Kendra Steiner Editions

March 21, 2014

HIDDEN GEMS, VOLUME 1: Atlantic Records (no label, CDR)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 8:37 pm

HIDDEN GEMS, VOLUME 1: ATLANTIC RECORDS

no label CDR, released early 2014

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For the lover of vintage late 40’s/early 50’s jump blues/R&B, this 24-track compilation will be nothing but joy. So much of the Atlantic label’s 1940’s and 1950’s output (and for that matter, 1960’s too) has not been reissued, let alone properly reissued, which makes this set of 1949-1950 78’s a real find. Atlantic began recording in late 1947, right before the second Petrillo ban, and had a wide variety of artists, including jazz, country, spoken word, and pop, but by 1949, they had a first-rate line-up of raw jump blues/R&B artists, and that’s what is featured here. I believe that the Tiny Grimes and the Jimmy “Baby Face” Lewis tracks have shown up on the Spanish “Blue Moon” compilations devoted to those artists’ work, but everything else is new to me….names such as Frank “Floorshow” Culley or Melrose Colbert don’t ring a bell, but they no doubt were exciting live performers, and recordings in those days were able to capture the excitement and presence of these artists. And the personnel on these sessions are the cream of the crop: drummer Cozy Cole, saxophonist Paul Bascomb (here masquerading as “Manhattan Paul”), saxophonist John Hardee, pianist Harry “Vann” Walls,  saxophonist Tab Smith, drummer Kenny Clarke, saxophonist Allen Eager, etc. There’s a nice mix of styles: vocal groups, Wynonie Harris-style shouters, Jimmy Witherspoon-style jazz-tinged blues singers, a few Eckstine-esque slower tracks,  a few numbers with a Johnny Otis-esque tinge, all held together by many booting rockers. In many ways, the music here is a New York mirror of the Los Angeles R&B being issued on labels such as Modern. If you’ve been enjoying the many CD archival digs into the Modern family of labels that have been issued in the UK by Ace, then you’ll also enjoy these East Coast sessions. The lyrics on many of these are pure jive-poetry and surreal boast-and-bluster in the best late 40’s tradition, and there is a hotness and depth to the actual recordings so it sounds like the band is in the room with you…and thankfully, the compilers have not used much or any noise reduction…so there is a slight layer of 78 surface noise, but the benefit is none of the full frequency range of the recordings is muffled or limited. Nothing sounds like a LOUD 78 recording of rhythm’n’blues, and that’s what you get here.

Whoever compiled this really did the R&B lover a huge favor. Maybe in the 1990’s a compilation like this might have come out on a “real” label, back when labels were milking their deep back catalogue for content to fill the then-new CD format, but nowadays, except for a handful of specialist labels who can only release so many albums per year, that’s unlikely, so it takes “collector” CDR releases such as this to fill the gap…and it fills it well. You can get this from Crystal Ball Records…check their website. It’s a brand-new release, and certainly one of the best of the year.

You can find the 78’s on this album in this online Atlantic 78 discography if you want further info, but the album DOES come with complete personnel listing and recording dates, as well as the Atlantic release number of each item. Can’t wait for volume 2 of this series, and I’m assuming the series will be tackling other labels of the day, not just Atlantic. What a great project!

Link to ATLANTIC 78 DISCOGRAPHY:   http://www.78discography.com/Atlantic.htm

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1 Comment »

  1. I can’t agree with you more regarding the rarity&quality of these early Atlantic pre-45 Rpm recordings.I’ve got a lot of Atlantics beginning with the advent of the 45 rpm “yellow and blacks” including a few rarities but there is still much to be uncovered and the “masters” no longer exist so we beggars cannot be choosy! I ferevently hope there is a volume 2 & a volume 3 . Maybe a whole Frank Culley set or combine a bunch of Van Walls stuff on one compilation both as leader and sideman.

    Comment by dick lillard — May 4, 2014 @ 11:23 pm | Reply


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