start - Charles Haden on Bass, Ngudu on Drums with Kenneth Nash on varying Percussion - that allows Joe to counter with the other soloists. But the big draw is his partnership with the amazing Alice Coltrane – a musical journey that started on the 1970 Milestone LP ""Ptah, The El Daoud" - an album that graced the Reckless Records CD shuffle play on many an occasion. The title track to the album "Bridge Into The New Age" by Tenor and Soprano Saxophonist Azar Lawrence has provided the title for another CD compilation in this series of reissues - Beat Goes Public CDBGPD 203 from late August 2009. Ex McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones' bands - Azar Lawrence is described as a 'spiritual Jazz musician' and his frantic but disciplined soloing with Pianist Joe Bonner will test many people's faith for the eight minute duration of "Warriors Of Peace" (too manic for my delicate palette). Far better is the very hip organ sound that Charles Earland eases out on "Brown Eyes" – a cut from the "Leaving This Planet" LP he did with Freddie Hubbard and Joe Henderson in 1974. You get the three great soloists giving it slices of their magic for 11:45 minutes of mellow and mid-tempo Jazz Funk – slinky Moogs meshing Henderson's Trumpet, Dave Hubbard's Alto Flute and Harvey Mason's expert drumming.

Things liven up with the Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe" feel to "The Free Slave" where Detroit Drummer Roy Brooks (toured with Yusef Lateef and was part of Horace Silver's 1950 group) lets Woody Shaw and George Coleman take the Trumpet and Tenor Saxophone leads while Hugh Lawson plinkers on the old Joanna. "The Free Slave" is a fabulous groove that doesn't seem to overstay its considerable 12:14 minute duration and is a shoe-in for a 'cool' CD-R compilation as fast as I can make one. The sexy and rather trippy sleeve art to the rare Carlos Garnett album "Journey To Enlightenment" is given the whole of Page 12 in the booklet. Coming over like the sophisticated but musical mid-section of Steely Dan's "Aja" track from 1977 - "The Alomoravid" by Drummer Joe Chambers is stunning stuff. Ray Mantilla is on Congas while David Friedman gives it some sublime Marimbas as Cedar Walton plays Piano and Richard Davis anchors it with tasteful Bass lines.

A part of the Miles Davis ensemble - reed player Carlos Garnett clearly had his eye on the dancefloors of the USA in 1974 because he took Stevie Wonder's clavinet sound and gave his "Let Us Go (To Higher Heights)" track a seriously funky edge. It's that wonderful mixture of great music meets (dare we say it) commercial appeal - all 'peace brother' shouts, football game whistles, clavinet Funk, driving Saxophone and a backbeat that just won't quit for its six-minutes plus (a 12" of this sucker would go for such money). The 2:44 minutes of the decidedly Graham Central Station/Sly Stone fuzzed-up Funk of "Let It Take Your Mind" by Bayete Umbra Zindiko (Todd Cochran to you and I) is completely new to me - a furious little thing that half works (he played on Peter Gabriel's 2nd LP and is associated with Santana's drummer Michael Shrieve). The two finishers elevate things - "Josie Black" - an eight-minute slinky Funk Out by Keyboardist Hampton Hawes where wah-wah guitars do battle with his Fender Rhodes - and finally "Aftermath" by Saxophonist Oliver Nelson - a beautifully orchestrated filmic piece that's been edited down to 3:09 minutes - its melodramatic strings against an aching Saxophone (written about MLK's assassination) is both beautiful, difficult and exciting - all at the same time (great compiling choice).

Looking at its rather nondescript quarter-moon artwork and its hipster 'space' title - I hadn't expected much from "Celestial Blues". But as Joan Armatrading said two years after most of these 1974 tracks were recorded - 'I'm open to persuasion'. A brilliant CD compilation and well done to all involved...

Other CD compilations like this on Beat Goes Public include:

1. Bridge Into The New Age: Funky Afro-Centric Spiritual Sounds From Jazz’s Forgotten Decade
July 2009 CD on Beat Goes Public CDBGPD 203

2. A Loud Minority: Deep Spiritual Jazz From Mainstream Records 1970-1973 May 2010 on Beat Goes Public CDBGPD 215

3. Liberation Music: Spiritual Jazz And The Art Of Protest On Flying Dutchman Records 1969-1974
March 2013 CD on Beat Goes Public CDBGPD 259

Friday, 29 July 2016

"A Music Man Like Nobody Ever Saw" by ARTHUR 'BIG BOY' CRUDUP (2016 Bear Family 5CD Box Set Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...That's Alright Mama...Any Way You Do...That's Alright..."

First things first - a note about the content of this much anticipated Bear Family Box Set - more especially what's 'not' in it.

Born August 1905 in Forest Mississippi, Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup picked up the guitar at the late age of 30 and recorded prolifically until he passed in March 1974. However what the Box Set name "A Music Man Like Nobody Ever Saw" doesn't tell you is that despite there being 5CDs worth - Bear Family BCD 17352 is 'not' a full career retrospective but concentrates 'only' on 1946 to 1962 (it states this on the back of the box and not the front). Therefore albums like 1968's "Look On Yonder's Wall", 1969's "Crudup's Mood" (both on Delmark) or the last LP "Roebuck Man" released in the UK in 1970 with members of McGuinness Flint - are 'not' on the box set "A Music Man Like Nobody Ever Saw". Like their handling of Freddie King's catalogue - the later half of Crudup's career will undoubtedly follow in a forthcoming multiple disc set a couple of years from now...

So what do you get? Every Arthur Crudup recording from 1941 to 1962 on RCA Victor and its associated labels Bluebird and Groove, Trumpet, Checker, Ace and Fire - 124 tracks (12 previously unreleased) across 5 CDs housed in a 12" x 12" Box Set with an LP-Sized 68-Page Hardback Book with new liner notes and Discography by the award-winning R&B and Blues Historian BILL DAHL and Bear's own RICHARD WEIZE (with the vastly knowledgeable COLIN ESCOTT as a Consultant). Bear Family have used an Elvis Presley quote when he was being interviewed in that mercurial year of 1956 as their box's title - Presley happily acknowledging the influence and huge success he owed to a fellow Mississippi man - Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup.

For the time frame 1945 to 1962 - amazingly Crudup saw only saw two officially released LPs in the USA (other variants appeared in France) - the original 1962 Fire Records LP "Mean Ol' Frisco" and a retrospective put out in 1971 by RCA on their Vintage Blues Series of his 1941 to 1954 recordings called "The Father Of Rock 'n' Roll" (referencing and acknowledging his Elvis Presley tie-in with "That's Alright" - a song that changed musical history). Both LPs are here - as are all the 78s on Bluebird and the 45s on Groove, Trumpet, Fire and Ace Records etc. The Discography also notes LP and CD reissues and tracks that appeared in the 80ts, 90ts etc by Krazy Kat, Ace Records, Westside, Charly R&B, Relic, Document and Vivid Sound and P-Vine in Japan. Let's get to the nitty gritty...

UK and Europe released Friday 29 July 2016 (12 August 2016 in the USA) - "A Music Man Like Nobody Ever Saw" by ARTHUR 'BIG BOY' CRUDUP on Bear Family BCD 17352 (Barcode 5397102173523) is a 124-Track 5CD 12" x 12" Box Set (12 Previously Unreleased) with a 68-Page Hardback Book and breaks down as follows:

Disc 1, 1941 to 1948 recordings, 22 tracks, 67:50 minutes

Disc 2, 1947 to 1951 recordings, 26 tracks, 77:54 minutes

Disc 3, 1950 to 1953 recordings, 24 tracks, 70:53 minutes
Track 13 "Never No More (Take A)" and Track 14 "Why Did You Leave Me (Take A)" both PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

Disc 4, 1952 to 1954 recordings, 28 tracks, 79:36 minutes
Track 16 "Help Me To Bear This Heavy Load", Track 17 "I Love You", Track 19 "She Ain't Nothin' But Trouble (Take B)"
Track 20 "Oo Wee Darling (Love Me With A Thrill) (Take A)", Track 22 "Nobody Wants Me (Take A)", Track 23 "Star Bootlegger (Take A)"
Track 25 "Goin' Back To Georgia (Take A), Track 26 "Mr. So And So (Take A)", Track 27 "Do It If You Want To (Take A)"
Track 28 "Nelvina (Take A)" are all PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

Disc 5, 1955 to 1962 recordings, 24 tracks, 64:38 minutes

Each CD is a different picture disc and that picture is replicated on the inlay beneath the see-through CD tray. A team of four have carried out the transfers - CHRISTIAN ZWARG, VICTOR PEARLIN and MATT CAVALUZZA (Disc and Metalpart Transfers), BILL DAHL (Tape Comparisons) and final Mastering done by CHRISTIAN ZWARG.

BILL DAHL does his usual storming job of chronicling the ups and downs of Crudup's recording career (all those missing Royalties from the Presley years) and there are quotes peppering the text. There's a section called 'Impressions From The South In The 1940s' where we get Pages 12 to 17 filled with colour plates of images from that time - then another section called 'The South Side Of Chicago, Illinois In The 1940s' on Pages 30 to 35 with full plate black and white photos. But bluntly little of it has to do with Crudup himself and feels like filler. There are only five or six 'actual' images of Crudup for the whole 22-year period - most of which get duplicated in varying forms. The Discography pictures three tape reels - one a page - without anyone telling you in an aside what they are! You have to go deep within the Discography to find out that EDVB 3430 is "She Ain't Nothing But Trouble". The lone reference in the Discography to one of only two LPs issued during the period - and they get it wrong. "I'm Gonna Dig Myself A Hole" is on LPV-573 and not LPV-57 - and how does the untrained eye know what 'LPV-57' is anyway? I'm always amazing in these supposed scholarly Discographies that no one seems to name the actual Record Label or title of the LP they're referencing. It's actually a reason why I do a Discography myself.

Having said that - these are minor niggles compared to the images that crop up everywhere and delight every time to look at them. There are beautiful US 45 label repros of "Rock Me Mamma" on Groove, "Mean Ole Frisco" on Fire and those period evocative 78s of "My Mama Don't Allow Me" and "Dirt Road Blues. Key players like Ransom J. Knowling who played String Bass on the 1946 RCA session that produced the legendary "That's All Right" is pictured with other musicians on Page 10. There’s a rare black and white of Joe McCoy who was on Crudup’s very first session for "Black Pony Blues" in September 1941 as World War II raged in Europe (also pictured on Page 10). There's a handy 'Alphabetical' track listing on Pages 60 and 61 and the ‘man with a guitar standing by the train tracks’ variant of the "Mean Ol' Frisco" Fire Records LP is pictured on Page 42.

The Music - Disc 1 is mostly the old Bluebird 78s and the Audio is accordingly crackly but hugely atmospheric. In fact there are moments on the 'three gold teeth' of "Black Pony Blues" and the identikit-sounding 'die before my time' of "Death Valley Blues" where he sounds like Robert Johnson with that Hellhound coming from the rear. There's incredibly clean Audio on Crudup's own "My Mama Don't Allow Me" where mummy doesn't want Arthur to stay out all night long - prey for those catfish who like a playboy on their line. "Mean Ole Frisco" and that '...low down Santa Fe...' has been taken by so many Blues Pioneers that it's almost turned into a standard (Muddy Waters, Little Walter and Eric Clapton all made it famous in their own way). Other highlights amidst the bare bones 78s are the 'what are you trying to do' of "Ethel Mae" and it 'cost me my baby' of "Cool Disposition". His guitar work on the 'my baby loves me right' of "So Glad Your Mine" is more gutbucket than virtuoso but there's a sameness to the melody of "No More Lover" that makes it less memorable.

The Audio on Disc 2 takes a giant leap forward as we reach September 1946 - "You Got To Reap" and "Chicago Blues" cooking - his Trio filled out by Ransom J Knowling on Double Bass and Judge Lawrence on Drums (the cymbals and Double Bass of "I Want My Lovin'" are startling). But then we're hit with the big daddy - a record that literally changed the fabric of the known Universe. Arthur Crudup's "That's All Right" was of course Elvis Presley's first Sun 45 in June 1954 - when the mighty Pelvis Rockabilly-fied that sucker into something extraordinary under the watchful eye of Sam Phillips. Even now it’s a thrill to hear this amazing slice of history – and sounding sweet too. A touch of that 'yeah man' Rockabilly/Rock 'n' Roll sound also surfaces on "Hey Mama-Everything's All Right". Clapton has done "Roberta Blues" and Arthur’s cover of Elmore James' "Dust My Broom" couldn't be more different than the hundreds of slasher guitar copycats that followed.

A hugely enjoyable Disc 3 opens with an Engineer naming the Take number (many track are like this) on a fantastic "Mean Old Santa Fe" - a 1950 Blues bopper 78" that had the slower "Oo Wee Darling (Love Me With A Thrill)" on the flipside of RCA Victor 22-0092. "Never No More (Take A)" starts the Previously Unreleased tracks rolling - a great shuffling Blues recorded April 1951 at RCA Victor Studios with his trusty duo of Knowling and Riley on Double Bass and Drums. "Why Did You Leave Me (Take A)" provides the second of the unreleased tracks and is similar to its predecessor. Take B of "My Baby Left Me" is the master used for the 1951 RCA Victor 78" (22-0109) and rare 45 (50-0109) - a track Jon Fogerty's Creedence Clearwater Revival covered on their 1970 LP "Cosmo's Factory" (Dave Edmunds even had a go on his 1977 Swan Song Records LP "Get It" too). Other slightly Rockabilly cuts (akin to Elvis' "That's All Right") include "Where Did You Stay Last Night" and "Goin' Back To Georgia". Uncle Sam wants words with the Big Boy on "Mr. So And So" and poor Arthur has had the Blues all night long on the mournful “Late In The Evening” (4 o’clock in the morning and still out in the street).

Disc 4 offers up a tasty 10 new Previously Unreleased cuts - best of which is the ivory roller "Help Me To Bear This Heavy Load" with Thomas Patten on Piano while Robert Fulton uses both Harmonica and Guitar and the sparse but wickedly good "She Ain't Nothing But Trouble" recorded March 1950 with his duo of Knowling and Lawrence. Take 8 is the unreleased version of "Nelvina" recorded January 1952 with Jimmy Sheffield on String Bass and N. Butler on Drums. The 1962 rare and original "Mean Ol' Frisco" LP on Fire Records and its incredibly productive sessions dominate Disc 5 - where Arthur cut new versions of his old songs with great effect and a rearranging nod to what Presley did at Sun. I swear but the "Mean Ol' Frisco" album and its superior audio/renditions is a bit of an unsung masterpiece - and I can see why its rarity value is clocked at a cool $900.00 or more in Price Guides (if you can locate one). The rest of the tracks turned up on varying CD compilations across the years and are largely outtakes from those early 1962 sessions (it's easy to hear why they were so popular with reissue labels - they were so damn good and well-recorded into the bargain).

A mammoth project and clearly not for the faint-hearted - nonetheless "A Music Man Like Nobody Ever Saw" is the kind of Box Set that only cements Bear Family’s name as the Box Set label. A hero of musical history finally given the treatment and document he's always deserved. Roll on Box No. 2...

PS: The Two LPs covered by the Bear Family Box Set (1941 to 1962)
[5/2] = Track 5 on Disc 2
[4/5] = Track 4 on Disc 5 etc.

1. "Mean Ol' Frisco" - May 1962 USA Mono Original LP on Fire Records FLP 103 - Produced by BRUCE ROBINSON – the LP contains 1962 New York City re-recordings of older hits from the 1940s and 1950s.

Side 1:
1. Mean Ol' Frisco [4/5]
2. Look On Yonder Wall [8/5]
3. That's Alright [5/5]
4. Ethel Mae [9/5]
5. Too Much Competition [6/5]
6. Standing At My Window [10/5]

Side 2:
1. Rock Me Mama [3/5]
2. Greyhound Bus [11/5]
3. Coal Black Mare [7/5]
4. Katie Mae [1/5]
5. Dig Myself A Hole [2/5]
6. So Glad You're Mine [12/5]

2. "The Father Of Rock 'n' Roll"
November 1971 Mono Reissue LP on RCA Victor Vintage Series LPV-573 (USA) and RCA Victor RD 8224 (UK)
Original Recordings from 1941 to 1954

Side 1:
1. If I Ever Get Lucky [4/1]
2. Mean Old Frisco [9/1]
3. Rock Me Mamma [13/1]
4. Keep Your Arms [14/1]
5. Cool Disposition [11/1]
6. She's Gone [18/1]
7. So Glad You're Mine [20/1]
8. Ethel Mae [19/1]

Side 2:
1. That's All Right [5/2]
2. Lonesome World To Me [14/2]
3. Shout, Sister, Shout [22/2]
4. My Baby Left Me [6/3]
5. I'm Gonna Dig Myself A Hole [24/4]
6. Mr. So And So [18/3]
7. Keep On Drinkin' [20/3]
8. If You've Ever Been To Georgia [15/4]

Thursday, 28 July 2016

"Groovin' The Blues" by VARIOUS ARTISTS (2016 Bear Family CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Got A Key To The Highway...Goin' Back Home..." 

On Page 34 of this very cool Fifties Rhythm 'n' Blues CD there's the eye-catching cover shot of Atlanta's Zilla May distracting comedian Al Jackson with her 'shapely charms' and 'torso tossing' at the Royal Peacock Club. Full of fun, hip-shaking naughtiness and good time music – it visually sums up this first of two barnstorming CD reissues from Bear Family for RCA's 'Groove' label - "Groovin' The Blues" and "Rockin' The Groove". And I'm lovin' both big time...

RCA Victor's major label response to the dominance of the R&B genre by driven-independents like Atlantic, Modern and King Records was the fondly remembered but unfairly forgotten 'Groove' label inaugurated in February 1954. As a major player in the field - RCA had had a long and prestigious history with their 'Bluebird' imprint - pumping out pre-War Blues 78’s since 1932 that featured huge and influential names like Memphis Minnie, Big Bill Broonzy, Lil Green and Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup (to name but a few) - Groove was their attempt to take a new share of the burgeoning 45 marketplace.

Now with access to their vaults via a deal with SONY – BF have formulated two jam-packed compilations to celebrate Groove Records - "Groovin' The Blues" on Bear Family BCD 17411 (Barcode 5397102174117) and "Rockin' The Groove" on Bear Family BCD 17412 (Barcode 5397102174124). Both are released February 2016 and come stuffed to the gunnels with tasty unreleased tracks, gorgeous 80-minute-plus Remasters from award-winning Audio Engineer MARCUS HEUMANN and 60-page booklets courtesy of one of the best genre chroniclers in the business - BILL DAHL. There's a heap of mess to get

UK and Europe released February 2016 - "Groovin' The Blues: When Groove Was More Than Just A Habit" by VARIOUS ARTISTS on Bear Family BCD 17411 (Barcode 5397102174117) is a 33-track single CD compilation (13 of which are Previously Unreleased) with an attached 59-page booklet and plays out as follows (84:25 minutes, all tracks Mono):

1. SONNY TERRY - Lost Jawbone (1954 USA 7" single on Groove 4G-0015, A - see 6 for B-side)
2. COUSIN LEROY (Leroy Rozier) - Goin' Back Home (1955 USA 7" single on Groove 4G-0123, A - see 19 for B-side)
3. CHAMPION JACK DUPREE - The Ups (September 1956 RCA Victor recording - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
4. BUDDY LUCAS - No Dice (1954 USA 7" single on Groove 4G-0030, A, Instrumental)
5. SUE ALLEN and OSCAR BLACK - Hold Me Baby (1954 USA 7" single on Groove 4G-0012, B-side of "I'll Get By")
6. SONNY TERRY - Louise (1954 USA 7" single on Groove 4G-0015, B - see 1 for A-side)
7. CLAYTON LOVE - Love Blues (May/June 1956 Recording - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
8. MAYMIE WATTS - There Goes That Train (1955 USA 7" single on Groove 4G-0103, A)
9. BIG TINY KENNEDY - 'Taint Right (1955 USA 7" single on Groove 4G-0133, A)
10. LITTLE TOMMY BROWN - Don't Leave Me (1955 USA 7" single on Groove 4G-0132, A - see 26 for B-side)
11. COUSIN LEROY (Leroy Rozier) - 41 Highway (July 1955 RCA Victor recording - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
12. SONNY TERRY - Tell Me Baby (September 1955 RCA Victor instrumental recording - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
13. BUDDY LUCAS - I Got Drunk (1954 USA 7" single on Groove 4G-0003, A)
14. ZILLA MAYS - Romance In The Dark (October 1955 recording - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
15. BIG TINY KENNEDY - I Need A Good Woman (1955 USA 7" single on Groove 4G-0106, A)
16. OSCAR BLACK - What Makes Me Love You So (August 1956 RCA Victor recording - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
17. SONNY TERRY - Hootin' Blues No. 2 (1955 USA 7" single on Groove 4G-0135, A)
18. THE DU-DROPPERS - You've Been Good To Everybody (March 1954 RCA Victor recording - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
19. COUSIN LEROY (Leroy Rozier) - Catfish (1955 USA 7" single on Groove 4G-0123, B-side - see 2 for A)
20. BEATRICE READING - Beantown Boogie (May 1954 RCA Victor recording - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
21. COUSIN LEROY - Lonesome Bedroom (July 1955 RCA Victor recording - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
22. CHAMPION JACK DUPREE - Lonely Road Blues (1956 USA 7" single on Groove 4G-0171, A)
23. SONNY TERRY - Throw This Old Dog A Bone (November 1955 RCA Victor recording - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
24. BUDDY LUCAS (Amelia Stewart Lead Vocal) - I Need Help (1954 USA 7" single on Groove 4G-0006, A)
25. SONNY TERRY - I Took You In Baby (February 1954 RCA Victor recording - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
26. LITTLE TOMMY BROWN - Won't You Forgive Me (1955 USA 7" single on Groove 4G-0132, B-side of "Please Don't Leave" - for A see 10)
27. CHAMPION JACK DUPREE - Story Of My Life (September 1956 RCA Victor recording - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
28. BEATRICE READING - I Wash My Hands (1954 USA 7" single on Groove 4G-0022, B-side of "Little Things Mean A Lot")
29. OSCAR BLACK and SUE ALLEN - I'll Live My Life Alone (1955 USA 7" single on Groove 4G-0115, A)
30. SONNY TERRY - Juice Head Woman (February 1954 RCA Victor recording - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
31. SONNY BROOKS - Sentimental Blues (1954 USA 7" single on Groove 4G-0027, B-side of "Champ Ale")
32. OSCAR BLACK - Into Each Heart (Some Tears Must Fall) (1956 USA 7" single on Groove 4G-0168, A)
33. BIG CONNIE - Wait Till Next Year, Baby (1956 USA 7" single on Groove 4G-0142, B-side of "Mumble Blues")
NOTES: Tracks 3, 7, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 21, 23, 25, 27 and 30 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

Produced by DANNY KESSLER and BOB ROLONTZ - the card digipak for "Groovin' The Blues" has a beautiful 59-page booklet attached to the centre with Artist-By-Artist biographies in Alphabetical Order from renowned genre authority BILL DAHL. As well as a newly researched Discography (Pages 45 to 57) - in-between the wall-to-wall factoids are quality black and white publicity photos of each artist as well as repros of rare trade adverts. It's both visually gorgeous and a great read about lesser-heard names in R 'n' B. A trio of trusted names carried the great-sounding transfers - RON SANTOS and BILL DAHL (Tape Research and Comparison) with final Mastering done by MARCUS HEUMANN - a name I've raved about before. Despite the massive playing time (nearly eighty-five minutes) - it Rocks and Rolls and pleases in every way.

Last time I visited the 'Groove' label was on reissue vinyl - "Groove Jumping" on the UK's De-Tour Records DT 33003 in 1984 and the follow up compilation 'Still Groove Jumping" on De-Tour DT 33006 in 1987. I used to twirl them along with all those Edsel and Charly R&B reissues and theta sense of fun is back. It's hard to imagine why something as witty and catchy as "The Ups" by Champion Jack Dupree could remain unreleased - Champion talking out his daily 'ups and down' while Teddy 'The Bear' McRae answers his protestations about his baby's mean lowdown ways with a growling voice. It's a blast and is typical of this compilation. Instrumentals come at you in the shape of Sonny terry's Harmonica groover "Lost Jawbone" and the guitar driver "No Dice" from Buddy Lucas. Some of the tracks have a very homemade vibe like Sue Allen and Oscar Black's "Hold Me Baby" - a very rare and early 45 on the label - and Clayton Love - where the whole band sound like their literally going to drown in the sea of "Love Blues" they're singing about.

A genius discovery is the rasp and 'meow' of Maymie Watts giving it some seriously great Big Maybelle/Little Esther ache on "There Goes That Train" where some willowy strumpet has stolen her man and bunked on the 12:15. Big Tiny Kennedy sits down and drinks a cup of coffee to ease his aching head and warns that if his baby doesn't start 'treating him right' - this snake might have to bite back (oh dear). The mock weeping of Little Tommy Brown throughout the whole of "Please Don't Leave Me" will probably make you laugh out loud instead of empathise with this clearly deranged sucker (I can't imagine how many takes it took to get this down – it’s bloody funny anyway). Another witty winner is "I Got Drunk" where Buddy Lucas gets loaded and name checks more drink types than there are Juke Joints in Memphis. Sauciness is never far from the surface and the truly fabulous ZILLA MAYS (the gal gracing the cover) gives it some 'touch my lips' on the wonderful piano-stroller "Romance In The Dark" where she urges her man to explore more than rhythms as they dance. Zilla's previously unreleased cover version of Lil Green and Big Bill Broonzy's song was recorded October 1955 at RCA Victor's studios with both Mickey Baker on guitar and Sam 'The Man' Taylor on Saxophone and is one of many highlights on "Groovin' The Blues". The B-side "Right Now" of her officially released lone 45 on Groove (Groove 4G-0127) along with a Previously Unreleased track feature on the companion volume "Rockin' The Groove" (I wish they was more photos of Zilla May - she passed in 1995 after a lifetime in music).

Seriously great slide-guitar boogie comes in the shapely form of "I Need A Good Woman" from Big Tiny Kennedy - immeasurably improved by the fretwork of McHouston 'Mickey' Baker (pictured in colour in the Discography on Page 54). DJs will dig the brass bopper "What Makes Me Love You So" by Oscar Black where he asks what makes a man do the things he does for his 'little girl' (let me take a year to explain buddy). And they'll also be able to use "Beantown Boogie" by Beatrice Redding - a shuffler with a fun vocal. Rock History has always had a special place for "Catfish" - a version of Robert Petway's "Catfish Blues" done here by Cousin Leroy (Leroy Crozier) and naughtily listed as co-penned by Champion Jack Dupree's wife Lucille (check out the blistering Jimi Hendrix version on the CD compilation "Blues" or Rory Gallagher's Taste from "Live At The Isle Of Wight). Lucille also penned the unreleased "Lonesome Bedroom" for Cousin Leroy - a half-decent bopper with Larry Dale on Guitar and her hubby Champion Jack on Piano.

Sonny Terry begs his lady throughout a Harmonica shuffle to please "Throw This Old Dog A Bone" - but I think she's done cooking our hero breakfast even if he is on his knees howling like a hound towards the end. Almeta Stewart fronts a fabulous vocal for Saxophonist Buddy Lucas as she pleads "I Need Help" and should have received dual credit on the 45-label (she makes the song). Champion Jack Dupree gives us spoken advice on his 'lowdown and dirty' mistreatment by friends who used to turn up in Cadillacs - but now that his spondulicks have gone – so have his so-called friends. The big and sassy Beatrice Reading (great photo of her on Page 37) fairs no better on the B-side "I Wash My Hands" where she cries out convincingly that she's done with all things 'concerning love'. Sonny Brooks does his best Johnny Ray impression with the soppy "Sentimental Blues" - while the CD ends on a bopping winner from Big Connie who finds that the lady friend in his '56 Ford wants him to "Wait Till Next Year, Baby" and having spent all his dough and taken all that lip all night long – the Big C is none too pleased (boo hoo). What a great listen this whole CD is. 

It's a measure of "Groovin' The Blues" that I can't wait to rip open the shrink-wrap of "Rockin' The Groove" which arrived this morning too. 

Beautifully done, superbly presented and sounding as eager as Saturday Night at the Apollo - Bear Family have done it again. A shoe-in for Rhythm 'n' Blues 'Reissue Of The Year' 2016...




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I GOT THE NEWS - 1975 to 1979 Exceptional CD Remasters


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1969 - WHOLE LOTTA LOVE - Your All-Genres Guide To Exceptional CD Remasters and Reissues...



TUMBLING DICE - 1972 - Exceptional CD Remasters

ELOQUENT PROFANITY - 1973 - Exceptional CD Remasters







INDEX - Entries and Artist Posts in Alphabetical Order