Tuesday, 16 August 2016

"Street Corner Symphonies Volume 2: 1950" by VARIOUS ARTISTS (2012 Bear Family CD – Marcus Heumann Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…If You See The Tears In My Eyes..."

Hot on the heels of their definitive "Blowing The Fuse" and "Sweet Soul Music" CD Series (15 volumes to each genre of R'n'B and Soul) comes Bear Family’s Vocal Group attack - 15 discs spanning 1939 to 1963. Volumes 1 to 10 hit the shops in May and October 2012 and the last five in the spring of 2013. And while critics will argue that Vocal Group music has already been done to death by Rhino (3 x 4CD Box Sets across the decades) and a mountain of other cheapo labels taking advantage of the 50-year copyright law - this is the first time someone reputable (other than Rhino) have had a go - and typically these German-issued Bear Family CDs are gorgeous in all the right places - presentation and audio. You get 30 tracks and a genre-expanding total playing time of 83:04 minutes. So let’s talk about a 'Cool Saturday Night' where you're so romantically enamoured with your gal that you'll practically beg the boss at the Fire Station to 'Chief, Turn The Hose On Me'...

Released May 2012 in Germany - "Street Corner Symphonies Volume 2: 1950" by VARIOUS ARTISTS on Bear Family BCD 17280 AR (Barcode 4000127172808) breaks down as follows (I've provided American 78" catalogue numbers on all tracks – 83:04 minutes):

1. Count Every Star – THE RAVENS (National 9111, A)
2. Turkey Hop, Part 1 – THE JOHNNY OTIS ORCHESTRA – Vocal By: The Robins (Savoy 732, A)
3. I'd Rather Be Wrong Than Blue – THE BEAVERS (Coral 65026, A)
4. Do Something For Me – THE DOMINOES (Federal 12001, A)
5. When You Come Back To Me – THE CLOVERS (Rainbow 122, B-side to "Yes Sir, That’s My Baby")
6. Chief, Turn The Hose On Me – THE CAP-TANS (Dot 1018, A)
7. If You See The Tears In My Eyes – THE DELTA RHYTHM BOYS (Atlantic 900, A)
8. At Night – THE ORIOLES (Jubilee 5025, A)
9. Jumping Jack – THE THREE RIFFS (Apollo 1164, A)
10. I'll Never Love Anyone Else – STEVE GIBSON and The Red Caps (Mercury 5380, A)
11. I've Got No Time – THE WHISPERS (Apollo 1156, A)
12. I Will Wait – THE FOUR BUDDIES (Savoy 769, A)
13. Old Fashioned Love – THE FOUR TUNES (RCA Victor 22-0085, A)
14. Cool Saturday Night – THE STRIDERS (Apollo 1159, A)
15. Do You Love Me – THE CATS and THE FIDDLE (Gotham 239, A)
16. I Don't Mind Being All Alone – THE COLEMANS (Regal 3297, A)
17. Gone (My Baby’s Gone) – THE BLENDERS (Decca 48156, A)
18. I’ll Never, Never Let You Go – THE SHADOWS (Sittin' In With 583, A)
19. She's Gone – THE DOZIER BOYS (Aristocrat 409, A)
20. As Long As I Live – THE FOUR BLUES (Apollo 1160, A)
21. I Don't Have To Ride No More – THE RAVENS (National 9101, A)
22. Mr. Blues – THE MASTERKEYS (Abbey 3017, A)
23. Please Believe In Me – THE CAROLS (Columbia 30210, A)
24. Nevertheless – THE MILLS BROTHERS (Decca 27253, A)
25. My Heart Cries For You – THE 5 LARKS (Apollo 1177, A)
26. Young Girl – THE FLAMES (Selective 113, A)
27. Who Is There To Blame – THE FOUR ACES (4 Star 1408, A)
28. Love Come Back To Me – KING ODOM FOUR (Derby 736, A)
29. Rival Blues – THE RIVALS (Apollo 1166, A)
30. A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes – THE JUBALAIRES (Capitol 845, A)

The 82-page non-detachable booklet is a feast of indepth liner notes on each release by Grammy-winning writer and lifelong fan BILL DAHL. Let's put it this way - there's a 'Photo Captions' index on Page 78 that tells who's who in the black and white publicity shots that accompany most (not all) of the photos. It actually lists the singer's names  - who else but Bear would do this? The text is also peppered with pictures of those old American 78s like Savoy, Derby, Apollo, Abbey, National, Sittin’ In With, Rainbow and Dot and a solitary advert poster for The Cats And The Fiddle. The CD repros the rare "Turkey Hop, Part 1" by The Johnny Otis Orchestra on Savoy and the spine makes up a single photograph of the series name when you line up all 15 volumes alongside each other on a shelf. Long-standing and trusted names like Walter DeVenne, Nico Feuerbach, Victor Pearlin, Colin Escott and Billy Vera have been involved in the research - while Audio Engineer MARCUS HEUMANN did the superb mastering (some Disc/Metalpart transfers by Victor Pearlin and Lothar Blank). The sources (as you can imagine) differ wildly but to my ears the sound quality is improved on everything that I've heard before (including some of the Rhino box sets). The audio and presentation are top-class here (a norm for Bear Family)...

With a huge 30 tracks and a format-busting playing time of 83:04 minutes – you certainly can't accuse this CD of scrimping it. 1950 opens with the "...Da Da Dum..." of "Count Every Star" by The Ravens - the stunning vocals of Louis Heywood out front instead of Jimmy Ricks who provided the Bass lines (classy NYC vocal group sounding gorgeous too). We up a gear for "Turkey Hop" with its R&B shuffle – Bobby Nunn giving it some Bass while the band saxophone shimmies through the later half of this excellent shuffler. Clearly dubbed from a 78" – the audio on the lovely "I'd Rather Be Wrong Than Blue" is still amazing – featuring a beautiful central tenor vocal from Freddy Hamilton that gives us "...you make me tick...you make me tock...just like my grandfather's clock..." Clyde McPhatter sails out of your speakers for "Do Something For Me" while the rest of The Dominoes give it some classy "ooh" in the background. Uber rare flipside "When You Come Back To Me" by The Clovers is a million miles away from their usual rocking Atlantic Records fare – it features the high as a steeple vocals of Johnny 'Buddy' Bailey and came out on the tiny independent Rainbow Records – hardly surprising then that its ballad magic is booked at a cool $1,500. Lead Tenor Sherman Buckner of The Cap-Tan's wants an immediate watering down in "Chief, Turn The Hose On Me" because he’s developed a temperature of 1000 degrees since he kissed his baby (methinks she’s hot).

Old-fashioned harmonies dominate two lovelies in a row – "If You See The Tears In My Eyes" by The Delta Rhythm Boys and "At Night" by The Orioles – both emotionally hopeless pleaders. Time to bop when The Three Rifts want you to do the "Jumping Jack" – and irresistible saxophones and piano boogie will make sure you comply. Worse sounding track has to be "I'll Never Love Anyone Else" by Steve Gibson & The Red Caps clearly taken from a wrecked disc – but it's so rarely ever heard – inclusion is a clever choice. The audio immediately leaps into the startling with "I've Got No Time" by The Whispers where the unknown Lead Vocalist sounds like Brook Benton in full-on wooing mode (what a lovely tune). More audio excellence follows in the charming and innocent "I Will Wait" by The Four Buddies where Leon 'Larry' Harrison puts in a stunning vocal backed by the "oohs and aahs" of his singing pals and a simple guitar (a brilliant choice by the compilers).

Impossible romantic yet not cloying in any way – the gorgeous "Old Fashioned Love" by The Four Tunes is wonderful stuff up until they inexplicably punch up the pace to fast half way through it and ruin the loving vibe created in the first half. The chant of "Ping, ping, ping..." time opens "Cool Saturday Night" where the weather is not on the minds of The Striders - pining like muppets in a local park for their gals. Rough transfer for "I Don't Mind Being All Alone" by The Colemans (still a pretty song though) while romance dominates "I'll Never, Never Let You Go" by The Shadows and the swooning "As Long As I Live" by The Four Blues where the Lead Vocalist assures us that "...love sees with the heart and not the mind..." (so he ain't going nowhere). "...Daddy why should you roam...when everything you want is right here at home..." sings Jimmy Ricks in the saucy "I Don't Have To Ride No More" by The Ravens (I hope that boy’s listening). More bopping fun comes in the shape of "Mr. Blues" by The Masterkeys where the group want Mister Blues to come back and Hucklebuck some more (and shout too if he feels up to it).

Undiluted genius arrives with The Mills Brothers (a colour photo of them adorns Page 57) and a beautifully transferred "Nevertheless" where they croon those immortal opening lines "...Maybe I'm right and maybe I'm wrong and maybe I'm weak and maybe I'm strong...but nevertheless I'm in love with you..." The audio on this truly lovely song is reference – congrats to all involved. And on it goes with more crooners in "Young Girl" by The Flames, "Who Is There To Blame" by The Four Aces and "Lover Come Back To Me" by King Odom Four. It has to be said that the last few cuts mentioned and "Rival Blues" by The Rivals that follows them are all dubbed from badly worn discs – so don't expect miracles on the Audio front. It ends on a real high though - a wistful winner from The Jubalaires called "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes" where the boys happily advise all to "...have faith in your dreams...and your rainbow will come smiling through..." - I say amen to that.

To sum up – 1950 seemed to be dominated by smoochers and pleaders telling us of their undying fidelity and commitment so this is probably the most out-and-out 'romantic' compilation in the series so far. By the time you get to 1951 and onwards - lewd naughtiness and rambunctious behaviour was creeping in and people were having more fun (thank Gawd). Having said that - the run is broken up nicely with just enough fun R&B dancers to make it enjoyable – even if some of those transfers are rough. Niggles - they're too expensive as singles discs and perhaps they should have been doubles because real collectors will have more than a few titles on offer here. But Bear Family will argue '...not in this sound quality or looking this good...' - and they'd have a point.

Presented to us with love and affection by an independent record company that cares about forgotten voices that shouldn’t be forgotten. What a sweetheart of a compilation and another gold standard from Bear...

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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