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Ella Johnson

Ella Johnson – Bring It Home!

El Toro ET15141
What a Day! – No More Love / They Don’t Want me to Rock No More – Bring It Home to Me

Ella Johnson - Bring It Home!

The great Ella Johnson, who recorded with her brother Buddy falls right on that blurry line between Rhythm’n’Blues and Jazz with a dose of Rock’n’Roll. The singer possesses a beautiful voice, very clean yet expressive. The tight arrangements remind those of the Big Band era, and there’s plenty of room for soloists to express themselves (superb rocking sax part on They Don’t Want Me to Rock No More). You’ll love this EP if you dig Dinah Washington and Ella Mae Morse.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

McKinley James

McKinley James – Who Will The Next Fool Be

Fun-Guy Records – FG-5906 [2020]
Who Will The Next Fool Be / Thunderbird

McKinley James released this single on James Heath’s Fun-Guy records. He’s backed by his father, Jason Smay (JD McPherson, Los Straitjackets) on drums and Ray Jacildo on Hammond organ.
The A-side is a soulful rendition of Charlie Rich’s Who Will The Next Fool Be. The young boy has a surprinsingly very mature and deep voice and the Hammond lays down a perfect backing.
The B-side is a cover of ZZ Top’s Thunderbird (from their 1975 album Fandango.) While the original is a boogie blues, James version slows things down, and in his more than able hands, the song becomes a mean blues with a superb guitar part.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Aces (the)

Aces (the) – No One Rides For Free

the aces

El Toro ETCD 6044
You’re Gonna Loose – Stole Something From Me – Shed Some Light On Me – Knee Deep In Mud – Drinkin Song – Need Your Lovin’ – Down In The Cave – Mr Highway Man – House On The Hill – Kanka Kanka

If you believe that Eric Clapton is a blues god, well, nice to meet you and see you later. But if you like your blues raw, dirty, primitive, and threatening, the Aces are the band for you. With two guitars, drums, harmonica, and distorted vocals, this California (Santa Rosa) combo plays a lo-fi electric blues with a hypnotic beat that takes its roots in the likes of Hound Dog Taylor and RL Burnside. They add a good dose of garage with a “straight in your face” powerful wall of sound. Imagine if the Cramps had taken their main inspiration in Chicago blues instead of rockabilly. But enough of comparison they build their own sound, keeping things simple and effective, no flashy licks here or 20 minutes solos, but guitar player Derek Irving keeps things varied, playing slide guitar on some tunes and sitar on others, like on “Down On The Cave” with its “Smokestack Lightnin’” inspired riff.
It’s music with guts and sweat and, in the end, a truly great album.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

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

Sarah Mai

Sarah Mai – I Ain’t Gonna Hush

Sarah Mai

Right Recordings RIGHT347 [2019]
Sentimental Journey – Bop Ting A Ling – Feel Fi Fo Fum – Come On A My House – Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean – Hound Dog – I Ain’t Gonna Hush – As Long As I’m Moving – This Train – Whipper Snapper – Hello Little Boy

As a reviewer, I try to be as objective as possible. Of course, I also like to read the booklet of an album when I receive it. And, though I didn’t know Miss Mai, when I saw that Pat Reyford was involved in the making of that platter (he plays all instruments and contributes backing vocals too), I had a pretty good feeling. But nothing prepared me for Sarah Mai’s voice. The lady blends the charm of Rosemary Clooney with the power of Ruth Brown. This Rhythm’n’Blues album is excellent from start to finish. It begins smoothly with Sentimental Journey, then slowly drifts gears, takes detours with a touch of jazz here, some doo-wop, and ends at a frantic pace with Lavern Baker’s Whipper Snapper and Ruth Brown’s Hello Little Boy. It leaves the listener breathless, knock-out, but most of all, begging for more. That’s what a good record always does; it leaves you frustrated, and you have no choice but push the repeat button.
One could moan – there’s always someone who complains – that “I Ain’t Gonna Hush” contains only covers. So what? Do you complain when you listen to Billie Holiday that she only sings covers? Of course not, you’re just happy to hear to a great performer who sings classics. The same goes here. And you can’t deny that Sarah Mai is a brilliant songstress who takes those classics (and some lesser-known songs) and turns them into her own songs, with her personality, energy, and a healthy dose of soul.
This kind of album is too rare to be ignored, so jump on it, then jump with it!

Availble at

Fred ‘Virgil’ Turgis

Hollywood Fats

hollywood fatsHollywood Fats & The Paladins: Live 1985

Top Cat Records TCT-6082
Hideaway – She’s Fine – I Tried – Lawdy Lawdy Miss Mary – Whole Lotta Shakin’ – The Groove – Rooster Blues – Tear It Up – That Will Never Do – Let’s Have A Party – Mystery Train – Sidetracked – Goin’ To Get My Baby

On the paper, this cd promised to be a killer. Just imagine, Hollywood Fats, one of the best West-Coast guitar player teaming with The Paladins, one of the best rockabilly/blues combo, captured live on stage in 1985, just before Hollywood Fats joined the Blasters. The setlist was exciting too. Rockabilly meets jump blues with tunes by Freddie King, Amos Milburn, Junior Parker, and a couple of Michael Mann (Hollywood Fats) own songs. Sadly, once you put the cd in the player, it’s a huge disappointment. The sound has the quality of a poor bootleg. Worst of all, the tape doesn’t always seem to play at the right speed. With this acceleration, some solos sound goofy. That’s too bad, cause the performance is excellent, and you can hear that Fats and the Paladins are on the same wavelength.
There’s enough good music in that platter to recommend it despite the sound quality.
Fred “Virgil” Turgis

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