This is no April fool joke as Koko Mojo and Atomicat unleash 10 terrific CDs with six compilations of Wild Rock ‘n’ Roll and Rockabilly, through Rhythm and Blues to Popcorn and Rockin’ Soul and then they add in four fine single artist collections. So much good stuff here that we are going to yoke some of these together to try to keep this to a reasonable length but it would be a good idea to make a fresh pot of tea before you start on this…
First off, we’ll start with a fantastic four of collections from the careers of artists who broke out of narrow genres and had real hits.
Oh bloody hell, where to start with one of the voices of the century? Actually, let’s stick with that voice. There is the magic ‘something’ in Sam’s vocals that makes anyone with ears and a musical soul stop and listen. Soul? Yes, that word crops up especially as he began his career singing with The Soul Stirrers. The group was already one of the top Gospel groups in the country when he joined them. Perhaps we should examine that a little. This group had existed in one form and another since the mid-1920s toured the churches and halls of the Gospel circuit. The group was made up of the crème de la crème of church singers from across the USA but in 1950 they invited a 19-year-old Sam to join and soon he is the lead singer. Within a year of Sam joining the group Specialty records signed them and began issuing electrifying cuts from them. Even on recording with the best of the best, Sam’s soaring sounds stand head and shoulders above the other voices. If he ‘just’ had that voice he would deserve to be a superstar but he also wrote amongst others the sublime Touch the Hem of His Garment. Sam made the cross over from Gospel to secular music and that story is a couple of books, a couple of films and a TV series. He had hits and misses, his sound changed from R n B, to Soul and even pop but for us, his greatest tracks were the love songs that may be to a girl or maybe to his God. We’ll stop here because we want this to be about his voice so grab this CD and lose yourself in the wonderful, wonderful voice of Sam Cook.
Oh look, Jackie Wilson, as we said earlier bloody hell – another era-defining voice! While Sam had joined the country’s top Gospel group and stayed until launching his solo career, Jackie recorded as a solo artist and then bounced through various groups before replacing (bloody hell again) Clyde McPhatter as lead in one of the country’s top secular vocal harmony groups; The Dominoes. Again just like Sam, even surrounded by the best of the best, Jackie’s voice stood out. He has a unique tone that punches through to your soul and your feet. This compilation takes in 45s and album tracks from 1953 to 1963 moving from raw Vocal Harmony Rhythm and Blues to Soul. It really is good to have a chance to hear the huge hits like Reete Petite and Baby Workout beside the much lesser known but equally fine tracks like Do Lord (a gospel dancer) and You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down (as covered by The Meteors). What a range!
So we arrive at our ongoing ‘Rockin Before It Was Called Rock ‘n’ Roll Section’. Jimmy McCracklin is best known for his hit The Walk issued by Checker Records in 1958 which reached the national charts in the US and gained release around the world. Jimmy was a piano-playing bluesman whose earliest tracks from the late 40s, as heard on this fine CD, are in the house shakin’ rollin’ boogie jump blues style of Amos Milburn, Champion Jack, Cecil Gant and other heroes. Over the years his style did change, and he had a lot of time to change in, this CD covers tracks from 1948 to 1962. His sound toughens up to real blasting blues Rock ‘n’ Roll by the mid-50s and, unlike so many, he does not ease off as the new decade dawned. So good to hear so many super songs from Jimmy.
Sheesh, as they say in the classics. Willie Dixon. OK, so obviously we look at references and fact check stuff rather than just making all this up as we go along but we are rather stopped in our tracks to find an artist is credited with over 5,000 recordings. We mean, yes, he was pretty much the backbone of Chess Records playing bass on so, so many of the top Chicago Blues recordings that it is almost silly. On top of that, he wrote, produced and even packed the records for shipping but over 5,000 tracks? That is crazy, he should be more famous than God (or at least a lot more famous than Eric Clapton). But when you think of the songs he wrote; Hoochie Coochie Man, My Babe, Spoonful, Wang Dang Doodle, I Just Want To Make Love To You to name but a few, and think that these have been covered by so many bands the 5,000 plus credits makes sense. This CD gathers together tracks issued under his own name, tracks he plays bass on and tracks he wrote could be issued under the title best of Chicago Blues and he is involved with every one of them. It is wonderful to see this man getting some long-deserved credit.
Moving over to Atomicat we have another two fine CDs in the Rockers series. These are pretty simple to sum up – every track is a bonafide rocker spanning the various Rock ‘n’ Roll sub-genres. On Dungaree Cutie you have Rockabilly heavyweights like Johnny Burnette and Conway Twitty alongside Rhythm and Blues masters Fats Domino and Nappy Brown. On Do you Wanna Dance it is Werly Fairburn and Jerry Lee Lewis on one side and Big Joe Turner and Paul Gayten on the other. Two CDs showing the true breadth of the Rock ‘n’ Roll style.
Various – Sadies Gentlemans Club: Visit 3 Taboo – Atomicat
Various – Sadies Gentlemans Club: Visit 4 Ecstasy – Atomicat
Another pair in an ongoing series, these are tailor-made for the lovers, losers and after midnight boozers. Life is not all jumpin’ and jivin’, sometimes it calls for drinkin’ and thinkin’. Slow beats that take you down Lonely Street. But down the end of that street, you may find others just like you. The music is downbeat but it can take away those low down blues. You can find a slow beat to get you back on your feet, with the sleaziest Rhythm and Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll meeting the crazy mambo and bossa novas seepin’ up from Down Mexico Way.
Oh yes those crazy Latin beats. Whether it was an industry plot to replace Rock ‘n’ Roll or simply a coincidence, it cannot be denied that music form the south American continent was huge in the mid 50s. Many vocal harmony groups added these exotic rhythms to their stylistic arsenals. This cross fertilisation led to some of the coolest and kookiest vocal harmony tunes you have probably never heard.
So what happened to all those vocal harmony guys as the decades rolled on? Well a lot of them changed their style a tiny bit and became Soul artists, and, this may surprise some people, but even though the style changed some of them kept that Rock ‘n’ Roll feel and the good folks at Koko Mojo have gathered together another 30 of the best Rockin’ Soul tracks on the latest in this series. So keep an open mind and rock on.
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