Tuesday, 16 August 2016

"Street Corner Symphonies Volume 3: 1951" by VARIOUS ARTISTS (2012 Bear Family CD – Marcus Heumann Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…Lemon Squeezing Daddy..."

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 32 tracks and a genre-expanding total playing time of 89:05 minutes – some kind of record I think. So let’s talk about 'The Glory Of Love' with our 'Lemon Squeezing Daddy'...if I might be so bold...

Released May 2012 in Germany - "Street Corner Symphonies Volume 3: 1951" by VARIOUS ARTISTS on Bear Family BCD 17281 AR (Barcode 4000127172815) breaks down as follows (I've provided American 78" catalogue numbers on all tracks – 89:05 minutes):

1. Sixty-Minute Man – THE DOMINOES (Federal 12022, A)
2. The Glory Of Love – THE FIVE KEYS (Aladdin 3099, A)
3. Sweet Slumber – THE FOUR BUDDIES (Savoy 779, A)
4. Don't You Know I Love You – THE CLOVERS (Atlantic 934, A)
5. Will You Be Mine – THE SWALLOWS (King 4458, A)
6. Baby Please Don't Go – THE ORIOLES (Jubilee 5065, A)
7. Gotta Find My Baby – THE RAVENS (Columbia 39194, A)
8. My Reverie – THE LARKS (Apollo 1184, A)
9. Shouldn't I Know? – THE CARDINALS (Atlantic 938, A)
10. Wine – THE HOLLYWOOD'S FOUR FLAMES (unique 003/Fidelity 3001, A)
11. Where Are You (Now That I Need You) – THE MELLO-MOODS with The Schubert Swanston Trio (Robin 105, A)
12. Who'll Be The Fool From Now On – THE MARSHALL BROTHERS (Savoy 825, A)
13. That's What The Good Book Says – BOBBY NUNN with The Robbins (Modern 807, B-side of "Rockin'")
14. I'm Afraid – BILLY BUNN and His Buddies (RCA Victor 20-4483, A)
15. Asking – THE CAP-TANS (Coral 65071)
16. Lemon Squeezing Daddy – THE SULTANS (Jubilee 5054, A)
17. Heartbreaker – THE HEARTBREAKERS (RCA Victor 20-4327, A)
18. My Dear – THE FOUR DOTS (Dot 1043, B-side of “You Won’t Le Me Go”)
19. Walkin' And Whistlin' Blues – THE FOUR KNIGHTS (Capitol 1707, A)
20. Little Small Town Girl (With The Big Town Dreams) – THE BLENDERS (Decca 27403, A)
21. I Guess You're Satisfied – THE VICTORIANS (Specialty 411, A)
22. I Gotta Go Now – THE RHYTHM KINGS with Isaac Royal & Orchestra (Apollo 1181, A)
23. Just In Case You Change Your Mind – THE 4 DEEP TONES (Coral 65061, A)
24. How Blind Can You Be – THE FALCONS featuring Goldie Boots (Regent 1041, A)
25. Give Me One More Chance – THE ROYALS (Apollo 434, A)
26. Honey Chile – THE DRIFTERS (Excelsior 1314, A)
27. I'll Try To Forget I Loved You – THE VARIETEERS (MGM 10888, A)
28. Rain Is The Teardrops Of Angels – KING ODOM FOUR (Derby 757, A)
29. Would I Mind – STEVE GIBSON and The Original Red Caps (RCA Victor 50-0138, A)
30. May That Day Never Came – THE FOUR TUNES (RCA Victor 2200131, A)
31. Fool, Fool, Fool – THE CLOVERS (Atlantic 944, A)
32. I Am With You – THE DOMINOES (Federal 12039, 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 78 and 45 labels like Columbia, Apollo, Unique, Robin, Savoy, Dot, RCA Victor, Excelsior, Coral, Regent and Specialty. There is an occasional other photo (a neon of The Robins at the Savoy Ballroom for gigs on the 2, 3 and 4 of July) and a trade advert (The Tingling Harmony of The Four Tunes). The CD repros the rare "Just In Case You Change Your Mind" by The 4 Deep Tones on Coral 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 32 tracks and a format-busting playing time of 89:05 minutes – you certainly can't accuse this CD of scrimping it. It opens with the sublime crossover smash "Sixty-Minute Man" by The Dominoes – one of the wittiest and sexiest of R 'n' B tunes that must have slayed them in the aisles back in the day – the girls screaming as Bill Brown advises them 'to come up and see old Dan' for his one-hour wonder session. We immediately melt into proper Vocal Group magic with the deep harmonies and warmth of "The Glory Of Love" where we "...got to cry a little...and laugh a little..." in order to appreciate the glories of being head-over-heels. We get further sappy sleepyhead with "Sweet Slumber" by The Four Buddies (sounding beautifully clear despite its age) while the slinky 'Don't You Know I Love You" shows why collectors adore the sheer class of The Clovers – surely one of Atlantic's best 50ts R&B acts. Uber rare and sounding awesome is "Will You Be Mine" by The Swallows featuring the sweet Lead of Eddie Rich joined half-way through by Norris 'Bunky' Mack. Perennial favourite of every bar-boogie band that's every existed – Joe Williams' "Baby Please Don't Go" gets a Vocal Group going over by The Orioles (and again sounds fabulous).

"...Well, well...I came home this morning just about the break of dawn...the house was empty...all the pillows was gone..." There can't be any genre lovers who don't get weak at the knees at the deep-as-an-ocean voice of Jimmy Ricks going at a jaunty R&B number backed by The Ravens – what a treat! You’re then hit with a double whammy of vocal-group loveliness - "My Reverie" from The Larks and "Shouldn’t I Know?" by The Cardinals – both sounding glorious and massively evocative of the age. We get boozy with The Hollywood's Four Flames on their drink some "Wine" dancer that is followed by the sombre echo of The Mello-Moods and their cautionary tale of love. Worse - The Marshall Brothers warn us that she may have "...found someone new..." - unforgiveable frankly.

Genius songwriters Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller get their first ever record credit on the flipside of a Bobby Nunn 78" – "That's What The Good Book Says" – accompanied by The Robins (misspelt of the label as The Robbins). All the hallmarks of their witty rocking R&B is there – the irresistible rhythm and those great words hat just seem to roll off the tongue "...Noah was taking that brim and mixing it with wine...having himself a real crazy time..." It's followed by a gorgeous inclusion – "I'm Afraid" by Billy Bunn who's crying high falsetto was described by RCA Victor as their answer to Johnnie Ray – and on the strength of this wonderfully evocative smoocher – you have to say that RV weren't talking trash. Chimes lead in Sherman Buckner's unique vocal twinge on the weepy "I'm Asking" as he wonders what made his gal cry (his royalty cheques maybe) - only to have that innocence trounced by the decidedly fruity "Lemon Squeezing Daddy" from The Sultans where Clyde Wright tells us that out in California they grow big and round (whatever can that nice boy be talking about). Gorgeous Audio greets dear listeners for the genre-defining "Heartbreaker" by The Heartbreakers where you can just see five guys in matching suits standing under lampposts singing out their warning to all the ladies – "...I'm a heartbreaker from now on..." (many women in the district packed in relationships for good after this). Clearly dubbed from a very old Dot 78" - "My Dear" by The Four Dots is not just here for sheer rarity value - but because it’s a genuine lost beauty (you wish there was a better take of it).

But best track on the whole compilation may very well be the brilliant "Walkin' And Whistlin' Blues" - a cover of the Les Paul B-side to "How High The Moon" - also from 1951) that does what it says on the tin. You get footsteps acting as the backdrop while the voices go "ooh" throughout and then Lead Tenor Gene Alford starts whistling after his smooth as velvet lines. It's the kind of nugget that will surely turn in some hip TV program soon where a man with a Fedora or Pork-Pie Hat tips the rim at the camera before he shoots someone who deserves his comeuppance. As if "Walkin'..." isn’t sweet surprise enough – you're then hit with another gorgeous winner – the lovely and lilting "Little Small Town Girl (With The Big Town Dreams)" fronted by the beautiful voice of Ollie Jones of The Ravens (what a total peach - it's going on a CD compilation of mine right now). More R&B boppers come in the shape of the organ-driving "I Gotta Go Now" by The Rhythm Kings and "Honey Chile" by The Drifters. Rough transfers include the impossibly rare "I Guess You're Satisfied" (the Specialty 45 is pictured on Page 51) and "Just In Case You Change Your Mind" by The 4 Deep Tones. Final genius inclusion is the beautiful (almost Ink Spots feel to) "Rain Is The Teardrops Of Angels" by the unlikely sounding King Odom Four (what a sweetheart of a tune). Then it all ends on two winners fans will surely own already – "Fool, Fool, Fool" by Atlantic's The Clovers and "I Am With You" by The Dominoes with Clyde McPhatter warbling a goodun (both sounding better than anything I've had them on before)...

To sum up – I hadn't really expected to enjoy this 1951 instalment as much as I have but it's typical of these compilations – surprises and discoveries that floor you. 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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