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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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

INDEX - Artists, Albums, Record Labels, CD Remaster Engineers, Liner Notes Authors, Links etc