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Cliffie Stone – The Legendary Capitol Records Double Bassist And More!

Various Artists

Atomicat

With two previous titles bestowed to the greatness of Grady Martin and more recently Billy Strange, third album in this current series focuses on the work of Cliffie Stone. An absolute mountain of a man in more ways than one, the musical qualities of Cliffie Stone were not simply confined to his instrument of choice, the double bass, no, because in fact Stone was involved in five bands, performed vocals on many occasions, and managed to get the best out of his fellow musicians in the recording studio because of his creative skills, and for being a likeable figure due to his outgoing personality. Working wonders in the recording studio certainly paid off, and detailed here during the first eight tracks, with Stone leading the charge via different line-ups whether His Hepcats, His Orchestra or His Hometown Jamboree Gang. With Country and Western being the musical path trodden by Cliffie Stone for many of the songs, there are noticeable inclusions of big band influences to ‘Sugar Rock ‘n’ Roll’ for example. The inclusion of Bill Monroe classic ‘Blue Moon Of Kentucky’ will gain the attention of those with a keen ear considering a certain “King” who made a rather fine cover of this very same song. From there, expect instrumentals as ‘The Last Round – Up’, and songs with humour as the recently restored life of a bachelor ‘Dirty Dishes’, to nonstop food consumption of country ditty ‘Roly Poly’. With this album being an album of two halves, Stone’s involvement is that of several different guises where additional country musicians made their mark from Merle Travis to Hank Thompson, Skeets McDonald, and the uniquely named Shug Fisher to provide only a small handful of those Stone worked with and inspired. With so much music to his name, ‘Cliffie Stone – The Legendary Capitol Records Double Bassist And More!’ is only the tip of a large body of work, but one that offers a glimpse of an exceptionally large talent.


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Southern Bred: Texas R&B Rockers Vol.12

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

The quality continues via ‘Southern Bred: Texas R&B Rockers Vol.12’ where there appears no end to the list of artists making the grade for the “Texas” side of this genuinely great album series. Presenting their musical wares for Volume Twelve are several Texas rhythm and blues musicians who will be familiar, and not so familiar, depending on the listener’s record collection. One factor that is certain is that this latest compilation begins in a lively manner via The Downbeats’ ‘Come On Over Baby’, which lives up to the “Rockers” part of the title of this series without any doubt. Moving on from this energetic start you will experience considerable variety where The Meadow Larks reduce the tempo during ‘Real Pretty Mama’ yet make up for this with harmonised vocals and busy saxophone that makes its presence felt. Chuck Higgins peps up the volume with song ‘Broke’ and featuring Daddy Cleanhead (Answers on a postcard regarding that surname please). From there, Chavez And Chaney produce a hot sound that is more akin to rock ‘n’ roll with ‘Piccadilly Rose’, before Paul Monday restores order with a rhythm and blues number with shades of big band, not forgetting a vocal that soars above all these instruments on occasions, during the appropriately titled for the times we are living in, ‘Tired Of This Life I’m Living’. Other superb vocals can be heard during female/male pairing of The Romancers (‘House Cat’), and similarly Little Esther And Mel with ‘Ring-A-Ding Doo’. Once more with the Southern Bred series, there is much to consume with its usual twenty-eight tracks and sheer quality of its music that delivers on every single note as far as Volume Twelve goes.


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Rock And Roll Vixens #2

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Number two in the latest series to be issued by Koko Mojo is ‘Rock And Roll Vixens’. Featuring another twenty-five tracks of all-female Afro-American artists from the 1950s – 60s, the second album features more of the same goodness as its predecessor and therefore backs up the record label’s claim, “All our Koko-Mojo releases contain only killers. We let others release the fillers”. From a powerful beginning that is ‘A Little You’ where both Dakota Staton’s golden tonsils will experience no problems attracting the listener’s attention, to another fine set of vocals from Linda Hopkins during ‘Shiver And Shake’. Reeling the senses in further via excellent rhythm and blues is Patti Anne, with compelling backing vocals from Maxwell Davis Band during ‘Shtiggy Boom’. As featured on the first volume, Etta James reappears to perform the tight, snapping rhythm of ‘Shortin’ Bread Rock’ and provides a voice that never fails. Whilst giving it some consideration, due to the voices of the Afro-American artists featured, and highlighted on several occasions in relation to ‘Rock And Roll Vixens #1’, it would seem this is where the main strength lies, and that’s not providing a disservice to the quality of the instrumentation or song structures because they are equally compelling, it is because the impact of the vocals is what makes the first impressions. Therefore, ‘Rock And Roll Vixens #2’ is equally littered with many fine vocals from Baby Washington and song ‘Medicine Man’, to Ella Johnson ‘Don’t Shout At Me Daddy’ to name but two, setting up this relatively new album series as one to acquire if rhythm and blues and similar reference points of blues, harmony groups and early soul are main staples in your music collection.


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Rock And Roll Vixens #1

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

A new series by Koko Mojo, and this time it’s the turn of black female artists to feature and goes by the name ‘Rock And Roll Vixens’. Environmentally packaged and displaying simple yet highly effective artwork, especially its grainy qualities, volume one of ‘Rock And Roll Vixens’ includes twenty-five tracks of “Movers & Shakers” who were recorded from the early 1950s to mid-1960s. Expect plenty of traditional blues, rhythm and blues and vocal harmonies such are the choices on offer during this first chapter. Jane Baker really kicks off this album in great style with highly addictive sound and irresistible chorus of ‘Boom De De Boom’. From there, the only way is up as far as this track list because there’s quality running all the way through it from intriguing vocals of Betty James during watertight rhythm of ‘I’m A Little Mixed Up’, to mixture of raw and deeper tones of star Etta James and ‘Somethings Gotta Hold On Me’. Variety, as mentioned, performs a role here as the listener will experience vocal harmony groups as The Cookies’ (‘Don’t Say Nothing Bad’) and The Teen Queens’ ‘Lets Kiss’. If you’re looking for something far wilder than those perfect harmonies however, then an ideal place to start is the fiery rhythm and blues, with jazz adding to that almost untameable flame of Lil Greenwood’s ‘Come Back Baby’. The vocals of Linda Hopkins during ‘My Loving Baby’ maintain the high-performance levels with a “knockout blow” to the senses that will stop you in your tracks. Concluding ‘Rock And Roll Vixens #1’ with the appropriate ‘Housewife Blues’ rightfully expressing discontent at so-called gender roles, The Enchanters turn in an admirable performance with influences of doo-wop and rhythm and blues. It looks like Koko Mojo can do no wrong as ‘Rock And Roll Vixens #1’ features a wealth of quality, in addition to providing a voice for black female artists who featured during a golden age of rhythm and blues and its associated influences.


Released 22 January

 

Hillbilly Deluxe

Various Artists

Atomicat

When it comes to any new album, sometimes it is the album’s artwork that communicates to the listener first before dropping the needle on the track list. New compilation ‘Hillbilly Deluxe’ provides such a feeling where its warm and classy cover of a bygone era of cowboy singers and a guitar full of romance and lovingly suggestive of simpler times. Thankfully, the contents also live up to such feelings where the Atomicat time ship transports the listener back to the front porch adjoining the ranch where country and hillbilly numbers are dusted down and cranked up to the max for your listening pleasure. Whilst there’s suggestion of first forays into rockabilly and bordering rock ‘n’ roll, without ever really becoming either genre as we know it today, a very potent initial whiff of rockabilly can be heard underscoring the rhythm of ‘Dance With Her Henry’ supplied by Tommy Scott and His Ramblers with vocals by Tex Harper. Other places you will discover pure hillbilly via the creaky, rusty-sounding strings of ‘Boogie Woogie Blonde’ from attractively named Johnny Daume and His Ozark Ridge Runners, to a dominating fiddle performance of ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ from Claudie Ham, and then a threadbare performance of instrumentation, complete with flashes of harmonica from Bill Tutt and ‘Sixty Days’. There is an overall feeling, as suggested earlier, that you are on to an incredibly good thing when it comes to ‘Hillbilly Deluxe’, even before a single note has been played, such is the confidence of hearing country music the way it should be played. Supporting this feelgood factor is Art Gunn and The Arizona Playboys and ‘Sugar Cane Boogie’ who, once more during this album, raise suggestion of the first tentative steps towards rockabilly, but without Art Gunn and The Arizona Playboys getting out of their rockin’ chairs to do so. With Leroy Jenkins and His Texas Showboys’ ‘Too Fat Boogie’ being a genuinely raw and rustic affair, and others such as The Tennessee Haymakers, Tommy Kizziah and His West Coast Ramblers, and Corky Edminster and His Kans Corral Gang excellent ‘Twin Guitar Boogie’ sounding like a homage to Bob Wills given the similarities, then quite frankly there is only one place to rest this evening and soak up traditional country music, and that is at the ‘Hillbilly Deluxe’.


Released 22 January

 

Southern Bred: Texas R&B Rockers Vol.11

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Just when you thought it was over, up pops another volume of quite possibly one of the best compilations hosting blues and rhythm and blues artists from America’s south, namely Texas. The series that keeps on giving is ‘Southern Bred: Texas R&B Rockers’ via Koko Mojo. Adhering to a rule of twenty-eight tracks, the eleventh volume in this CD series showcases another list of musicians where some made a name for themselves, and others providing a history lesson in the here and now given their obscure status. Given the affordable price tag for each album in the ‘Southern Bred’ series, not to mention the most important item being the quality of music on offer which, must be said, has been consistently high throughout, and you simply cannot go wrong. Perusing the track list and picking out the likes of Joe “Papoose” Fritz and track ‘Real Fine Girl’, to James Wayne and ‘Agreeable Woman, before shuffling along to Young Jesse ‘Teacher Gimme Back’ with its rhythm revealing early glimpses of soul music, there are subtle differences between these songs and that’s often part of the fascination. As its title suggests, there are rockers to be heard with H.B. Barnum providing the saxophone/piano belter ‘Don’t You Know’, followed by the traditional rhythm and blues of Goree Carter and his Hep Cats’ ‘Hoy Hoy’ sounding as if it was freshly extracted from its late 40s induction only yesterday. Cledus Harrison and Band maintain the pace via ‘Rock And Roll In The Groove’ with vocals, in particular, worth noting. Bringing a fine balance to the table are smoother numbers as ‘Let’s Make Up’ by Jesse Belvin, to fully focused Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson with ‘Good Bread Alley’. It appears there’s no end in sight for ‘Southern Bred: Texas R&B Rockers’ given the variety and consistency of its latest volume that will please those who have already shown much interest in this series to date.


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Let’s Throw A Rockin’ Soul Party Vol. 3

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Next up in the early foundations of soul music is ‘Let’s Throw A Rockin’ Soul Party Vol 3’. By easing into the first sounds of what became known as soul music from its roots of blues, gospel and traditional rhythm and blues, the third album in the Koko Mojo series brings together an interesting mix of major players and a few obscurities that makes for a fascinating experience. Established artists and tracks can be heard via Solomon Burke and song ‘Down In The Valley’, to The Drifters ‘There Goes My Baby’ and The “5” Royales ‘Catch That Teardrop’. Another pleasing aspect is the tempo of many of the songs featured, often performed at a medium tempo and often vocals top of the class as experienced by such delights as Rufus Thomas’ rich delivery ‘Walking The Dog’, and equally Chuck Wright during ‘The Palm Of Your Hand’ that lives up to its song title. Perusing the liner notes of ‘Let’s Throw A Rockin’ Soul Party Vol 3’, it would appear this is the final chapter in what has been a brief yet thoroughly rewarding experience in the listening department, not to mention part history lesson, and one that will be missed considering its abundance of riches from a trio of superb vocals aired during Chico Leverett’s ‘Solid Sender’; real bluesy bluster of ‘Fannie Mae’ from Buster Brown, to sending out a smoother offering via The Chiffons’ ‘He’s So Fine’, before finding its way to pure gold with Lee Dorsey’s ‘Do Re Mi’, whose name gets a mention during another classic from Beastie Boys’ ‘Sure Shot’, but that’s a story for another time. With three volumes to its name, ‘Let’s Throw A Rockin’ Soul Party Vol 3’ lives up to its predecessors by ending on a monumental high with another thirty tracks of pure quality.


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Come On Baby It’s Christmas, More Hillbilly Christmas

Various Artists

Atomicat

As with volume One of this new collection of songs focusing on Christmas, the second volume ‘Come On Baby It’s Christmas, More Hillbilly Christmas’ offers another round of quality tunes for this special time of year. One notable difference is the sadness featured is a tad higher than its forerunner. For our money that’s a bonus as much reflection is given to this Christmas period and where else to begin than Lou Dining ‘Blue December’, or near-rustic bop of excellent Bev Munro and The Rhythm Rascals’ ‘Santa Bring My Baby Back’. Topping the charts of melancholy, however, is Red Sovine ‘Christmas Alone’ which, despite the sadness at its core, delights for its intimacy of pared-back instrumentation and captivating voice. There is merriment to be found and is never far away arriving via the likes of Kitty Wells’ ‘Santa’s On His Way’, Gene Autry ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’ and chipping in with rather curious ditty is Dallas Frazier with Joe “Fingers” Carr ‘Jingle-O-The Brownie’. A traditional standard by way of ‘Silent Night’ is included, and supplied by Kitty Wells, and likewise superb pairing of Les Paul and Mary Ford adding much class to ‘White Christmas’. As with the first volume, the artwork is to be highly commended when it comes to ‘Come On Baby It’s Christmas, More Hillbilly Christmas’, in addition to the contents supplied because these songs deserve a hearing especially if you enjoy your Christmas songs to contain something a bit more weighty when it comes to the words. In a class of its own and worth every penny, ‘Come On Baby It’s Christmas, More Hillbilly Christmas’ is an essential addition to Christmas this year.


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Christmas Time’s A-Comin’, A Hillbilly Christmas

Various Artists

Atomicat

Looking for a Christmas compilation with something a little bit different to impress the neighbours during this year’s holiday period, then taking a punt on ‘Christmas Time’s A-Comin, A Hillbilly Christmas’ would not be a bad place to start. With thirty tracks selected and featuring several country artists from a bygone era and focusing on the festive season, this album will provide some great memories for many and a few new ones less familiar with the artists featured. Leaving the keys to Jimmy Martin who opens the door and presents a delightfully warm ‘Old Fashioned Christmas’, immediately there is an inkling of what to expect concerning the rest of the album. So, step forward Jimmy Wakely and ‘That’s Santa Claus’ that is a sweet little ditty with plenty of detail where you will hear martial drumming and even a trumpet occasionally lifting above the sleighbells. Speaking of high on top is equally sweet ‘Up On The Housetop (Ho, Ho, Ho)’ from Gene Autry and complete with Carl Cotner’s Orchestra. Add to such tracks Martha Carson ‘Christmas Time Is Here’, and saccharine ‘Jolly Old Saint Nicholas’ by Roy Drusky, and the entire set looks to be a merry Christmas. However, and thankfully, this is country music after all, and any such collection would not be accurate without a few weepies along the way. Therefore, such emotions are left to Ernest Tubb (‘I’m Trimming My Christmas Tree With Teardrops’ and ditto ‘Blue Christmas’), George Jones (‘Lonely Christmas Call’) and even Bill Haley and The Saddlemen (‘A Year Ago This Christmas’). The album ends on a beautiful note via Dick Thomas with The Travelaires ‘Christmas In The Country’ that really brings this collection home and a reminder of positive times. An extremely strong set of songs and offering something different to the usual compilation albums this time of year, ‘Christmas Time’s A-Comin, A Hillbilly Christmas’ is highly recommended.


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The Mojo Man Special Volume 1: Doctor Velvet

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Drumming up a new idea seems to be all in a day’s work for The Mojo Man because this time around it is the subject of dancing that provides inspiration for the latest release on Koko Mojo. Yes, a record bursting at the seams with twenty-four “Dancefloor Killers”, ‘The Mojo Man Special Volume 1’ is given added pulling power by way of its additional title, “Doctor Velvet”, but it’s the tunes that will get you moving of course. Mike Robinson and ‘Lula’ makes for a lively opening with its raucous rhythm including saxophone and piano. It’s not just the “Mojo” of its title that gets a look in here as Volcanos provide some red-hot guitar and what sounds like a regular beat of the bongos in the rear to ‘Oh Oh Mojo’, and a few doors down it’s The Nite Riders who add their version of ‘Doctor Velvet’, which is far from slick as it pounds out an equally raucous racket that positions itself as major contender for song of the album. From there on, the whole album is filled with some fine rhythm and blues via Eddie Barnes ‘Sweet Lover’; Harmonica Fats applying raw vocals to ‘Tore Up’ and a similarly hollering performance from Johnny Otis Orchestra with ‘Little Red Hen’. Calming things down a notch is Earl Connelly King and song ‘They Tell Me’, which has a slightly languid feel yet really impresses throughout, especially due to strong vocals. There is much to delight over here and certainly plenty of songs to get the listener up on the dancefloor and therefore achieving its objective because ‘The Mojo Man Special Volume 1: Doctor Velvet’ is the real deal.


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The Ultimate Koko-Mojo Christmas Party

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

The Mojo Man presents an album for the festive season with ‘The Ultimate Koko-Mojo Christmas Party’. With twenty-eight handpicked tracks, The Ultimate Koko-Mojo Christmas Party’ sets out to live up to its title with a variety of numbers to get you in the mood for this special time of year. Beginning in fine taste with Oscar McLollie And His “Honey Jumpers” ‘Dig That Crazy Santa Claus’; a lively rhythm and blues with quality vocals and plenty of saxophone to really ignite this album. What is most interesting here is the changes in styles from the rhythm and blues and definite soul-edge of Lee Rogers’ ‘You Won’t Have To Wait Till Xmas’, to reduced tempos as The Youngsters’ ‘Christmas In Jail’ laced with dry wit as it recounts the stupidity of the central protagonist involved and a Christmas to forget. Lovely stuff, and worth the purchase price for this track alone. Elsewhere, the female performers get a look in with excellent vocals and midtempo rhythm of Dee Dee Ford’s ‘Good-Morning Blues’, to vocal group Debbie & The Darnels ‘Santa, Teach Me To Dance’. Overfilled with a variety of Christmas tracks, and serving as a reminder of the quality that has gone before, such as Marvin & Johnny ‘It’s Christmas Time’ and ending with a bang via early soul of Gary Walker and ‘Santa’s Got A Brand New Bag’, this is one Christmas party you won’t want to miss.


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Let’s Have A Doo Wop Christmas

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

The realisation that Christmas is nearly upon us is greeted with a fresh compilation from Koko Mojo Records and specifically a Doo Wop Christmas. Focusing on vocal group performers with an entirely Christmas theme is a wise idea considering the often-warm feeling one gets when listening to such great vocal harmonies and rhythms. With thirty tracks featuring, ‘Let’s Have A Doo Wop Christmas’ is lined with numbers from The Ravens, The Five Keys, The Orioles, The Platters, The Moonglows et al. Steering the listener to hopefully much Christmas cheer is ‘Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer’ from The Melodeers and then proceeded by gloriously upbeat The Shells ‘Happy Holiday’. This collection also excels for providing those deeply comforting sounds where the melodies are slowed right down, and the vocals are welcoming as in The Falcons ‘Can This Be Christmas’, and ditto The Drifters’ ‘White Christmas’. With such compilations feeding a special corner of record collectors’ collections, other gems gracing this wonderful collection include golden vocals of The Marcels’ ‘Don’t Cry For Me This Christmas’ and livening the festive period up once more The Hepsters ‘Rockin’ And Rollin’ With Santa Claus’, The Penguins and sleighbells accompaniment ‘Jingle Jangle’, and then offering more great vocals and something of a duet via The Nic Nacs featuring Mickey Champion ‘Gonna Have A Merry Christmas’. If there is one Christmas album to own this year, then ‘Let’s Have A Doo Wop Christmas’ is a clear winner.



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