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Season’s Greetings From The Mojo Man

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

When it comes to a touch of seasonal rhythm and blues, then there is no better house to turn to than the one at Koko Mojo. Behind the latest Christmas album release is the Mojo Man, who brings his collection of records to this party and offers his “Season’s Greetings”. With twenty-eight songs chosen to keep the listener entertained and those who prefer the dancefloor at this time of the year, then Christmas wouldn’t be the same without a mainly rhythm and blues collection and one complemented with a few straight blues and rock ‘n’ roll numbers. From the entrance that is Johnny Otis, Little Esther & Mel Walker and appropriate beginning ‘Christmas Greetings’, the next that follows is an exciting brew of the well-known and the not so well known. There’s plenty to delight those who prefer a collection that contains artists often less featured when it comes to these compilations and especially Christmas albums. Therefore, step forward excellent turns by Big Bud ‘Snow Man Rock’, Roy Tan & The Combo ‘Happy New Year’, Sugar Chile Robinson ‘Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer’, The Gospel Solotones with ‘Ride In The Chariot’, and Big Tiny Little and song ‘Tiny’s Christmas Melody’. Why, even the Mojo Man himself declares, “I once more had to pick some of my fave Blues, Rhythm & Blues, and Rock & Roll Christmas tunes I haven’t already used the previous years for similar projects in the heat of the warmest summer in ages…” and despite suffering for his “art” under the duress of such heat, the Mojo Man turns this into a truly memorable “Season’s Greetings” with additional help from established artists including Nat King Cole (‘The Christmas Song’), John Lee Hooker (‘Blues For Christmas’), The Platters (‘Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer’), Chubby Checker & Bobby Rydell (‘Jingle Bell Rock’), and Nina Simone (‘Children Go Where I Send You’). Enough said!


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Christmas Around The World

Various Artists

Atomicat

A real smorgasbord of treats on offer from Atomicat and their latest addition to their annual Christmas albums and this time we’re going to be celebrating ‘Christmas Around The World’. With responsibility for track selection left to DeeJay Mark Armstrong and the album presented in the usual three-way digipak meaning less impact on the environment and with no loss in terms of quality when it comes to presentation, there’s only one thing left to do and that’s investigate the contents inside. What the listener can expect are twenty-eight tracks of Christmas-themed songs in direct relation to the album’s title where songs are pulled from around the world, and with a handful of the tracks presented in the mother tongue of the nation performing the Christmas ditty. Beginning in 1949 and next setting up camp between the years 1955 to 1962, there’s plenty of snap, crackle, and pop coming from the wax grooves of these records. The collection starts with something less seasonal in terms of its sound with the country ‘Christmas Time Is Near’ by Stanley Brothers. More traditional feelings soon arrive however, and stem from the excellent rendition of ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’ from vocal group Shantons. From there the Christmas goodness continues through The Marcels and their lively ‘Merry Twist-Mas’, Allan And The Flames’ instrumental ‘Winter Wonderland’, thoughtful turn by The Blackwells and ‘The Christmas Holiday’, to early 60’s pop rendition of ‘Frosty (The Snow Man)’ from Jan And Dean. With a few more tracks offering a slightly different interpretation due to the country roots of the artists involved and including Ernest Tubb (‘I’ll Be Walkin’ The Floor This Christmas’), Red Foley (‘Here Comes Santa Claus’), and Wayne Brock with very appealing ‘Santa Claus Has A Secret’, it remains that these different influences prove to be the real winner here. That said, the overall feel of ‘Christmas Around The World’ will appeal to those looking for a bit of variety in terms of their Christmas playlist this year.


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Leiber And Stoller: The Rockers – That Is Rock And Roll

Various Artists

Atomicat

Not to be confused with labelmates Koko Mojo’s album release focusing on the song writing duo Leiber and Stoller, Atomicat Records issues its own collection that focuses on the same songwriters yet, specifically, the partnership’s rock and roll songs. Issued under the watchful eye of DeeJay Mark Armstrong, Atomicat’s Songwriter Series looks at two of the biggest names in song writing history with Leiber and Stoller. With this album representing the duo’s work during the 50s and early 60s, the artists featured are those who established major names for themselves, but also a few obscurer titles that were known to only a minority. That said, the songs presented covers Leiber and Stoller’s work after their own label Spark Records with those rock and roll records arriving thick and fast. Beginning with Coasters lively ‘That Is Rock And Roll’, and ending with ubiquitous ‘Stand By Me’ from this time, Ricky Pearson, the songs contain much quality and with plenty of interesting turns from artists less featured when it comes to some well-known songs. Such examples can be heard from Bobby Davis with ‘Troubles’; a song originally recorded By Elvis, who makes himself known here with ‘Hot Dog’. Elsewhere, there’s another song Elvis is known for, and originally Big Mama Thornton, and that’s ‘Hound Dog’, which is covered here by Cyclones and certainly a different interpretation. Little Richard arrives via ‘Kansas City’, and LaVern Baker gives an always reliable performance and this time with the song ‘Whipper Snapper’. The more the album spins, the more the realisation dawns that there are plenty of well-known songs, but with the added interest of being performed by different artists than many of these songs are known for. Therefore, full credit to compiler Mark Armstrong for producing the goods once more and delivering another set of Leiber and Stoller’s works for all to experience and enjoy.


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Spotlight On Leiber And Stoller: The R&B Recordings – Flip Our Whigs

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Updating the series “Spotlight On…” Koko Mojo focuses on the working partnership of Leiber and Stoller and, specifically for this album release, their rhythm and blues recordings. As song writers Leiber and Stoller worked with many who either went on to become major artists or were already established during the golden age of music of the 50s and continuing into the early half of the 60s. With both periods reflected here, the chosen records date back as far as 1952 with King, and then continuing in 1953 with labels Federal, and RCA Victor, before getting underway with their own imprint (along with Still) in 1954 with Spark Records. A glance at the track list reveals much talent and a few lesser knowns, which often provides much intrigue when it comes to these collections housed together by Koko Mojo and, in this instance, Mark Armstrong. Beginning in ’52 at King with Moose Jackson and ‘Nosey Joe’, which is a very sophisticated slice of work, and then followed by recordings down the years at RCA Victor, Atlantic, Spark, Modern, MGM, Mercury and so on. To select from a very fine crop of records indeed, then work from Leiber and Stoller with the likes of LaVern Baker and track ‘Saved’ with added influence of gospel, vocal harmony ‘Ten Days In Jail’ from The Robins, a classic from The Drifters with ‘Fools Fall In Love’, big band approach of ‘Squeeze Me’ by Milt Trenier, who’s later given the honour of title song ‘Flip Our Wigs’, to full of confidence Garland The Great (‘Tree Stump Jump’), and further attractively named titles with Scooby Doo All Stars and ‘Ernie’s Journey’. From the excellent ‘I Smell A Rat’ with Young Jessie at the helm, there’s certainly no suggestion of any such thing when it comes to ‘Spotlight On Leiber And Stoller: The R&B Recordings – Flip Our Whigs’ because it is an impressive body of work.


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Rhythm & Western Volume 5: Cold Cold Heart

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Heading out for a fifth journey is the alluring and rather unique album series ‘Rhythm & Western’ and this time it’s all about a ‘Cold Cold Heart’. With Koko Mojo providing a home for the songs featuring Black artists performing songs that melded rhythm & blues with country & western, the outcomes are often quite different as heard during previous albums, with either straight country performances or ideas and influences creeping in somewhere between a more dominant rhythm and blues sound. Whilst this may present varying degrees of quality, the series has offered much to ponder over with the results being incredibly positive indeed. With the task of compiling such an exclusive setlist left to The Mojo Man once more, the twenty-eight tracks featured provide familiarity in terms of the artists chosen, but with the bonus of more obscure musicians to keep the listener engaged. Beginning with Solomon Burke and jaunty rhythm held during ‘How Many Times’ with its guitar the giveaway to country music, to equally sprightly tempo of ‘Look At Me’ from vocal harmony group The Sharps where the rhythm and blues contains a few subtle differences. Both tracks make for an unusual sound, reiterated during examples from Sonny Boy Williamson and ‘Wake Up Baby’ with the harmonica adding to the country feel but also the blues, and ditto its lyrics that tie together both genres once more. As with previous volumes of this album series, there are smoother sounds and fitting of the 60s period with Bobby Day and compelling ‘Undecided’ that was issued in 1960. The cheeriness in terms of rhythm continues via Fats Domino and ‘Bo Weevil’ that is a genuine floor filler, before the highly educated, one presumes, Professor Johnson & His Gospel Singers enter the stage with ‘Where Shall I Be’ that is a gospel number and another example that ties the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and country together. With Smokey Hogg combining the two genres featured here and coming out with a slightly muddled sounding ditty in the shape of ‘Late Prowling Girl’ is evidence that the two genres do not always complement each other. However, when the ideas influencing both country and rhythm and blues join forces and presented via the altogether different interpretation of ‘Cigareetes, Whusky & Wild Wild Women’ from the vocals of Johnny Nash, then it is one such example of where ‘Rhythm & Western Volume 5: Cold Cold Heart’ truly excels.


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R&B Goes R&R 4: Smack Dab In The Middle

Various Artists

Atomicat

Music from the past and with a remastered sound comes from the ever-reliable Atomicat and their latest album ‘R&B Goes R&R 4: Smack Dab In The Middle’. Compiling a list of artists from not only the US but also Australia, New Zealand, and interestingly this time around Argentina, the current album in this series continues its exploration of white artists performing traditional rhythm and blues songs from the years 1955 through to 1963. With the songs chosen being covers, it is not always a direct copy as there are noticeable interpretations that bring something else to the table or, in this instance, dancefloor because there’s plenty of material here to keep any DeeJay operating within these genres busy! To the tracks, and what a selection! Mixing the established with the less established names is part of the appeal with Atomicat’s compilations. “Smack Dab In The Middle” you will experience the likes of Ronnie Hawkins (‘Dizzy Miss Lizzy’), Boyd Bennett (‘Poison Ivy’), Tommy Sands (‘Hey Miss Fannie’), and cover star Ricky Nelson with ‘I’m In Love Again’. Those artists less frequented when it comes to compiling such collections can be experienced by the following Ray Davis (‘Money Honey’), Los Pick Ups and something different for this album with South American version ‘Josefina’, to The Spades and song ‘Jim Dandy’, and bookending this album two songs from The Keil Isles and, first, ‘Country Boy’, to later ‘Don’t Come Knockin’’. With much on offer and including convincing, not to mention brave choices from the country boy himself Marty Robbins with Chuck Berry’s ‘Maybelline’, and different interpretation of ‘Bo Diddley’ from Jimmy Elledge. ‘R&B Goes R&R 4: Smack Dab In The Middle’ certainly maintains the high-quality set by its predecessors.


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More Boss Black Rockers Vol. 1: Guitar Pickin’ Fool’

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

After such a successful run that was the first album series of ‘Boss Black Rockers’, Koko Mojo with the guiding hand of The Mojo Man (aka Little Victor Mac) sets up another series under the heading ‘More Boss Black Rockers: Guitar Pickin’ Fool’. Providing much information via tracks and liner notes presented in a trifold digipak bearing in mind current environmental concerns, ‘More Boss Black Rockers: Guitar Pickin’ Fool’ basically continues where series one left off. In other words, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it because more often than not the twenty-eight-track list offered a delightful and seriously high-octane rush of rock ‘n’ roll from the original rock ‘n’ rollers (i.e., The Black artists either overlooked or simply given less coverage). Therefore, inside information gets Volume One off to a flyer via Tony Harris and song ‘Chicken, Baby, Chicken’ with powerhouse vocals and a punchy rhythm section. The wildness continues with Bobby Brookes resembling a not-too-distant relation of Jackie Wilson during the mighty fine ‘Looka, Looka, Looka’, to next in line Otis Riley including a touch of the personal to ‘Rock And Roll Riley’. If series one of ‘Boss Black Rockers’ proved not only an irresistible pull due to high level of rock ‘n’ roll on display, then ‘More Boss Black Rockers Vol. 1’ will not disappoint for the same reasons, but also for the inclusion of many lesser known or less-featured artists or songs that are a touch harder to find when it comes to other similar compilations. For instant memories, then press play to tracks by H-Bomb Ferguson ‘Mary Little Mary’ where his vocals alone is enough to convince of the greatness here, to fast and frantic tempo of ‘Goin’ Goin’ Gone’ from vocal group The Jewels, before landing at the doorstep of wheeling rhythm and blues/rock ‘n’ roll of terrific ‘No Haps’ by Roy Wright. Ooh! We are in the land of rock ‘n’ roll goodness when it comes to the second instalment of album series of ‘More Boss Black Rockers Vol. 1: Guitar Pickin’ Fool’, and that is fact!


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Hillbilly: Devils & Demons

Various Artists

Atomicat

Fresh out on Atomicat Records is latest collection ‘Hillbilly: Devils & Demons’. In order to bring this new album of songs to life, DeeJay Mark Armstrong raided the vinyl wax vaults to source a respectable number of “rural ditties” from 1949 and ending here in 1963. What the listener can expect therefore, are plenty of songs featuring failures in life because of love turned sour and the next manoeuvre turning to the bad influences for comfort of alcohol and/or drugs. With the “demons” being the metaphors for these additional supports, then do not expect too many cheerful numbers here, but it is often in these melancholic moments, greatness can be heard. That is not to say this latest album does not come without humour because it most certainly does where examples can be detected in song titles or through the very words mentioned in songs. Given this album is coming from the rural hills, there are familiar artists presenting their goods from Red Foley, Sonny Burns, Wade Ray, The Louvin’ Brothers, Roy Acuff, and Pee Wee King. As with the majority of Atomicat releases, there are also plenty of lesser-known names and tracks, and can be heard from go-to-name Buckaroo Billy and ‘Shake Hands With The Devil’, the indie-sounding moniker Ben Colder with excellent ‘Shudders And Screams’, to packing the essentials for a week’s holiday away ‘Satan’s Suitcase’ performed by Robert Zehm. There is just so much irresistible charm to the songs making up this collection and heard by the likes of Red Foley and country gold that is ‘Tennessee Hill-Billy Ghost’, country swing of Cecil Campbell’s ‘Spookie Boogie’, bouts of red-hot harmonica ride of ‘The Devil’s Train’ by Roy Acuff, to guitar twang and galloping rhythm of ‘Satan’s Chauffeur’ from Jimmy Minor, who bears a close resemblance to Johnny Cash. With sleeve notes provided and presented in a threefold digipak for further information, and artwork designed by Alf Button’s Revenge, latest ‘Hillbilly: Devil’s & Demons’ makes for a must-have collection of songs housed in an album package that is equally deserving of praise.


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Rhythm & Western Volume 4: I Hang My Head And Cry

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Bringing together another set of songs featuring Black artists performing country & western music that either sound like the “real deal” or deemed by the so-called tastemakers back in the day as rhythm & blues due to Black musicians associated with the genre, or others presented here as novelty songs but with plenty of country flavour. Presenting the new compilation of this current series is The Mojo Man, who prises up records from as far back as the 1930s and right up to the 1960s, meaning there’s the bonus of a history lesson to accompany the tasty selection of tracks. First up is a song closer to the present than the thirties period mentioned with the 1960 release ‘A Little Bitty Tear’ from Varetta Dillard. The next few songs continue to walk through the sixties with sweeping strings of ‘Sleep’ performed by Little Willie John, the pop influences of the time featured throughout Adam Wade’s ‘The Writing On The Wall’, to something more in line with country music and (thankfully) rougher in its presentation is The Nite Riders present Melvin Smith and song ‘Ugly George’. The rhythm & blues comes in the form of excellent tracks as ‘Love Locks’ by Nappy Brown, harmony vocals from The Shields and ‘That’s The Way It’s Gonna Be’, to memorable for a variety of reasons ‘Ooh You Bring Out The Wolf In Me’ performed by Piney Brown. That crossover of rhythm & blues with country & western and deemed as such when it came to Black musicians performing country, is best demonstrated by Brook Benton and song ‘Hotel Happiness’ where the smoother commercial pop market of the 60s also played a part here. Another volume and another album full of variety where rhythm & blues remains a dominant force but with shades of country, 60s pop, and rock ‘n’ roll all come together to offer an altogether different series that is ‘Rhythm & Western Volume 4: I Hang My Head And Cry’.


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Hallowscream! 2: Horrors Of The Black Museum

Various Artists

Atomicat

It is that time of year once more when things go bump in the night and the floorboards tend to creak more than usual. However, to aid a far smoother transition through the spookiest night of the year, Atomicat issues its seasonal album ‘Hallowscream! 2: Horrors Of The Black Museum’. With Mark Armstrong at the helm and assisted by Doctor Frankenbop and his sidekick Psychoshake in selecting another twenty-eight choice cuts, then this Halloween fest is set for one of the best! Volume 2 features tracks ranging from 1954 to 1963, and includes varying styles of rhythm and blues, rock ‘n’ roll, and rockin’ instrumentals. Beginning with a bout of rhythm and blues fermenting with rock ‘n’ roll and coming up trumps with ‘Hokus Pokus’ is Ronny Goode. From such wild beginnings, the Halloween celebrations continue in similar fashion with blasts of saxophone and joint vocals from Nightmares and song providing this compilation with its added title, ‘(Oooh I’m Scared) Of The Horrors Of The Black Museum’. Given it’s Halloween, then there’s often quirks hidden between the tracks where numerous oddities come to the surface and can be heard during the excellent guitar work out from The Gigolos’ ‘Night Creature’, touch of twang to the rock ‘n’ roll and charismatically told tale of ‘Devil’s Den’ from Duane Turley, to rockin’ rhythm and dual vocals of Jack and Jim during ‘Midnight Monsters Hop’. Award for most eccentric and thoroughly convincing, not to mention creative performance is bestowed to Chuck-A-Lucks’ ‘The Devil’s Train’. Add to the spooky festivities two more recent bands in the form of Marc and The Wild Ones and their darkened rock ‘n’ roll ‘Voodoo Woman’, to setting the screamfest on fire is The Rip Em Ups with ‘Killswitch!’. With so much glorious music to cram into the spookiest night of the year, ‘Hallowscream! 2: Horrors Of The Black Museum’ certainly achieves this with a wealth of material crammed into a playlist of twenty-eight tracks that are good enough to grace any Halloween fest no matter the musical preferences of those present.


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Bad Loving (Single)

John Lindberg Trio

Booze Music / Enviken

A band that is deserving of wider acceptance on a global scale is Swedish rockers John Lindberg Trio (JLT). Despite a lack of widespread acknowledgement of their work, it is pleasing to see and hear in the instance of current single ‘Bad Loving’ that the trio has lost none of their appetite for creating original rockin’ tunes. Continuing the good fight for rock ‘n’ roll music in 2022, and setting a precedent of things to come, is the aforementioned ‘Bad Loving’, which also includes additional song writing by fellow Swede and songwriter Teddie Ericsson. The single itself is best described as a “bopper” for modern times with its tight sharp rhythm that is instantaneous in its liking and initially provides a smokescreen for the lyrics, which are the polar opposite to the loveable feel of this rockin’ tune. In fact, ‘Bad Loving’ is almost a trip down memory lane as it is close to 80’s chart action from the likes of The Jets and Shakin’ Stevens, and that’s no bad thing. Therefore, if sadness sounds this good, then heap more misery on the recording pile of JLT because any desires of reaching a broader audience could be around the next corner if they can maintain the “radio quality goodness” of new single ‘Bad Loving’.


Released 1 July

 

Rhythm & Western Volume 3: Lovesick Blues

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

After two very interesting albums already issued to the public at large, Volume 3 of ‘Rhythm & Western’ arrives with another series of songs from African American artists who turned their attentions to country & western music whether in direct style or represented here with loose associations of themes or song titles. Such associations of country music formulate instantly via first song ‘Chew Tobacco Rag’ with its expressive sound effects bringing humour and style via its rhythm and blues presented by Lucky Millender. Jimmy Ricks follows with ‘Do You Promise’ that is more in line with the “Rhythm and Western” of this album series both musically and from its lyrics. From such a strong start, Volume 3 continues to impress with more great choices from Dinah Washington who provides her own interpretation of classic Hank Williams’ ‘Cold Cold Heart’, to Andre Williams upping the tempo slightly with well-known ‘You Are My Sunshine’. The inclusion of the likes of The G-Clefs’ ‘The Big Rain’ reflects gospel influences of the time, whereas the sophisticated and reflective ‘Funny How Time Slips Away’ really captures the essence of similar plaintive country songs also of the same era. There is much diversity on offer as with the previous two albums and with Fats Domino bringing ‘Don’t Come Knockin’, Little Junior offering ‘My Dolly Bee’, and charismatic turn from Cab Calloway and ‘Gamblers Guitar’ all represent such examples and also highlight the quality on offer. However, most notably, the imagination expressed by this album series is its biggest asset so far.



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