Going through the documents on my computer hard drive while printing up copies of K.M. Dersley’s MANY SEPTEMBERS and A.J. Kaufmann’s VAGABOND VACANCY, I found some reviews I did for Ugly Things magazine a few years ago of UK reissued of classic 40s/50s R&B by some of the masters: Tiny Bradshaw, H-Bomb Ferguson, and Louis Jordan. These are all wonderful CD’s, over-stuffed with choice material in great, full sound and with fine booklets. You should get them if they are still in print. Anyway, here are the reviews, originally bunched together in one three-part piece:
TINY BRADSHAW–Heavy Juice: The King Recordings, 1950-55
H-BOMB FERGUSON–Big City Blues, 1951-54
LOUIS JORDAN–The Aladdin, “X”, and Vik Recordings, 1953-55
(Rev-Ola, UK) CD’s
Now that pre-1957 American recordings have become public domain in the EU, countless European reissues of classic R&B and early rock’n’roll are appearing. Rev-Ola, the UK label known for its comprehensive reissues of 1960’s soft-psych material, has recently begun a “Bandstand” series documenting late 40’s and early 50’s jump blues and R&B material, and so far the series is superb–great sound quality; long playing time; gorgeous packaging with rare photos, sheet music, trade ads, and record labels; and helpful liner notes from Blues & Rhythm magazine’s Dave Penny. Most importantly, each is full of scalding-hot booting R&B of the highest order.
Drummer/vocalist/composer/bandleader Tiny Bradshaw is probably best known today as co-writer and original performer of “The Train Kept A-Rollin’”. Although he’d led bands since the 30’s and was always somewhat rooted in the swing era, his King recordings rocked jukeboxes and dancehalls across the nation and he adapted well to the small-band orientation of the post-WWII era. Because of his big-band background, he understood dynamics (and dance tempos) well, and his small groups sounded bigger and fuller than others’ groups of the same size. He wrote virtually all of his material, and this CD is aggressive, uptempo, and overflowing with explosive sax and guitar solos. Saxist Rufus Gore gets off some Pharoah Sanders-esque shrieks on “Gravy Train” and a few of the later recordings here have an eerie echo on them. Tiny kept recording as long as his health allowed and Rev-Ola could easily issue a second disc of equal quality.
H-Bomb Ferguson’s outrageous mannerisms and garish wigs have led some to conclude he’s a Little Richard disciple, but in fact he made his first recordings the year before Richard, and H-Bomb had a national presence on the R&B scene before Richard. Actually, his true mainman is Wynonie Harris. Like Harris or Roy Brown or Big Joe Turner (father of this style), Ferguson is a “blues shouter,” with a raw booming voice, and when he’s backed with a hot band full of top-shelf jazzmen, as he is here on this 31-track collection of material recorded for Newark’s legendary Savoy label, he can’t be beat. “Rock H-Bomb Rock” blows away virtually any balls- to-the-wall rocker of any era, and the many “Good Rockin’ Tonight”-style numbers don’t let up. This is surely the definitive one-disc collection of his Savoy sides. Ferguson re-appeared on the blues scene in the 1980’s and proved himself to still have a great voice, exciting presence, and outrageous larger-than-life persona.
Louis Jordan, one of the handful of true architects of rock’n’roll, began recording in the 1930’s, and by the 1940’s this alto sax blower/vocalist/songwriter/total entertainer had conquered nightclubs, concerts, records, radio, and even film (he had his own series of low-budget feature film vehicles, where his gift for comedy came through as well as his music). He’d had a great run with Decca Records and producer Milt Gabler (who used the techniques from his Jordan productions on Bill Haley’s pioneering early Decca sessions), but joined up with R&B indie Aladdin in late 1953, doing very much the same kind of material–jive lyrics, rubbery alto solos, walking bass, boogie beat–but with perhaps a stronger backbeat and more guitar solos, catering to the rock’n’roll audience. After his stretch with Aladdin, he joined the RCA family, but was relegated to their “X” and Vik subsidiaries. All of the Aladdin/RCA material is here, 28 tracks total. Almost anything by Jordan could serve as an introduction to his work, and with the rich sound quality and the booklet full of vintage ads, pics, and labels, this Rev-Ola set is highly recommended.