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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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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’.


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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Rhythm & Western Volume 2: Your Cheatin’ Heart

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Not a straightforward Country & Western album series, but one with a different take on the genre that sees the categories of rhythm and blues and C&W colliding whether directly in terms of musical representation or purely by song title and words of a song. Saddling up for the next volume of ‘Rhythm & Western’, this one is aimed straight at the emotions and classic Hank Williams territory of that condition known as a broken heart. Far from being a miserable experience in terms of listening, ‘Volume 2 – Your Cheatin’ Heart’ is certainly on the “emotional downside” in terms of its (appropriate) song titles e.g. ‘It Makes No Difference Now’ (Ray Charles), ‘Long Gone’ (Eartha Kitt) and ‘I Wanna Be Loved’ (The Lovers) for example, but when it comes to many of the songs the rhythms are lively. Take for example Clyde McPhatter and his fleet-footed version of Hank Snow’s ‘I’m Movin’ On’, or bigger band representation of ‘Whiskey, Women & Loaded Dice’ by Joe Liggins And His “Honeydrippers”. It’s such songs here that are more in vein of rhythm and blues than C&W but, as mentioned in our review of Volume 1, the album series ‘Rhythm & Western’ is not just a vehicle of direct representation of country music by African American artists because the album series is much more than that. The melding of rhythm and blues and C&W works admirably during ‘Night Train To Memphis’ where you can even hear the influence of gospel during its up-tempo rhythm that is unfussy and vocals that mirror this by Bobby Hebb. There’s a relaxed feel to Lou Rawls’ ‘If He Holds Your Hand’ that is typical of that early 60s country sound where there was a certain gloss to the overall production. The title track, ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’, is left to King Curtis who knows how to turn a song on its head and offer a unique take on the Hank Williams classic that has more in common with Ben E. King’s ‘Stand By Me’. With “Little” Esther Phillips adding the tearjerker ‘Why Should We Try Anymore’ and add to that Ruth Brown ‘I Burned Your Letter’, before finally closing the album with The Big Three Trio and their interesting take on ‘Cigareets, Whuskey & Wild Women’, then you can safely say that all the drama often associated with country music is contained within the grooves of ‘Rhythm & Western Volume 2 – Your Cheatin’ Heart’.


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Rhythm & Western Volume 1: When Two Worlds Collide

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Drumming up a new idea on the Koko Mojo label is The Mojo Man with a planned-five-series set of CDs featuring African American musicians performing country and western music. The songs selected are either classic C&W songs or songs that were issued as rhythm and blues at this time in history since they were not performed by a white artist. The album series ‘Rhythm & Western Volume 1 – When Two Worlds Collide’ will hopefully restore some form of balance by offering a platform for those African American artists who produced C&W music during the 50s and early 60s by showcasing their songs that were otherwise given less exposure and deemed unsuitable for said genre of music. With twenty-eight tracks to get the musical message across and offer an insight to the sounds of African Americans performing C&W, then the collision of rhythm and blues with country music is an apt title to begin this series. First up is The Hurricanes with ‘Pistol Packin’ Mama’ and is not only a fine introduction but also representative of typical Koko Mojo fare by being a straight up rhythm and blues track, which may leave some wondering about the song’s inclusion, but there’s more to this compilation with songs touching upon C&W influences and themes and sometimes that’s in the style of rhythm and blues. Providing the first “Yee-haw!” moment is next in the queue Long John Hunter with ‘Ole Rattler’. It’s the first stab at C&W here and is wonderfully endearing in its “rattling” instrumentation assembled and just about holding together via some sticky tape and charismatic vocals from Long John Hunter. Interestingly as well, you can hear the rhythm and blues faintly in the background, yet this is certainly more C&W. Brook Benton saunters across the prairie in fine fashion with the spoken word novelty ‘The Boll Weevil Song’, and such a performance extends to another notable performance by Scatman Crothers ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’ offering his version of this much covered C&W track. Once the album reaches its conclusion, the overall impression is that the lines between rhythm and blues and C&W are certainly blurred yet rhythm and blues often edges things where it’s more about the “mood” of a song that is fitting of a country style rather than the actual genre it’s performed in; hence the inclusion of classic country material fodder ‘Maybelline’ (Chuck Berry); ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’ (Fats Domino), and ‘Sleep On The Porch’ (The Stewart Brothers).


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Sadie’s Gentlemen’s Club Visit 05. Branded

Various Artists

Atomicat

It has been a while since the last visit to ‘Sadie’s Gentlemen’s Club’ but here we are again, and expectations are high given the sheer quality of said previous visit proving to be the most memorable yet. The last encounter proved delightful for living up to its billing creating much “Ecstasy” via its glorious track choices arranged by Mark Armstrong. Latest album, with its additional heading “Branded”, sees a different atmosphere created once more that provides light and shade from it numerous grooves. Highlighting such differences are tracks such as the lively rhythm and blues from Otis Riley and likely contender to become tongue-tied in its pronunciation, ‘Little Miss Bibbity Bobbity Boom’, that is full of optimism. Ditto the electric blues guitar of Otis Rush and introduction of that early sixties sound of ‘I’m Satisfied’ that sounds effortless in its enthusiastic delivery such is the talent behind this song. From these two candidates positioning themselves to be album winners, Bobby Day with album opener ‘My Blue Heaven’ is another contender for such accolades where his vocal alone is enough to drive this feelgood number. There are songs that reflect its period with the introduction of the atomic age and imaginatively represented by Chance Halladay and ’13 Women’. Mary Ann Fisher flips this position via excellent ‘It’s A Man’s World’ where her vocals really own the song. Richie Robin stumps up the album’s title track and provides a vocal turn that may not be the strongest yet makes up for it due to its unconventional qualities, which are appropriate for the setting of Sadie’s Gentlemen’s Club. It is such tracks along with other diversified songs as The Hollywood’s harmonious pop ‘Chicks Hey, Little Gigolo’, always upbeat Chubby Checker and ‘Dancin’ Party’, sultry popcorn Don Lanier ‘Need Your Loving’, and famous names dropping in with Marilyn Monroe and ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’, and it all makes for one interesting night out. With the final word given to Dinah Washington and ‘Teach Me Tonight’, then ‘Sadie’s Gentlemen’s Club Visit 05. Branded’ ends in perfect style.


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Sweet Dreams Forever

Various Artists

Atomicat

An album to commemorate four major stars of country and western music who died in tragic circumstances is issued by Atomicat Records and under the banner ‘Sweet Dreams Forever’. The four country stars celebrated by this album release are Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas, Randy Hughes, and Hawkshaw Hawkins who lost their lives in 1963 when a small plane they were travelling in crashed on their way back to Nashville after a concert. With country music losing such talented musicians, their music remains alive and well and worthy of such tributes bestowed upon them such as Atomicat’s ‘Sweet Dreams Forever’. It remains the sweetest of dreams with the album coming in a threefold digipak complete with tasteful, and representative of its time, poster design, with the rest left for Dee Jay Mark Armstrong who supplies the liner notes and track list. Focusing on the songs, those that feature is taken from the years 1948 to 1962, with this being prime up-tempo country and western music of course and most definitely the authentic kind! With all four country stars – Hawkshaw Hawkins, Cowboy Copas, Patsy Cline, and Randy Hughes sharing the same billing, the album, ‘Sweet Dreams Forever’, divides their tracks, but is done based on the year of each song release. Chronologically selected therefore, the songs chosen beginning in 1948 as mentioned above, with Hawkshaw Hawkins making the opening appearance with the fine ‘Dog House Boogie’ that should be considered prototype rockabilly. From this position, Cowboy Copas present C&W ‘Hangman’s Boogie’, before sidestepping and making way for Randy Hughes and His Band and fascinating, not to mention ahead of its time anecdote of the ‘Tattooed Lady’, which raises further intrigue given there is no writer assigned to this song. A quick perusal of the song list suggests Randy Hughes edges it with most of the songs for this collection, with more brilliant examples as the romantic ‘My Little Country Rose’, hillbilly boogie ‘Tapping That Thing’, and another eccentricity on the back of local homebrew ‘When Elephants Start To Roost In Trees’. The rest of the album then ping-pongs between Hawkshaw Hawkins, Cowboy Copas, and Patsy Cline, with the latter artist performing trademark ‘Walkin’ After Midnight’ and established ‘Stop, Look And Listen’ which surely gave those rockabilly cats a run for their money with its sharp, snappin’ rhythm and strong, dominant vocals. Excellent performances all round, with a good representation of their works considering there is only twenty-nine tracks to do so, ‘Sweet Dreams Forever’ is therefore a remarkable album and one that remembers these four stars of country music in style, not to mention offering terrific value for your money. Essential listening.


Released 1 April

 

Sadie’s Gentlemen’s Club Visit 04. Ecstasy

Various Artists

Atomicat

Preparation for the next visit to ‘Sadie’s Gentlemen’s Club Visit 04. Ecstasy’ involves songs chosen to bring joy to those who inhabit such establishments where the music will thrill, excite, and provide much pleasure and create an overall state of “Ecstasy”. That looks set to be a done deal for those entering ‘Sadie’s Gentlemen’s Club Visit 04. Ecstasy’ where from its attractive layout created by Gito Lima and housed via trifold digipak with the songs compiled by Mark Armstrong, the feeling is that any visitor is already in safe hands. Beginning the evening’s proceedings with a Ray Charles and His Orchestra number and one that should be known to all, ‘Hit The Road Jack’, provides further reassurance that “Visit 04” will live up to its previous visits (albums). The sweeping orchestral strings backing Jamie Coe’s ‘Cleopatra’ is the kind of track such albums as ‘Sadie’s…’ was built for, given its flamboyant and noirish flavours, not to mention suitability for a 60s film score. Next up is Chuck Daniels and The Downbeats with ‘Tiny Tim’, which is an excellent slice of popcorn with its mood intentionally underplayed. The greatness continues via personal touch of ‘Cry To Me’ with a sublime performance by Solomon Burke, and then more fine vocals from The Chantels and ‘Well, I Told You’. New experiences for some punters can be heard during compelling Sam Butera and song ‘Equator’; a song fascinating for its approach that is one moment pared back with strong vocals driving, then more of a full band sound joining in, and ends up sounding authentic as it does thoroughly modern. There’s no doubting the origins of Bull Moose Jackson’s traditional rhythm and blues ‘I Want A Bowlegged Woman’, likewise the excellent turn from Wynonie Harris with ‘Bite Again, Bite Again’ which is among the highlights of many throughout this latest album. Add to that instrumental ‘Drumble’ from interestingly named Dennis and The Menaces, and a title track offering from always reliable Ben E. King, without neglecting appropriate for the album ‘Pills’ from Bo Diddley, and there is ecstasy supplied on many, many levels during the fourth visit to the engaging club known as “Sadie’s Gentlemen’s Club”.


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Sadie’s Gentlemen’s Club Visit 03. Taboo

Various Artists

Atomicat

Third visit to the club many people are currently talking about, and that being “Sadie’s Gentlemen’s Club” where the topics of discussion are those of a forbidden nature and likely to offend. Thankfully, it is the music from this nocturnal establishment which does the talking with some songs in this context relaying stories with content some may find distasteful, unthinkable, and certainly off-limits given the subheading of “Taboo” attached to this album. A song about drinking fits the bill perfectly and sets up another evening’s worth of entertainment at ‘Sadie’s Gentlemen’s Club Visit 03. Taboo’ with the rhythm and blues of ‘Let’s Drink Some Whiskey’ via Al Jackson. From this atmospheric party song, Lucky Millinder with Sister Rosetta Tharpe tone it down a notch with the power emanating from the vocals and the big band orchestra more restrained yet without losing any influence as the subject of the song aims to get to grips with the new sensation of rock ‘n’ roll. The instrumental ‘Blue Mambo’ is the kind of rhythm and blues exotica you’d expect to hear frequenting any such establishment as Sadie’s Gentlemen’s Club given its rhythmic flair and therefore suitability for late-night festivities. Don Johnston ‘The Whipmaster’ offers something different and is a skewered hybrid of rock ‘n’ roll with country and western flavours in terms of its rhythm with a noirish tale of revenge that sees the protagonist serving time. Fantastic track and one that will hopefully see more of his work crop up on other compilations. From such depths of despair comes light and can be found with album closer ‘King’s Highway’ with the vocals of Bobby Day providing optimism and hopeful redemption for those who’ve entered ‘Sadie’s Gentlemen’s Club Visit 03. Taboo’. The only difficulty being, that once you enter for a third visit, it’s going to be difficult to leave given the compelling nature of the music and all its wonderful variety.


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Spotlight On Jackie Wilson – Mr. Excitement

Jackie Wilson

Koko Mojo

Another album in the Koko Mojo “Spotlight Series” that focuses on individual artists who have contributed much to music’s historical past is Jackie Wilson. Given the extra moniker “Mr. Excitement” because of his lively stage manner when performing live, the legend that was Jackie Wilson gave much to rhythm and blues, rock ‘n’ roll and early soul music. Album compiler Mark Armstrong gets to work once more and brings another twenty-eight tracks for your listening pleasure. The album showcases Jackie Wilson’s extraordinary operatic tenor vocal, and features his stint with Billy Ward and The Dominoes, before going on to perform as a solo artist. All is featured during ‘Spotlight On Jackie Wilson – Mr. Excitement’ with added liner notes providing details of Wilson’s career, and housed in an environmentally sound digipak. Turning attention to the playlist, with tracks selected from a ten-year period, it is Billy Ward and The Dominoes that kickstarts this album. Having replaced Clyde McPhatter as the vocalist in Billy Ward’s Dominoes in 1953, Jackie Wilson is heard as part of this setup during the first six numbers with, in particular, ‘St Louis Blues’ and ‘Learning The Blues’ demanding special praise. From excellent beginnings, the rest of this collection switches to Wilson’s solo performances from 1957, including the smash hit ‘Reet Petite (The Finest Girl You Ever Want To Meet)’, which brought him much fame and was reissued in the 80s securing #1 on the UK Singles Chart. However, there is more to Jackie Wilson than this one track, with examples as the ballad-esque ‘I Know I’ll Always Be In Love With You’, larger-than-life rhythm and blues of ‘Baby Workout’, to pop tendencies of ‘Love Train’, musically colourful ‘I’m Comin’ On Back To You’ and, as with many of his performances, charismatic ‘The Joke (Is Not On Me)’. With Brunswick housing most of the solo recordings, Jackie Wilson made a name for himself not only because of his incredible voice, but also for displaying skills as a songwriter and for his duet performances with Linda Hopkins featured during the end of this collection. All three songs performed with Linda Hopkins are absolute belters and could easily charge the national electricity grid given the astonishing power of both singers. Revealing itself to be a fascinating, not to mention important set of albums is Koko Mojo’s “Spotlight Series” given its norm of not adhering to predictable formulas when compiling such albums, but also serving as a reminder of incredible performers as the magnificent Jackie Wilson.


Released 1 April

 

Spotlight On Sam Cooke – Movin’ and Groovin’ with Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke

Koko Mojo

It was probably about time that Koko Mojo released an album’s worth of material to show appreciation for the musical legend that was Sam Cooke. Arriving in a three-fold digipak complete with CD and liner notes and a twenty-eight song setlist all written by, and compiled by Dee Jay Mark Armstrong, and with artwork produced by Urban Zotel, the quality is already high. The tracks themselves reach back as far as 1951 and beginning with The Soul Stirrers featuring Sam Cooke and highlights two nonsecular tracks with the second lifted from 1954. From this early part of Cooke’s career, time moves quickly in terms of this compilation and picks up once more in 1958 and showcases several of Sam Cooke’s solo performances with songs ‘Win Your Love For Me’, ‘Running Wild’, I’ve Got A Right To Sing The Blues’, and title of this album ‘Movin’ And Groovin’. That, of course, is but a small selection of what is on offer here as the setlist flits between examples of solo material, before dipping back into The Soul Stirrers but this time with Jimmy Outler takin up lead (‘Jesus Be A Fence Around Me’), and ditto Paul Foster (‘He’s Been A Shelter For Me’), and with Sam Cooke assuming song writing and additional song writing duties. With much of the track list stemming from late 50s and early 60s and including well-known songs ‘Little Red Rooster’, ‘Shake, Rattle And Roll’, ‘The Twist’, there is also plenty of variety with previously mentioned gospel but traditional standards as ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ and further additions featuring The Falcons, Johnnie Taylor, and The Simms Twins that once again showcases Sam Cooke’s prowess as a songwriter. A very fine overview of a supreme talent who has received much recognition for his work, but this time with a little extra something else by way of Koko Mojo’s Spotlight series and, on this occasion, ‘Movin’ and Groovin’ with Sam Cooke’.



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