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Big Joe Turner

Big Joe Turner – The Complete Boss Of The Blues

Big Joe Turner

Bear Family BCD17505 [2020]
Cherry Red (Stereo) – Roll ‘Em Pete (Stereo) – I Want A Little Girl (Stereo) – Low Down Dog (Stereo) – Wee Baby Blues (Stereo) – You’re Driving Me Crazy (Stereo) – How Long Blues (Stereo) – Morning Glories (Stereo) – St. Louis Blues (Stereo) – Piney Brown Blues (Stereo) – Pennies From Heaven (Stereo) – Roll ‘Em Pete (Take 4) (Mono) – Roll ‘Em Pete (Take 5) (Mono) – Cherry Red Blues (Take 1) (Mono) – Cherry Red Blues (Takes 2 and 3) (Mono) – Morning Glories (Takes 1 and 4) (Mono) – Low Down Dog (Take 4) (Mono)
Cherry Red (Mono) – Roll ‘Em Pete (Mono) – I Want A Little Girl (Mono) – Low Down Dog (Mono) – Wee Baby Blues (Mono) – You’re Driving Me Crazy (Mono) – How Long Blues (Mono) – Morning Glories (Mono) – St. Louis Blues (Mono) – Piney Brown Blues (Mono) – Pennies From Heaven (Mono) – Testing The Blues (Mono) – St. Louis Blues (Take 1) (Mono) – You’re Driving Me Crazy (Mono) – I Want A Little Girl (Takes 1 and 2)

What an excellent idea that Bear Family had to reissue this album initially released in 1956.
If you remember (so to speak), in 1956, Big Joe Turner was almost synonymous with Rock’n’roll. In January, Elvis Presley had played Shake Rattle and Roll and Flip Flop and Fly on TV. Later that year, Johnny Burnette would record Honey Hush, and of course, Bill Haley made regular incursions in Turner’s repertoire, whether on disc or stage.
Oddly enough, at the same time, Turner and his label Atlantic decided to revisit his roots and recorded “The Boss of the Blues Sings Kansas City Jazz.”
He reunited a cast of veterans whose names were associated with Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey. But the key ingredient was the presence of Pete Johnson, the pianist with whom he started to sing in Kansas City in the late twenties.
To complete the cast, Basie’s arranger, Ernie Wilkins, was drafted in to write the charts.
And of course, what steals the show is Turner’s voice: powerful as a trumpet, subtle as a reed. Turner was the man who swung the Blues and put the Blues in the swing.
With such a cast, who learned its chops by playing endless jam sessions in the smoky bars of Kansas City, it was not difficult to recreate that atmosphere in the studio, and one can hear that everyone was relaxed. Not only is the listener treated with some of the very best blues recorded at the time, but he also has the feeling to witness a reunion of old friends. This feeling runs through the whole record. Furthermore, with no commercial restrictions in mind, the band can go beyond the three minutes mark if necessary to leave more room to the soloists.
This reissue proposes the original album in two versions: the stereo mix on CD1 and the mono mix on CD2. One studio track (Pennies From Heaven) that didn’t make it in the final album is included here, as well as alternative takes, falses starts, and rehearsal. Not only you have one essential record, but you also have the chance to sneak through the door of the studio and assist in the music in the making.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

King Size Taylor

King Size Taylor – Doctor Feelgood – – The Brits Are Rocking, Vol.3

king size taylor

Bear Family BCD17603 [2020]

Heeby Jeebies – All Around The World – Dr. Feelgood – She Said Yeah – Hippy Hippy Shake – Hello Josephine – Slow Down – Sweet Little Sixteen – Never In A Hundred Years – Money – Bad Boy – Sherry Baby – Whole Lot Of Lovin’ – Stupidity – Long Tall Sally – Domino Twist – Short On Love – Memphis, Tennessee – Mashed Potatoes And Hot Pastrami – Lipstick, Powder And Paint – Slippin’ And Slidin’ – Twist And Shout – Dizzy Miss Lizzy – I Can Tell – Fortune Teller – You Can’t Sit Down – I’m Late – Sad And Blue – Saw My Baby With Another Guy – Matchbox – Good Golly Miss Molly

For their third volume in their series The Brits are Rocking, Bear Family decided to put the spotlight on King Size Taylor and his band the Dominoes. It’s somewhat surprising as one could expect more familiar names like Marty Wilde or Wee Willie Harris. But it’s also an excellent thing since Taylor needs to be rediscovered.
If you, like me, think that the Beatles never sounded so good than when they were five angry (and hungry) lads struggling in Hamburg, this cd is sure to please you.
This compilation covers the period 1963-1964 and contains all his recordings made for Philips, Polydor, and Ariola. It also includes four demos from 1958. Except for these four songs, the tracks were all recorded in Hamburg, Germany, in the studio or on stage.
Associated with the Beat bands of the Merseyside, King Size Taylor and the Dominoes developed a more aggressive sound than many of their counterparts and stayed true to Rock’n’roll and Rhythm’n’Blues. Unfairly they never reached commercial success in their own country.
Except for their first single, which was more pop-oriented, King Size Taylor and the Dominoes were a beautiful war machine, blasting killer rhythm’n’ blues tunes with a rocking edge one after another. Whether in the studio or on stage, they took no prisoners. Ted “Kingsize” Taylor was probably one the best British singers, but sadly remains one of the unsung heroes of the period. He had a powerful and expressive voice that was ideally suited for material by Larry Williams, Fats Domino, Little Richard, and Solomon Burke. The band was equally amazing with sharp guitar parts and for the live recordings two saxophones blowing scorching riffs and solos.
With all those qualities, why didn’t they achieve international success? Maybe they lacked a good manager to get them a good contract. Probably they were too busy in Germany to develop something ielsewhere. And perhaps the fact that they didn’t have originals didn’t help either.
Anyway, this well-deserved cd (and the 36-page booklet that comes with) is the perfect object to rediscover this artist. Maybe Taylor didn’t have originals, but I wouldn’t trade the 2 minutes and 14 seconds of his version of Short On Love (way better and meaner than Gus Backus inoffensive original version) for any of the LSD influenced stuff that their most famous counterparts later recorded.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Eddy and the Backfires

Eddy and the Backfires – Twenty Fight Years

eddy and the backfires

Bear Family BCD 17514 [2019]
Rockin’ Beauty – Tornado – C’mon Pretty Baby – A Cat Called Domino – Highspeed Daddy – Hot Boilin’ Engine – I Feel Rockin’ – Rock, Baby, Rock – Teen Queen – Rock & Roll Guitar – Slipped My Mouth – The Tempter – My World Is You

There are not many different manners to play Rockabilly. You can consider it with all the respect it deserves, and play by the rules set by Elvis, Carl Perkins, or Charlie Feathers to name but three. Or you can play it like a genre that never ceased to evolve. Eddy & the Backfire opted for that second option. Their music is traditional yet very modern.
Eddy and the Backfire formed in Hanover, Germany, at the end of the last century. They celebrate 20 years of existence with their fifth album on Bear Family, no less. It’s surprising since a label like Wild records would seem more appropriate, but it’s also a seal of approval to be signed on that legendary label.
This album includes eight originals and five covers from Johnny Powers, the Giants, Roy Orbison, Johnny Knight, and Carl Silva. This is far from being pa detail to find them covering a modern band like Carl and the Rhythm All-Stars. It’s another proof that the group wants to anchor its music in the 21st century.
Musically speaking, they take things where Johnny Burnette and the Rock’n’roll Trio left them. They play wild, frantic, explosive and white-hot Rockabilly. Though they manage to keep things interesting throughout the album by changing paces (no one wants to hear 13 full-speed rockin’ tracks) and they even add a welcome touch of Country and Western with the final track of the album.
Twenty Fight Years was released on vinyl and cd. The cd comes with a complete booklet featuring numerous photographs of the band.


Eddy and the Backfires

Bear Family

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

That’ll Flat Git It

That’ll Flat Git It – Vol. 33 – Rockabilly And Rock’ n’ Roll From The Vaults Of Renown & Hornet Records

That’ll Flat Git It - Vol. 33 - Rockabilly And Rock’ n’ Roll From The Vaults Of Renown & Hornet Records

Bear Family Records – BCD 17589 [2020]
Betcha’ Didn’t Know Wayne Handy – I Want Everything My Baby’s Got Jim Thornton – Buzz Me On The Telephone Irving Fuller & The Chorvettes – That Other Woman Buck Tickle – Somethin’ Special Don Duncan – Stop Walking All Over Me Harold Pope – Bad Boy Steve France with The Hornets – Say Yeah Wayne Handy – Silly Dilly Don Ray with The Hornets – Upturn Eddie Smith with The Hornets – Cold North Wind Lonnie Dee – Who Put The Pep In The Punch Joe Franklin & The Hi-Liters – The Pad Bobby Strigo with The Blue Notes – Do You Ever Think Of Me Clyde Moody – The Day I Die Daryl Petty – I’m Going Home Hughie Owens with The Blue Notes – Problem Child Wayne Handy – Our Southern Way Of Living Jim Thornton – Tears Falling Down, Down, Down Harold Pope – Border Beat Eddie Smith with The Hornets – Dream Boy Steve France with The Hornets – Traveling Blues Dannie Maness – Making Fun Of Me Bobby Rose – True Blue Joe Franklin & The Hi-Liters – I’m Not Ashamed Lonnie Dee – I’ll Never Be The Same Wayne Handy – Baby Let Me Powder Your Nose Jim Thornton – Flaming Love Daryl Petty – Love Is A Flame Ken Willette with The Blue Notes – Hobo Bill Dannie Maness – Seminole Rock’n Roll Wayne Handy & The Melody Masters – Dance Me To Death The Hi-Liters – I Think You Oughta Look Again Wayne Handy – You Turn Me On Steve France & The Varatones – Repeto The Varatones

Launched by Bear Family many moons ago, this series chose the quality over the exhaustivity; thus, each album contains all killers and no fillers. By volume 27, they expanded the “Rockabilly from the vault of” subtitle to “Rockabilly and Rock’n’roll from the vault of.” And here we are, with the 33rd volume, dedicated to Renown and Hornet Records (the latter being a subsidiary label of the former) from North Carolina.
Wayne Hardy is the Renown artist who was the closest to have a hit with “Say Yeah.” Paradoxically, this is not the best of his six songs included here, but the guitar solo is worth the inclusion of the song. More interesting are songs the blues-oriented stuff like “I’ll Never Be the Same” or the Indian-tinged Seminole Rock’n’Roll.
By the time he recorded for Renown, Jim Thornton could be considered as a veteran. Nevertheless, his “I Want Everything My Baby’s Got” is a fantastic Rockabilly stomper, whereas his other two sides are more in a Hillbilly vein, though with some Rock’n’Roll in it for “Our Southern Way Of Living.”
Another veteran is Clyde Moody, who played with Bill Monroe in 1940. He revives the old 1920s standard “Do You Ever Think Of Me,” also covered by Jimmie Davis and turns it into a pop-rocker with sax, prominent bass, and galloping guitar.
Also on the rural side of the label is Dannie Maness. Both songs, a cover of Jimmie Rodgers and an original waltz in the style of the early Ernest Tubb, sound quite anachronistic here. Harold Pope seems slightly more modern. His two songs mix timeless hillbilly with a sixties sounding pedal steel for great effect.
In a more country-pop manner, Lonnie Dee contributes with two superb songs. “Cold North Wind” evokes the great Roy Orbison while “I’m Not Ashamed,” and its Spanish guitar leans more toward Marty Robbins.
Buck Thickle also shows some Orbisonian influences, but more from the Sun period, combined with a hot rocking saxophone. Also worth noting is the sharp guitar solo.
Don Duncan’s “Something Special” is really, well, special. The kind of weird Rockabilly that one can find on “Songs the Cramps Taught Us.”
Darryl Petty’s sixties rocker “The Day I Die” conveys the same kind of strange atmosphere. By comparison, his other tracks, a good, albeit classical, doo-wop, seems a bit tame.
Petty also played piano and occasionally sang with Joe Franklin and the Hi-Liters. “Who Put The Pep” could be just another rocker before a wild and frantic piano erupts and takes the song to a whole new level. The same piano can be found on “Dance Me To Death” that lives to its title.
Steve France is one of the most exciting artists in this collection. His “Dream Boy” has hints of Elvis’ Money Honey but with a severe dose of angst and gloom. “Bad Boy” is a threatening Rock’n’Roll with a mean guitar. He also recorded a single with the Varatones in a Surf vein. The B-side, “Repeto,” also included here, is an instrumental drenched with reverb and screaming saxophone.
That leads us to Eddie Smith, who recorded with the Hornets, one instrumental single. “Upturn” is a fast-paced number that kicks off with a similar intro than “Beat Out My Love” and then evolves into a half surf/half garage terrific tune. The flip, featuring a superb snare part, is a medium-paced instro that shows the influence of Link Wray.
The remaining tracks contain pop-rocker (Don Ray) Rhythm’ n’Blues with juicy sax in the style of Fats Domino (Hughie Owens with The Blue Notes) and, yes, even a song with a Cha-cha beat (Bobby Rose.)
Except if you don’t listen to anything beyond 1958, there’s plenty to discover and enjoy in this compilation.

Order it here.

Billy Fury

Billy Fury – Wondrous Place – The Brits Are Rocking, Vol.2

Billy Fury

Bear Family Records – BCD17583
Gonna Type A Letter – Baby How I Cried – Comin‘ Up In The World – Wondrous Place – Don‘t Leave Me This Way – Colette – Keep Away – Running Around – Bumble Bee – Nothin‘ Shakin‘ (But The Leaves On A Tree) – My Advice – Don‘t Say It‘s Over – Unchain My Heart – Sticks And Stones – Twist Kid – Push Push – Baby Come On – What Did I Do – If I Lose You – One Kiss – Play It Cool – Sweet Little Little Sixteen – Don‘t Knock Upon My Door – That‘s Love – Don‘t Jump – Tell Me How Do You Feel – Talkin‘ In My Sleep – I‘d Never Find Another You – I‘m Moving On – It‘s You I Need – Phone Call – Turn My Back On You – Alright, Goodbye – You‘re Having The Last Dance With Me

After Tommy Steele, the second volume of this series is deservedly dedicated to Ronald Wycherley, better known as Billy Fury. I personally hold “the Sound of Fury” as one of the best pieces of Rockabilly ever recorded. Billy Fury had it all, the look, the voice, and above all, he could write his own songs (and he was good at that!). This 34-song collection focuses on Fury’s most upbeat material and avoids the hits and the well-known songs like “Halfway to Paradise” or “Maybe Tomorrow” (which is a good thing if you ask me.)
To compose a varied compilation, Bear Family chose to present the songs randomly, but for this review, we’ll take them chronologically in the order of the recording sessions.
“Gonna Type Me a Letter” was originally the b-side of Maybe Tomorrow. It’s a solid rocker, though the typewriter gimmick can be slightly annoying.
Asked about his influences, Fury answered, “I was most of all an Eddie Cochran fan. I was an Elvis Presley fan second, and then I liked Dion.” If you can, without a doubt, hear some of the latter two throughout this collection, “Don’t Knock Upon My Door” is pure Cochran.
“Colette” was obviously written with the Everly Brothers in mind. “On Baby How I Cried,” a plaintive ballad, his voice channels the best of Gene Vincent while the Vernon Girls enhance the performance with their backing vocals. “Turn My Back On You,” recorded during the same session, is a pure Rockabilly masterpiece and will appear on “The Sound of Fury.” Eight out of ten songs of that essential album are included here. From the Buddy Holly tinged “My Advice” to the bluesy “Phone Call,” those songs are worth the price of that compilation alone. They also benefit from the superb guitar work of Joe Brown. For the anecdote, Andy White, the session drummer, is best remembered for having replaced Ringo Star during the recording of “Love Me Do” (and he also married Lyn Cornell one of the Vernon Girls.) Also, since the art of the slap bass was yet to be discovered in Albion, two basses were used: one electric bass to play the notes and an acoustic to record the slap.
In June 1960, Billy Fury cut his masterpiece, Wondrous Place, an eerie ballad with sparse backing, sounding like a mix between Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Crawfish.” Even more provocative, listen to that breath just before he drops ‘Wondrous Place.’ Bear Family made an excellent choice by including the first version rather than over-arranged one recorded in 1963.
By comparison, “Push Push” with its semi Calypso beat seems pale while “You’re having the Last Dance With Me” adds nothing to the glory of Fury.
Penned by Gene Pitney, “Talkin’ In My Sleep” brings a little more blues, and “Comin’ Up In The World” offers a superb contrast between the singer’s voice and the screaming sax.
Backed by a Duane Eddy sounding twangy guitar and an ethereal female vocal at the right moment, “Don’t Jump” is a splendid melodramatic tune. “I’d Never Find Another You” is another highlight thanks to Billy, of course, but also to the arranger who kept it simple despite the presence of strings. Just compare to Paul Anka’s version to see how a poor arrangement can waste a good song. From the same session comes “If I Lose You,” a soulful ballad that shows the other side of Fury’s voice, the rough one.
The next pair of songs, both written by Norie Paramor, are far less successful. On “Play It Cool,” the mix between strings and Rock’n’Roll doesn’t work very well, whereas “the Twist Kid” proves that even Fury couldn’t turn lead to gold.
The Presley-esque “Running Around” finds him in better form with a song more suited to his voice. “One Kiss” sees him returning to his idol Eddie Cochran, in a laid back jazzy manner.
“On Keep Away” and “What Did I Do,” the singer is backed by the Tornadoes of “Telstar” fame. The former shows the inspiration of Elvis’ “Stuck On You.”
After a session without the Tornadoes to record Laverne Baker’s “Bumble Bee,” the band returns to record the live-in-the-studio album “We Want Billy.” Five songs are lifted from that album (Sweet Little Sixteen, Baby Come On, Sticks and Stones, Unchain My Heart, and I’m Moving On.) The singer is wild and more rhythm ‘n’ blues than ever, and the Tornadoes are excellent throughout.
“Tell Me How do You Feel,” recorded in 1963, continues with the rhythm ‘n’ blues vein with organ, sax, and a trumpet solo.
The compilation ends with “Nothing Shaking (But The Leaves On The Tree)” on which one can hear some Mersey echoes.
As usual with Bear Family, it comes with a thick 40-page booklet containing photos, informative liner notes, record covers, and detailed sessions. Highly recommended.
The next artist in the series will be King Size Taylor & The Dominoes.

Available here.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Tommy Steele

Tommy Steele – Doomsday Rock – The Brits are Rockin’ vol. 1

Tommy Steele

Bear Family BCD17581
Rock Around The Town – Giddy-Up A Ding Dong – Teenage Party (LP version) – The Trial – Tallahassee Lassie – Give! Give! Give! – Build Up – Knee Deep In The Blues – Rock With The Caveman – Take Me Back, Baby – Time To Kill – Hair-Down Hoe-Down – Swaller Tail Coat – Drunken Guitar – Kaw-Liga – Elevator Rock – Grandad’s Rock – Puts The Lightie On – On The Move – Cannibal Pot – Hollerin’ And Screamin’ – (The Girl With The) Long Black Hair – Rebel Rock – Two Eyes – Hey You – Happy Go Lucky Blues – Singing The Blues – Butterfly – Doomsday Rock – Razzle Dazzle – Come On Let’s Go – Honky Tonk Blues – Young Love – You Gotta Go

2019 saw Bear Family launching a new series called The Brits are Rockin’ dedicated to the British pioneers of the ’50s.
They couldn’t choose a better artist than Tommy Steele (real name Tommy Hicks) to begin this series with. If he wasn’t the best nor the most rocking, Steele was one of the first – if not the first – and he had a strong British identity to boot. Above all, unlike Tony Crombie, who was already 30 when he jumped on the Rock’n’roll bandwagon, Steele was a teenager singing for the teenagers.
Steele began his musical career by singing Hank Williams tunes and playing guitar various bands. George Martin signed him. He later recalled: “We sat with our coffee and watched this genial young man bounce on to the stage with his guitar over his pelvis, and my immediate impression was that he was a blond cardboard imitation of Elvis Presley. Tommy had a lot of energy, but he didn’t sound too great.
Fortunately for the young lad, people at Decca saw some potential in Tommy and, following his test audition, they almost immediately signed him. Two days later, Steele was in the recording studio to cut his debut single “Rockin’ with the Caveman / Rock Around the Town.”
This 34-song/71 minute compilation album spans the years 1956 to 1960. It shows how versatile Steele was, playing styles as various as pop-tinged stuff, country and western, novelty songs, and more. But, of course, the most exciting songs, were his Rock’n’roll sides. Steele was a credible rocker, and tunes like Teenage Party, Rock With the Caveman, Doomsday Rock, Two Eyes are small classics. This album also proposes good live versions of Freddie Bell’s Giddy Up Ding Dong and Haley’s Razzle Dazzle and the weird and Link Wray sounding semi-instrumental Drunken Guitar.
At first, I was surprised that the songs were not in chronological order, but it happened to be a good idea. It avoids the problem of too many compilations, especially when they are copious like this one, to have ten solid rockin’ tracks at the beginning and, as the years pass, you find mellower material. This is not the case with this compilation, which alternates styles and paces as well as studio and live recordings.
As usual with Bear Family, it comes with a 40-page booklet richly illustrated, though, for some reason, there’s no sessionography.
This album definitely proves that the Brits, and Tommy Steele, could easily rock like their American counterparts.
Hopefully, this is the beginning of a long series.

Available on Bear Family’s website

Fred “Virgil” Turgis