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Blink Before Christmas

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Arriving just in time for Christmas is the compilation ‘Blink Before Christmas’ from Koko Mojo. With a series of songs based on the usual and not so usual yuletide themes, and backed with traditional rhythm and blues, the thirty tracks selected offer much choice. From happy beginnings via James “Sugar Boy” Crawford and ‘White Christmas’, to humorous tale of an inebriated ‘Santa Claus Came Home Drunk’ by Clyde Lasley, ‘Blink Before Christmas’ immediately suggests not only a carefully selected playlist but one that will deviate from the norm to provide a different perspective of the Christmas festivities. With big names offering their musical wares such as B.B. King (‘Christmas Celebration’), Louis Armstrong (‘Zat You, Santa Claus?’), to superbly told narratives involving ‘Santa’s Secret’ (Johnny & Slam) and a rockin’ Santa Claus as featured by The Voices’ ‘Santa Claus Boogie’ and Babs Gonzales ‘Rock and Roll Santa Claus’. However, the main present arrives during delightful talkie that is the album’s title track, compellingly told by Phil Moore, making this a truly wonderful Christmas present for any record collection.


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The Twelve Rockin’ Days Of Christmas

Various Artists

Atomicat

Labelled ‘The Grown-Up Christmas’, ‘The Twelve Rockin’ Days Of Christmas’ is an apt description considering the period of the music selected that’s not going to appeal to your average teenager in the current scheme of things. The millennials loss is the “grown-ups” gain as ‘The Twelve Rockin’ Days Of Christmas’ unveils a combination of rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues just in time for the festive season. Take your pick from such rockin’ delights featuring The Sabers’ ‘A Cool, Cool Christmas’ that is a cool swinging rhythm and blues sound, ditto Otis Williams and His Charms ‘Little Turtle Dove’, to the blues guitars of The Jive-A-Tones’ ‘Wild Bird’ and perky ‘Reindeer Rock’ via The Sportsmen. A smooth compelling tone arrives via Big Joe Turner with ‘Christmas Date Boogie’, and Tiny Topsy’s ‘Ring Around My Finger’ sounds larger than the performer behind it. A different version of ‘Rocking Goose’ arrives by Steve Stannard but, unfortunately, it’s the song rather than any artist behind it that grates, with the same fate falling to Bobby Helms’ ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’. Fortunately, there’s much to feel merry about with this compilation with a string of country influenced songs from Hank Snow ‘Reindeer Boogie’, Reece Shipley & The Rainbow Valley Boys’ ‘Milk Bucket Boogie’, before flicking the switch back to normal service of stonking rhythm and blues from Jack Hammer and ‘Girl, Girl, Girl’.


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When The Clock Chimes Twelve

Various Artists

Atomicat

Making early preparations for the festivities that lie in wait is the new compilation from Atomicat ‘When The Clock Chimes Twelve’. Featuring various artists from the 50s such as Sonny Burgess, Etta James and Ray Charles among others, the celebratory feel of the music is what you’d expect this time of year but there’s plenty to suggest that it’s far from predictable. With the likes of Link Ray & His Wraymen’s compelling yet far from high on celebrations ‘Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby’, to Bob And Lucille’s emotionally distraught ‘Demon Lover’, and further enhanced by Big Mama Thornton’s roaring vocals during ‘I Smell A Rat’, this compilation is definitely for a party with a difference! Engaging from start to finish, ‘When The Clock Chimes Twelve’ offers so much choice and variation while remaining loyal to the genres of rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues and providing some real gems from previously mentioned Sonny Burgess (‘Ain’t Got A Thing’), Red Smiley & The Vel-Tones featuring Clint West and track, ‘Take A Ride’. If you want true celebration, then look no further than ‘Hand Clappin’ Time’ supplied by Gino with Johnny Greek. For those looking for a soundtrack with a difference to fuel a party with a difference, ‘When The Clock Chimes Twelve’ is worth obtaining.


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Southern Bred: Mississippi R&B Rockers Vol.5

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Helping to spread the gospel when it comes to traditional blues and rhythm and blues is the latest edition of ‘Southern Bred: Mississippi R&B Rockers Vol.5’. Stretching out its creative offerings with twenty-eight tracks, volume five opens its account with a sure-fire winner by Little Junior Parker & His Blue Flames and ‘My Baby’. The setlist continues to impress and largely with familiar pickings from Bo Diddley and super raucous ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll’, to lovely skeletal delivery from Rufus Thomas and ‘Bear Cat’. Then it’s a toss of a coin, not as a means of deciding where, if any, the strengths and weaknesses lie, more in terms of the lesser known artists rubbing shoulders with the more established. The quality in music never deteriorates as a result of this where Wolf Call Boogie provides the diamond in the pack in a compelling style of rambling blues, vocals and words via ‘Hot Shot Love’, to what sounds like it’s coming from a tiny transistor radio from Snooky Pryor with ‘Boogie Twist’, and then delivering on all levels with quality offerings from Sam Cooke (‘Mary, Mary Lou’), Otis Rush (‘Satisfied’) and B.B. King ‘Bim Bam’. Another volume and another successful formula of blues and rhythm and blues as far as ‘Southern Bred: Mississippi R&B Rockers Vol.5’ goes.


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Southern Bred: Mississippi R&B Rockers Vol.4

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Lining up for round four of the so far impressive series is ‘Southern Bred: Mississippi R&B Rockers Vol. 4’. With a massive twenty-eight tracks to contend with, volume four of this series others a mixture of established names who graced these genres as well as those lost to obscurity. Tending to shuffle the pack when listening to such compilations, instant fixes soon arrive via the excellent rhythm and blues of Little Johnny Jones And The Chicago Hound Dogs with ‘I May Be Wrong’, to the harmonica-filled ‘Shake -A- My Hand’ and more than qualified Doctor Ross. Other delights springing from the grooves of this long player can be found via impatient and punchy rhythm of Magic Sam’s ‘Love Me With A Feeling’, and then solid ‘Built For Comfort’ by Willie Dixon who also applies a touch of class during ‘Slim’s Thing’ that’s peppered with jazz influences. There’s room for the female artists as well with Betty Everett providing fine vocals on ‘My Love’, to an altogether different yet equally stunning vocal delivery from Howlin’ Wolf that sounds dipped in a combined pot of treacle and bourbon and coming up with ‘Wang-Dang-Doodle’ for example. There’s not a dud track to be had here as the various artists selected for ‘Southern Bred: Mississippi R&B Rockers Vol.4’ maintain a high level of quality via a mixture of blues and rhythm and blues.


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Dirty Thirty

B. B. & The Blues Shacks

Rhythm Bomb

A three-disc deluxe digipack arriving from prolific blues masters B.B. & The Blues Shacks. With a career spanning thirty years, hence the ‘Thirty’ of its title, the material selected features two of the band’s previous albums – ‘Come Along’ (2012) and Businessmen (2014) – and a third album, ‘Dirty Thirty’, consisting of entirely new songs. Since the band’s inception (1989), there’s every reason to celebrate considering B.B. & The Blues Shacks popularity and dominance throughout Europe when it comes to the blues market. With both ‘Come Along’ and Business Men receiving a fresh lick of paint by way of remastering, there’s every reason to celebrate this 30th anniversary whether enjoying the breezy, blues-rock ‘True Love In Vain’, reflective ballad ‘If I Should Ever Lose Your Love’, last chance saloon ambience of ‘Get My Stuff Together’, expertly portrayed in the vocals department, and not forgetting the sizable impression the likes of ‘Pardon Me’, ‘Rain All Down My Way’, ‘It Was A Dream’ make after only one sitting! There’s really no reason for any complaints here. The inclusion of new material suggests B.B. & The Blues Shacks has no intention of giving up the blues, and why should they when there’s much quality to be heard from the likes of the downright raw and dirty blues of ‘Rambling Kind’ that continues its tumbling slide into ‘Three Handed Woman’, before finally gaining composure with sophisticated jazzy-blues stroll ‘I Run For You’.  B.B. & The Blues Shacks celebrate in serious style with ‘Dirty Thirty’ and suggest, on more than one occasion, there’s plenty of mileage to go before the next anniversary.


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Black Halloween – Bo Diddley Is A Zombie!

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

It’s that time of year again when the ghosts, ghoulies, skeletons and zombies have finished their laundry and ready themselves for the annual celebration that is Halloween. Arriving just in time for the ghoulish festivities is a new compilation to shakedown those dancing limbs from Koko Mojo. With a track list providing a new slant on this rockin’ theme with black artists from the genres of blues, rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll. One aspect worth celebrating here, apart from the exciting music on offer, is the focus on less obvious tracks to celebrate this time of year. With no time for the obligatory Screamin’ Jay Hawkins ‘I Put A Spell On You’, what the listener receives instead is the same artist but with equally compelling ‘Frenzy’, complete with cartoon vocal expressions setting up this compilation for more great expectations. ‘Black Halloween: Bo Didley Is A Zombie’ certainly delivers with more measured, yet equally thrilling performances by the likes of Lord Luther and ‘(I Was A) Teenage Creature, The Hollywood Flames’ ‘Frankenstein’s Den’, and wonderfully bluesy-trippy version of ‘The Shadow Knows’ from The Coasters. With Johnny Fuller assuming a plucky stance in relation to ‘Haunted House’, to soulful numbers from Ike Turner, The Cadillacs and The Naturals, not to mention more predictable entry from Bo Diddley (‘Who Do You Love?’) who manages to bag the front cover despite appearances looking a tad unhealthy. Of course, no rockin’ Halloween album is complete without its eccentricities and this arrives upon its conclusion with intriguing Philly Joe Jones’ ‘Blues For Dracula’. Clearly, it’s not only the living who are rockin’ because there’s enough evidence to suggest the dead are enjoying the dance via ‘Black Halloween: Bo Didley Is A Zombie’.


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Motorvatin’: 28 Songs From The Green Book Era

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Arriving straight on the heels of volume one is the second compilation album, ‘Motorvatin’: 28 Songs From The Green Book Era’. Being compiled once more by Little Victor Mac, volume two follows in the same footsteps with songs about cars and relationships set to a rockin’ backdrop. It’s a wild collection with the familiar names of Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Didley and Jackie Brenston making appearances, but there’s something a little different with more of an “edge” to some of the songs where the horrors of driving are relayed in pileups, traffic jams and additional highways than the usual Route 66. In fact, it’s all here as volume two provides a few leftfield moments, offering fascinating insights of motoring during this particular era with, for example, such futuristic slants as ‘Your Car Machine’ (Guitar Tommy Moore) or tales retold of ‘Drunk Driver’s Coming’ by Richard Bros. Add the emotionally charged ‘Car Crash’ (The Cadets) and mischievous ‘Radar’ (Mr. Bear and his Bearcats) to the list, and it’s safe to suggest that such themes and imaginative performances are sadly a thing of the past. No matter as ‘Motorvatin’: 28 Songs From The Green Book Era’ will help to relive those former “golden” glories.


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Motorvatin’: 28 Songs From The Green Book Era

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Compiling numerous artists from the golden age of American music, with a hefty slice of rhythm and blues, comes ‘Motorvatin’: 28 Songs From The Green Book Era’. With The Mojo Man (aka Little Victor Mac) overseeing the track selection and dedicating the first instalment to Victor Hugo Green, who was responsible for producing The Green Book, which served as a travel guide to African Americans during an era of racial segregation in the United States. With America in the 50s enjoying a burgeoning car industry, not to mention a developing music scene that was equally as exciting and wild as the designs of the cars, ‘Motorvatin’: 28 Songs From The Green Book Era’ provides a history lesson and reminder of this period. It doesn’t take any real searching to discover a whole host of established names and tracks with the likes of Chuck Berry (‘Maybellene’), Jackie Brenston (‘Rocket “88”’), Lightnin’ Hopkins (‘Big Black Cadillac’), Bo Didley (‘Cadillac’) and Smiley Lewis (‘Too Many Drivers’). The inclusion of The Medallions charismatic delivery of ’59 Volvo’ is a worthy companion for any journey, with a return trip booked consisting of Wynonie Harris’s absorbing commentary during ‘Fishtail Blues’, followed by neat and tidy rhythm of Oscar McLollie’s ‘Roll Hot Rod Roll’. It’s a blast from start to finish with tales of new and exciting car designs, intertwined with tales of relationships set to an enthralling combination of rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll. Off to a great start, ‘Motorvatin’: 28 Songs From The Green Book Era’ is a worthy addition to anyone’s music collection.


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Southern Bred: Mississippi R&B Rockers Vol.3

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Coming back for round three is ‘Southern Bred: Mississippi R&B Rockers Vol.3’. With a whole host of names ranging from Willie Dixon to Bo Diddley, you can expect to hear some familiarity with this current volume in this excellent series. There are, however, some artists making appearances that may be less known, with the intriguing moniker Smokey Smothers and superb raw blues ‘I’ve Been Drinking Muddy Water’ that suggests great hardships of the time. Elsewhere, Little Johnny Jones’ ‘Hoy Hoy’ contains a finger clicking rhythm that is a balance of rough and smooth edges and a vocal that sounds effortless such is its alluring power. Dusting down the blues further, and living up to his namesake, is Dusty Brown, who provides a compelling turn with near primitive ‘Hurry Home’ complete with harmonica. Simplicity is given a push during The Earthworms’ (Little Milton and Oliver Sain) ‘Fishtail’ that is fuller sounding and offers an instrumental track. By providing a good balance between the previously mentioned established artists with quieter profiles, ‘Southern Bred: Mississippi R&B Rockers Vol.3’ continues where its preceding volumes left off, by offering more quality blues tracks.


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I’m A Woman: Underestimation Is A Bad Mistake

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Feel free to arrive at your own conclusion, but much truth can be gleaned from latest compilation in the Koko Mojo rhythm and blues series where the female voice gets a chance to shine and offer a reminder to those who thought it was all about the boys showing the rest of us how to rock. Think again as ‘I’m A Woman: Underestimation Is A Bad Mistake’ provides enough clues by its title alone, but it is the music that speaks volumes. There are songs reflecting on love with Donna Hightower coming up with the sassy rhythm and blues ‘He’s My Baby’, followed appropriately with high-spirited numbers ‘I Feel Like A Million’ (Mamie Bradley) and ‘My Man’ (Dolly Cooper). Jealousy runs its course, as do feelings of loss and regret with compelling examples provided by Varetta Dillard, Irma Thomas and Little Mary. Highlight of the album, however, is reserved for the earth tremor of ‘Fast Life’ with Bonnie ‘Bombshell’ Lee’s vocals shaking the very foundations of this compilation. With a fine wit, and showing great respect in the liner notes by Little Victor, ‘I’m A Woman: Underestimation Is A Bad Mistake’ is an album all rockin’ fans should own as it serves not only as a perfect example of genuine talent at work, but also serves as an important reminder that female artists of the 50s were on a par with their male counterparts, despite less coverage. Underestimation is indeed a bad mistake to make.


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When You Find Love You’re Feelin’ Good

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Setting up for a theme focusing on love is the latest compilation from Koko Mojo Records, ‘When You Find Love You’re Feelin’ Good’. Filled with a whopping twenty-eight tracks and featuring some well-known names as The Cadillacs, Little Junior Parker, Clyde McPhatter and Howlin’ Wolf. Considering the established stars here, the music is of a consistent quality of mainly rhythm and blues and doo-wop. If you’re searching for such reassurance, then Little Junior Parker’s toss of a coin ‘Feelin’ Good’ and ‘Feelin’ Bad’, more or less bookending each side of this compilation, is up there with the best of them; a delicious combination of running word commentary and vocals to melt the coldest of hearts, not to mention the pinpoint blues sound that gives a simplistic impression in terms of its delivery yet is far from any such notion. Tracks of the album with no hesitation. Of course, the abundance of music on offer provides more than enough runners to shade second place including The Jive Five’s energetic ‘Do You Hear Wedding Bells’, rockn’ blues of J.B. Lenoir’s ‘I Have Married’, fine rhythm and blues of ‘Crazy Bells’ courtesy of Julie Stevens and the Premiers, and topped off with compelling and altogether different approach of ‘Wedding Boogie’ via the Johnny Otis Congregation. Just don’t expect the positive feelings to last however, as the downturn in emotions tumbles sharply but the quality remains on high when you’ve got Roy Hamilton’s golden vocals on your side!



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