Album Reviews

Filter :

Released Out now

 

Breaking Point

B. B. & The Blues Shacks

Rhythm Bomb

Seemingly never taking a moment to rest given the band’s determination to stay on top of their own creativity and chosen field of the blues, B.B. & The Blues Shacks continue to surge forward with brand-new long player ‘Breaking Point’. The chosen title for the band’s latest album is by no means a reference to this being a make-or-break crossroads for B.B. & The Blues Shacks. In fact, far from it given the five-piece have recently returned to the recording studio to bring to life the album ‘Breaking Point’, but also not long after celebrating a milestone in their career with their 30th anniversary, not forgetting multiple winners of the German Blues Awards, countless live performances across the globe, and receiving international recognition for their brand of the blues and longstanding success. With latest album ‘Breaking Point’, B.B. & The Blues Shacks continue their own exploration with the majority of the songs being original compositions and coming from the hands of chief song writing duo Andreas Arlt and Michael “Maddy” Arlt. Beginning proceedings, however, is an Albert Lee composition, and that being ‘Let’s Have A Natural Ball’ with B.B. & The Blues Shacks tightly paralleling the original but with added sparkle in the brass section giving their interpretation a livelier feel. Third in line, ‘Moon Calling’, is the kind of track that wins much approval from this corner due to its looser approach where it swings back and forth on its heels with no indication of where this song may end up, yet there is also suggestion of tighter reins being applied meaning that the band is in full control. In other words, it’s a song full of meaning and open to interpretation and likely to be a future crowd-pleaser given its room for improvisation. Pulling back from almost writing a detailed essay of this one particular song, other highlights include the joyous instrumentation of ‘Can’t Be Juliet’, which also translates into ’50 Cent’ with its bright sound but, as with all good song writing bands, the lyrics depict something a little different with “modern life” and all its associated obsessions including social media given an unfavourable review.  Back with a definite spring in their step, musically, and plenty of songs full of retrospective love and also in the present (e.g. ‘Be Mine My Love’), this bandwagon of blues known as B.B. & The Blues Shacks looks set to run for another thirty years (If time will allow?).


Released Out now

 

Southern Bred: Tennessee & Arkansas R&B Rockers Vol.22

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

More tracks freshly picked at Koko Mojo to feature on the latest album in the Southern Bred R&B Rockers series and that being Volume 22. The latest addition in the series continues its focus on the artists who either featured strongly or only fleetingly in the regions of Arkansas and Tennessee. As with previous albums, this series has broken the grading scale when it comes to consistency and quality because quite simply, there hasn’t been a dud issued so far, and judging by initial impressions, the current CD continues this trend. From the variety of performers selected, the listener will experience a range of blues variations from Jump Gospel, Blues Rockers, Rhythm and Blues guitar rockers and plenty of tracks considered more straightforward Rock ‘n’ Roll. With its by now standard three-fold design complete with sleeve notes adding to the story given by the music supplied here, ‘Southern Bred R&B Rockers Vol. 22’ starts with some classy rhythm and blues complete with orchestra via Tiny Davis and Her Orch. and song ‘Race Horse’. Continuing in similar style is Memphis Slim and His Orch. ‘The Girl I Love’, and further musical sophistication from Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five ‘That Chick’s Too Young To Fry’. The introduction of Big Maybelle and ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’” is where the pattern of music changes, albeit slightly, given the voluminous nature of the recording. You can hear the early foundations of rock ‘n’ roll emerging in Washboard Sam and His Washboard Band’s ‘Evil Blues’ and, similarly, with Earl Forest and The Beale Streeters’ ‘Pretty Bessie’. A different track of sorts is thrown into the mix and comes from the SUN stable and applies to compiler Mark Armstrong’s words regarding “cross-over recordings which for many people means Rock ‘n’ Roll music” as this track attests to. Such a label also applies to Gene Allison and the rhythm and blues meets rock ‘n’ roll of ‘Somebody, Somewhere’ and this continues, but also leans back to where this album started by not forgetting the big band orchestra once the likes of Jimmy Witherspoon’s ‘Drinking Beer’ comes into view. Further crossover appeal can also be heard during Roscoe Gordon’s ‘What I Wouldn’t’, which closes the album. Koko Mojo cracks it again with another “classic” album to add to the previous twenty-one editions of this genuinely great series known as Southern Bred R&B Rockers.


Released Out now

 

More Doo Wop Christmas Gems

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Following on from last year’s album release ‘Let’s Have A Doo Wop Christmas’, Koko Mojo issues more doo-wop songs with only Christmas in mind via new long player ‘More Doo Wop Christmas Gems’. As with the first album, there’s plenty of rarities nestling between a few well-known artists featuring The Crew Cuts, The Four Imperials, Huey ‘Piano’ Smith & The Clowns and the velvet tones of Nat King Cole. Beginning with the latter artist just mentioned is not too bad a place to start given the warm, golden feel of the track ‘Mrs Santa Claus’ that revives memories of classic Hollywood movies with a Christmas theme. But if it’s something a bit more up-tempo you’re looking for, then the opening song, ‘Santa Done Got Hip’ by The Marquees provides such an example with its rhythm and blues. The Voices continue the rhythm and blues with ‘Santa Claus Boogie’, and then taking it further is the excellent ‘White Christmas Blue’ from previously mentioned Huey ‘Piano’ Smith & The Clowns who certainly has a way with dictation given the slightly unorthodox approach of his vocals. Toning things back down to a very calm and gentle pace is the ultra-smooth and classic Christmas number ‘Santa Baby’ supplied by Eartha Kitt. For our hard-earned Christmas cash though, it is the lesser-known artists/tracks from such examples as The Faces with ‘Christmas’; The Classic Four and combined sweeping strings with harmony vocals of ‘Limbo Under The Christmas Tree’, to other obscurities as The Mills Brothers ‘You Don’t Have To Be Santa Claus’ and appropriately named for this time of year The Pixies and song ‘Santa’s Too Fat For The Hula Hoop’. And who said Santa wasn’t real?! A fantastic smorgasbord of artists and tracks where classic doo wop is provided and then mingles on occasions with something closer to traditional rhythm and blues to give an outstanding performance and second addition to a wonderful Christmas album that is ‘More Doo Wop Christmas Gems’.


Released Out now

 

Meet Mrs. Santa Claus

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

It is not all about one Christmas compilation from the house of Koko Mojo because the record label has decided to issue another album with the holiday season in mind. As with its recent and unique take on Christmas via the album ‘Let’s Have A Funny Little Christmas’, Koko Mojo’s additional Christmas album release aims to provide a little something different with the album ‘Meet Mrs. Santa Claus’. By featuring female performers of the time, ‘Meet Mrs. Santa Claus’ gives a platform to those female singers who were equally as talented as their male counterparts, but also with a view of what Christmas time could be, and to share this with an audience. Made up of twenty-eight tracks, the rhythms vary from rock ‘n’ roll, early pop music, to rhythm and blues, and songs with a novelty edge. Keeping things traditional as far as the record label is concerned begins with the traditional rhythm and blues of ‘Boogie Woogie Santa Claus’ and sturdy vocals of Mabel Scott. The Del Vetts provide a moment of early 60’s girl-group pop with a request at Christmas of ‘I Want A Boy For Christmas’. It’s a catchy song and one followed by further good vocals, but with a difference, from Pearl Bailey and ‘Jingle Bells Cha-Cha-Cha’, which has combined jazz and Latin American influences. A compilation with a difference as other examples includes fit for a film score of the 50s with its “cute” phrasing and equally pleasant musical accompaniment of Alma Cogan’s ‘Mrs. Santa Claus’, to equally similar in its presentation and overall feel of a song set for the movies of ‘Sleigh Ride’ by The Andrews Sisters. There is an irresistible touch of class from Dina Washington and track ‘Ole Santa’, which is perfect company late in the evening. Loving the moniker and more so the doo-wop sound fuelled by The Nic Nacs and another touch of class ‘Gonna Have A Merry Christmas’ which, along with the majority of the tracks selected for this Christmas album, should be high on everyone’s agenda for those able to celebrate this year’s festival period. A different spin on the Christmas theme from Koko Mojo given the glut of festive albums available with many selecting the same tracks. ‘Meet Mrs. Santa Claus’ is not one of them and will provide a refreshing addition to listeners with a passion for Christmas albums.


Released Out now

 

Let’s Have A Funny Little Christmas

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

It’s Christmas time at Koko Mojo and what better way to celebrate than a Christmas album with a difference. That is the intention of The “Mojo” Man who presents: ‘Let’s Have A Funny Little Christmas’ by selecting a whole roster of Christmas songs with a difference for those listeners tired with the same old compilation albums at this special time of year. With a respectable number of tracks making up this festive album (Twenty-eight to be exact), the album ‘Let’s Have A Funny Little Christmas’ focuses on novelty when it comes to its Christmas selections. Lifting one’s spirits, therefore, in time for the festive season are the likes of rockin’ ‘Jingle Rock’ by Tommy Lee & The Orbits, even wilder Little Joey Farr and ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Santa’ and also adding The Four Imperials and notion that ‘Santa’s Got A Coupe De Ville’ rather than his usual method of travel by sleigh. From what can be described as perhaps more straight rock ‘n’ roll songs, the album takes a very interesting turn and guaranteed to raise a smile via examples from what every person desires at Christmas, ‘I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas’ from the vocals of Gayla Peevey, to what many feel at Christmas during spoken-word track ‘I Just Go Nuts At Christmas’ by household name (!) Yogi Yorgesson. Certainly, in vogue now, the always dependable for providing laughs comes tracks from inventive Stan Freburg ‘The Night Before Christmas’ and ‘Christmas Dragnet’ with Daws Butler & Orchestra featuring during the latter. If you thought those were the highlights and major oddities in the pack, then think again because the novelty goodies just keep on coming with standout performers Ray Stevens’ jittery and highly compelling ‘Santa Claus Is Watching You’, to clearly ahead of their time with first  Edd “Kookie” Byrnes’ ‘Yulesville’ revealing early signs of rap music if you listen closely to the presentation of its words, to cut-and-paste deejay radio edit of mind-blowing Mad Milo ‘Elvis For Xmas’. A wonderful, wonderful album that lives up to its billing of providing a Christmas with a difference.

 


Released Out now

 

Southern Bred: Tennessee & Arkansas R&B Rockers Vol.21

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Turning its attention to the States of Tennessee & Arkansas is the album series ‘Southern Bred R&B Rockers’. A new volume and number therefore, the lastest album in this mighty fine series gets off to a flyer with the powerhouse vocals of Little Willie John and ‘Do You Love Me’. Next track worthy of consideration is Gene Allison with ‘If Things Don’t Change’, which is less “in your face” and more restrained than Little Willie John, but is equally full of energy and contains vocals that show their range and still presented in a very similar manner to the aforementioned ‘Do You Love Me’. From rhythm and blues to a straight blues affair is Chicago Sunny Boy and ‘On The Floor’, which is an instrumental and full of piping-hot harmonica and it’s rockin’! Cecil Gant’s ‘Nashville Jumps’ is a sophisticated slice of rhythm and blues and boogie-woogie piano and complete with detailed lyrics drawing one’s attention to the speaker. In other words, fabulous! Something of rock ‘n’ roll spliced with blues shows up during Frank Frost with The Nighthawks and track ‘Now Twist’. There is more rhythm and blues greatness via Billy ‘Red’ Love and His Orchestra with ‘Drop Top’ on the Chess label and reveals itself to be an early precursor to rock ‘n’ roll. With the turn of the Willies to close this first chapter in the Tennessee & Arkansas range of albums with Little Willie John popping by once again and this time with ‘Until You Do’, before the clever combination of blues and very early rock ‘n’ roll influence of Big Willie and ‘Bogey Man’. It just keeps on getting better, the album series that is Southern Bred R&B Rockers that is.


Released Out now

 

A Drive-By Love Affair

The Kokomo Kings

Rhythm Bomb

Seeking affection is The Kokomo Kings via their new long player ‘A Drive-By Love Affair’.  Featuring great artwork and twelve new songs to peruse over, the album title suggests a more carefree attitude and with the band in something of a mischievous mood given the album’s front cover. Opening the contents, the music reveals itself to be raw and often roomy in terms of its presentations of rockin’ blues that dominates the majority of tracks present. Songs either rattle on hinges and swing in the breeze or are incendiary in their delivery like ‘The Wonder Man’; a rattle & roll burning blues number complete with slide guitar and it’s really rather terrific! ‘The Smile Of A Shark’ is Chuck Berry-esque in its delivery of rock ‘n’ roll blues and natty lyrics. ‘A Million Stars’ is the kind of track that would appeal to the likes of the Rolling Stones (Think this has been mentioned before concerning an earlier Kokomo Kings album, therefore suggesting a supporter in the camp) with its straight-ahead, no-nonsense double barrel of rock ‘n’ roll blues where feet will definitely be tapping. From there, sister song ‘Too Late To Grow Up’ reveals the band’s humorous side and their ability to not take themselves too seriously, not that the song is in anyway a throwaway number, more like a companion piece to the aforementioned ‘A Million Stars’. ‘Jump Like A Chicken’ is as jittery sounding as its title suggests and an excellent combination of blues and rockabilly. The closing, ‘Drinking Fire And Eating The Ash’ reveals itself to be a huge curiosity given its seriously raw presentation and sense of never-ending rhythm and words that leave one to ponder that someone or something has completely given up. Never ones to disappoint, The Kokomo Kings produce an album of strong compositions in ‘A Drive-By Love Affair’ with much to consider from its department of lyrics that will find you coming back for more given its rich overall feel.


Released Out now

 

Wolf Pack

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

CD two giving further coverage to the harmonica and another serious workout is the album ‘Wolf Pack’. Great artwork imagery leads one to the contents containing twenty-eight tracks of mainly blues material. There’s red-hot harmonica in abundance with, leading the way, Walter Horton and ‘Have A Good Time’, and then followed by Sonny And Jaycee ‘You Keep Dogging Me’ and Jesse Perkins and The Bad Boys ‘One More Kiss’. From there, the music continues its feisty streak with Drifting Slim and ‘My Sweet Woman’, Harper-Brinson Band with ‘Harpers Return’, Lightnin’ Slim’s ‘Rooster Blues’, and Billy Bland with ‘Chicken Hop’. Adding variation to the up-tempo numbers can be found during one of the album’s highlights that is Willie B. and nearly drifting off to sleep ‘This I Gotta See’; a song full of originality with its dreamlike qualities making it utterly essential listening. Further variation is heard via wonderful ramshackle presentation of ‘Stack Of Dollars’ from Joe Williams, before welcoming some traditional rhythm and blues during ‘I Ain’t Got No Money’ with Billy (Boy) Arnold providing compelling narration throughout. Honour of the title track is bestowed to Kid Thomas, and there are serious guitar and harmonica workouts from back-to-back songs Whispering Smith ‘Live Jive’ and Eddie Taylor ‘You’ll Always Have A Home’. There may be some familiarity here, but there is certainly plenty of less familiar tunes to make ‘Wolf Pack’ an essential purchase for those who love a bit of the blues.


Released Out now

 

Go Away

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Two albums with the harmonica in mind (The next is to follow) from Koko Mojo. First consideration is the not so amicable reception of the album title ‘Go Away’. Delving into the album contents, however, provides a less frosty reception with a mouth-watering twenty-eight tracks consisting of blues and rhythm and blues for your enjoyment. Once underway, and eventually reaching its conclusion, the latest in this album series reveals there’s not a dud track in sight. First is Willie Nix and the wiry texture of ‘Just Can’t Stay’. From there it is left to numerous quick tempos of excellent ‘Uncle Bud’ by Sonny Terry and with the harmonica providing the fuel, to genuine feel of wheels in motion via puff and smoke ‘Goin’ Back To New Orleans’ from Jesse and Buzzy, to more lively additions by way of Buster Brown and track ‘Two Women’ and Joe Hill Louis with ‘Hydramatic Woman’. It’s a real blues fest of an album to be honest with the harmonica on fine form and giving added oomph to many of the lively rhythms on offer, which leaves ‘Go Away’ as another notch on the post labelled “highest quality” of this exceptionally fine series.


Released Out now

 

The Mojo Man Presents: Money, Money, Money

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Focusing on the lives and experiences of African Americans is the themed album series presented by The Mojo Man via Koko Mojo Records. The latest addition to a remarkably interesting series, and one with a social conscience, is ‘Money, Money, Money’. With a great shot of boxing legend Muhammed Ali gracing the front cover and depicted deep below in an unnamed bank vault ready to horde a wedge load of cash, this compilation provides accounts of situations where the individual is either struggling to make ends meet or the occasional example where the individual has a bit of spare change in their pockets. With blues and rhythm and blues being the music ordered to represent these songs about money, there is no better place to start than Jerry McCain’s raw blues shuffle ‘That’s What They Want’. From this position whether returning to the beginning of the track list or fast forwarding to its end, the musical journey will not disappoint as there’s plenty of rhythm and blues to keep the listener entertained. Whether it’s the carefree attitude detected in the tempo of Detroit Junior’s ‘Money Tree’, or the brassy rhythm of The Poor Boys ‘(I’m Gonna) Spend My Money’, rhythm and blues is certainly the dominant force throughout the album. With Georgia Lane really letting it out of the bag with the feisty composition ‘Get It’, to Dwight Duvoll dropping deep vocals and thoroughly convincing when explaining how to ‘Get The Money’ set to a bright rhythm with, again, plenty of brass instrumentation and proving a real driving force. Add to that a classic from The Clovers with ‘Your Cash Ain’t Nothing But Trash’ and further cool brass instrumentation by way of Billy Hamlin and ‘If You Ain’t Got No Bread’, and the album ‘Money, Money, Money’ can safely be said is worth exactly all of that and more!

 


Released Out now

 

The Mojo Man Presents: Soldier Boy

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

The next volume in the themed series focusing on the experiences of African Americans and their roles in society arrives on Koko Mojo with, once more, the Mojo Man presenting. This time it is the experience of African American soldiers to be detailed in the album’s liner notes who fought for their country yet were denied equal rights as citizens back home. The collection of songs featured during the album ‘Soldier Boy’ offers plenty of accounts of the “blues” experienced while away overseas in combat or the struggles mentally that came with it once a war was over. Such examples can be heard during excellent late-night piano barroom blues of ‘End O’ War Blues’ from Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers that sheds plenty of tears, to another tearjerker supplied by the magnificent vocals of Jerry Butler and song ‘A Lonely Soldier’. Further isolated incidents where loneliness tends to follow during such stressful and tragic times can be heard via the smoky jazz and blues feel of “Hot Lips” Page’s Hot Seven and ‘Uncle Sams Blues’. Picking up the tempo, if not the mood, is Lloyd Price with ‘Mailman Blues’, which is a lively rhythm and blues number. The album ‘Soldier Boy’ possesses much character and expressed by the songs making up this collection, which is essential given the seriousness of the subject matter here. Therefore, expect to hear plenty of great vocal performances from the likes of Bobby John with ‘Lonely Soldier’, and same song title at least from the harmonious vocals of The Illusions and also The Montells during ‘Soldier Boy’. There is even room for some off kilter blues via Brownie McGhee and ‘Swing, Soldier, Swing’. Capturing many different emotions and emitting these feelings via its collection of songs is the rather good album ‘Soldier Boy’.


Released Out now

 

The Mojo Man Presents: Off To Work

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

A new album theme arrives at Koko Mojo and one that focuses on the workplace. Presented by The Mojo Man, ‘Off To Work’ the album is not a celebratory piece about how wonderful work is, but an album that specifically concentrates on the conditions and experiences that African Americans have had to endure over the years whether enslavement (Oscar Brown Jr ‘Work Song’) and, in many cases today, lack of opportunities and poor working conditions. Without this collection of songs being a political vehicle, it is left to the album’s liner notes to provide more of such details. ‘Off To Work’ is the African American experience of work given the black rhythm and blues and blues artists featured on this album, but the songs reflect universal themes of low wages, long hours, problem bosses and the unfortunate prospect of being unemployed that many of us can experience during our working lives. Focusing on the music therefore, age-old themes of the Monday morning blues can be heard via two back-to-back numbers from Smiley Lewis and Fats Domino and, you guessed it, ‘Blue Monday’. From there, Louis Jordan provides the big band treatment to ‘Workin’ Man’, and then there’s John Lee Hooker relaying a captivating story of ‘I Lost My Job’ that sounds like lines from a script for a movie set to an old blues score, a truly wonderful track! With a further detailed turn from B.K. Anderson (‘The Minimum Wage’), and two tracks where the guitars equally do the talking via reliable Chuck Berry (‘Let It Rock’) and Lightnin’ Hopkins (‘Don’t Need No Job’), the album ‘Off To Work’ is a fascinating insight and listening experience of such a specific role in society.



Back To Top