Blue Monday – Fats Domino and the lost dawn of Rock n’ Roll – Book Review


Blue Monday – Fats Domino and the lost dawn of Rock n’ Roll – Rick Coleman

FATSI’m part of a Facebook group called ‘The Record Den’ where like-minded sad O.C.D. suffering record collectors and enthusiasts of a superior popular musical past share their likes; in this case mainly Rhythm and Blues from the 40s and 50s, Soul from the 60s and Progressive Rock Lps from the 70s (yes there’s always at least one truly sad Chemistry Teacher who clings to his Yes and Rush Lps with a sweaty desperation and requires public validation for his self-imposed disability).

A short while ago and whilst suffering from a lack of reading material I asked for suggestions for my next book and bedtime indulgence. I focussed my fellow collectors on what I felt I required. A book that would illuminate the popular 40s and 50s world of Rhythm and Blues music. And ‘Blue Monday’ was suggested to me, in amongst a few others as befitting my requirements. My fellow record junkies were flowing in their praise of Rick Coleman’s book.

I was shocked to discover that it is the ONLY biography of a man who was essential to the world of Rhythm and Blues and centrally important and present in the operating theatre at the birth of Rock n’ Roll. ‘It’s a boy, and he’s got a D.A. and a white T-Shirt on, with 20 soft pack Marlboro already tucked into the short sleeve, Mr. Domino, you must be very proud…’

The book

The book rather wonderfully features as a first step a map of New Orleans, detailing the various districts and locating for all to see important and key features of the city’s music-scape and Fats Domino’s present and historic placement in that geography. Before even beginning to read I found myself wandering the streets, and linking the locations of his various family homes with photographs in the book, shortly thereafter going on Google Earth to street view the various locations as they appear now. Sadly one or two destroyed entirely by Hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans City Governments fraudulent re-claiming of unattended and un-mended land left behind by people too poor to return to it in the stringent allotted time-frame. As you can see, I was fully engaged with this book within seconds of opening it. No mean feat, as I generally don’t get past the first half chapter of books that are poorly conceived or poorly written or both, as is more normally the case.

Rick Coleman takes the reader through Fat’s history, his childhood, his background, placing it strongly and forcefully within the context of New Orleans as a city formed from the sweat and blood of the African diaspora, Catholicism and the indivisible early French settlement of Louisiana. I found the section that revolved around Congo Square, an area established as a location of Black African cultural expression from the city’s earliest days, incredibly interesting and engaging.

Rick Coleman uses the location as a cypher for the changing role and social mobility of a multi-layered Black city culture that shifts and moves with changes in the religion of the region and the political upheaval of Civil War America and ingress of Protestantism. All the time keeping the reader in touch with the music soil of the place, that same substrate that gave rise to a crop of musicians, singers, writers and producers, that included Fats Domino.

The book touches on Fat’s links with other musicians of the era, his long and fruitful if sometime difficult relationship with Dave Bartholomew his writing partner, arranger and frequent band leader. We hear about other movers and shakers of the City at the time; Smiley Lewis and Professor Longhair feature amongst fellow New Orleans musicians and the shifting line up of Fats Domino’s own touring band and the individuals mini stories are well told. We learn about his rise to fame, his signing to and early career with Imperial Records, and movement onwards to other labels, the never-ending tour schedule and the tragic loss of band members to the musicians seeming drug of choice at the time, Heroin and the tragedy of car wrecks reaped through too many miles on the road.

In short the book is well-formed and paced, tells the tales well, fills one in on just who Fats Domino was, what and where gave birth to him and in turn Rock n’ Roll. It’s a real lesson and a Rockin’ Good read. Heartily recommended. If I have one minor criticism it is that the last decades of an artist no longer truly central are skimmed over and compressed in a way that leaves the finish of the book underperforming like a damp firework. A pity as the rest of the book is an explosion of images, information, sights, smells and a vivid retelling of one of the greatest and least lauded artists of the Rhythm and Blues and Rock N’ Roll era.

Advertisements

Review – Singing From The Floor – J.P. Bean


singingfromthefloorOn and off I’ve been part of the U.K. ‘Folk Scene’. I have both performed as a dancer and played and sung in a number of local clubs and I was interested to get a deeper insight into the clubs and players and singers who frequented them in the past.

If you take a passing interest you are going to be informed by the book and it features everyone living you could possibly expect to be in it, talking about their experiences; Ewan McColl, Peggy Seeger, Martin Carthy, Ian Campbell, The Watersons, the list goes on.

It is a collection of their views, little more than a vox pops, or transcriptions of their memories and opinions, spoken directly. Unfortunately I think it suffers from this and becomes repetitive and rather pointless. The book in and of itself doesn’t interpret, it makes no assumptions, there is no larger discussion. No digest of the interviewees views. Page after page of text doesn’t really tell you anything new. You knew McColl was controlling, you knew that folk music was linked wholeheartedly with the C.N.D. and with left-wing politics, there is very little of revelation in it.

Possibly the closest I got to a joyful discovery was that Ian Campbell’s sons are the leading lights of UB40, a predominantly white U.K. Reggae ‘supergroup’.

It only confirms the frustration I have always felt with the Folk scene; where traditionalists were only ever sold a different version of the same old story, the same sell, the same hype. Yet pompously they then defended it as immoveable God blessed historically accurate tradition and refused to be swayed by those who wished to create a living breathing self-sustaining musical world. The book confirms one thing, it was folk music that killed off folk music and there is more music of the people and by the people in one Beatles melody than 50 verses of some snoring dirge from the Outer Hebrides.

And yet I feel I’m being overly harsh, for those that were there or those that have surfed dangerously on the edges of folkdom it can be a rather cozy and self satisfying read. As a participant you may have met and talked to those in the book. When they speak you are standing listening; to Martin Carthy, Liza, Martin Simpson, and Ralph Rinzler in my case.

I don’t think the book would attract a newcomer, but it would comfort a past participant and perhaps it did. Maybe I’m just a little too close to the reality of enduring Tina’s performance of her ode to marine mammals ‘seal seal, how does it feel to be a seal‘ to ever fully recover an open mind when it comes to ‘folk music’. I have great difficulty even using the term. To me it’s redolent of homespun sheep’s wool pullovers, real ale, nice people being nice to one another, dishonest suppressions of performers egos, quiet one upmanship, corn dollys and cold nights of tented sleeping next to human repositories of beery methane.

I was kind of hoping that the book might persuade me that I’ve always been a bit wrong, a bit ugly and a bit cynical about the world of Folk, but in the end..

It’s just one of those books you read to the end because you think you should rather than because you really wanted to.

Review – The Chitlin’ Circuit: And the Road to Rock ‘n’ Roll – Preston Lauterbach


chitlin circReview – The Chitlin’ Circuit: And the Road to Rock ‘n’ Roll – Preston Lauterbach

I’m always on the lookout for a new book to help indulge my musical interests and a friend recently recommended this to me. I’ve been in love with Black Rhythm and Blues for a number of years and that genre had its dancing feet firmly stuck in the backwoods mud of the Chitlin’ Circuit; the mildly derogatory term for the network of Black music venues littered about the (mainly) Southern states of the U.S.A.

This book seeks to tell the tale of these venues creation, a response to a virtually new phenomenon, the disposable income of a self determined Black population. It sets out to tell tall tales of the musicians and gig goers, the ingenuity of the venues creators, the shadowy background of their financing, stories of the back handers given to a white controlling force of politicking and policing. The book is littered with tales, lacework links, and histories of all those names you’ve come to know and love such as Louis Jordan, T-Bone Walker, Gatemouth Brown, Jimmy Lunceford, Amos Milburn, Dave Bartholomew, and Roy Brown.

These places, the timber frame buildings of Chicken Shack Boogie fame are where Rock n’ Roll was birthed. Louis Jordan once said that Rock N’ Roll was only a poor imitation by Whites of Black Rhythm and Blues and the more I listen and the more I learn, the more I’m agreeing with that statement. Lauterbach’s book just confirms it … yet again.

I haven’t got more than a third of the way into this, and I’m here telling you all about it, because it’s that good. It’s oozily wet, not dry,  teeming with tales and hearty history. It beats with the sort of knowledge only an insider can ever get the low-down on, and luckily for us, the reader, it has been passed on with ’nuff style. Preston Lauterbach (I don’t know nothing more about him) is obviously a fan, and has a fine twist and turn of phrase. It feels like he won’t let stuffy academic research get in the way of a good story and the telling of it. I haven’t got a problem with that, let’s slightly suspend our sceptically critical natures and just wallow in the world that was the Chitlin’ Circuit.

Recommended!

Mento, not Calypso – Fantastic Voyage Double Cd to be released


Mento, not Calypso – Fantastic Voyage Double Cd to be released

mentonotcalypsoDue out on the 12th of August this year (2013) hopefully Mento lovers and the general music loving public will enjoy this double cd of Jamaica’s very own vintage music. With 51 songs in the main dubbed from 78rpm singles and some from hard to find early Long Playing Lps, there should be something on it that pleases the ears of Mento mad music lovers. At least I hope so, because I had the joy of compiling it.

Currently it’s available on pre-release on Amazon here – See it on Amazon

Entirely from my own collection

Entirely taken from my own collection of rare 78rpm discs, I am told that the track listing will be, as I submitted, please see below. Though the label Fantastic Voyage have not confirmed that as I write, it seems likely.

What the hell is on it then?

Many of the songs have never been widely available and even for the avid collector, may not be well known. Being able to include some of the songs from an album called MONTEGO BEACH HOTEL CALYPSO BAND which likely features Lord Lebby and may have been produced by Stanley Motta for the hotel was for me a highlight. I tried really hard not to repeat too many songs that have already seen digital release, though did include some, where for instance they have only appeared once elsewhere, or have been duplicated on less than ‘pukka’ releases. I was helped in the dubbing/recording of the discs by Port O Jam, and I understand to some degree they have been ‘restored’ since, though until I hear the final cds, I won’t know how heavily. I hope they leave a good level of texture to the cd release, though understandably the hiss of a 78rpm record and the obvious scratches that walk with a recording that’s over 50 years old may not be to everyone’s taste.

Bases covered?

Hopefully I covered a number of bases, Rural Mento, Hotel Mento, both the rootsy and more commercial sounds, I wanted to include records created by the main movers in  Mento in the 50s and early 60s and so have included recordings produced by Chin, Tewari, Khouri and Motta, and sung by singers like Count Lasher, Lord Power, Harold Richardson etc. It also includes some of  the earliest recorded work by Lord Flea for Khouris pre Federal Times Record label.

At the same time hopefully I’ve made the two cd albums work in their own right, providing and entertaining overall ‘listen’ and not just a collection of individual songs.

Witter on why don’t you?

I won’t witter on, but I think it will be a more than welcome addition to anyone’s collection of Jamaican Mento, early Jamaican and Caribbean music. If you love Mambo, Cuban Jazz, Paranda, Ska or are a World Music and Folk fan, you’ll find loads on it to excite. Put it this way, If I hadn’t compiled it, or already collected the tunes, I’d be very very excited to get hold of a copy.

Tracklisting:

As I write this is the assumed track listing. Please excuse the Upper and Lower case . . .
cd1
01 Sir Horace and His Merry Knights  – Vocal – Horace Abrahams – Mambo Jamaica
02 TOWER ISLANDERS, THE – BROWN SKIN GAL
03 MONTEGO BEACH HOTEL CALYPSO BAND (FEAT. LORD LEBBY) – RED HEAD
04 GEORGE MOXEY QUARTET – VOCALIST – CLYDE HOYTE – MONTEGO CALYPSO
05 LORD TICKLER – MEDLEY – SWEETIE CHARLEY – MR. PARNEY – MANGO WALK
06 Jamaican Calypsonians – Vocal – Hubert Porter – Mary’s Lamb – The More We Are Together
07 Count Lasha and his Calypsonians – Calabash
08 Jamaican Calypsonians, The – Vocal – Lord Flea – Wheel And Turn Me
09 Chin’s Calypso Sextet – Vocal – A. Bedasse – Give Her Love aka Woman’s Tenderness
10 Wigglers, The – Vocal – Denzil Laing – Limbo
11 Jamaica Boy (Denzil Laing) and his Kingston Calypso Orchestra – Man Is Smart, Woman’s Smarter
12 Jamaican Calypsonians – Vocal – The Mighty Panther – The Talking Parrot
13 BABA MOTTA AND HIS ORCHESTRA (VOCALS BEN BOWER) – KITCH
14 LORD POWER – PENNY REEL
15 Dan Williams and his Orchestra – Vocal Lord Fly – Calypso – Whai Whai Whai
16 HAROLD RICHARDSON – GREEN GUAVA
17 Ticklers, The – Vocal – Harold Richardson – Hard Hearted Lover (Man Could A Smart)
18 COUNT LASHER WITH GEORGE MOXEY AND HIS CALYPSO QUINTET – THE OLE MAN’S DRIVE
19 Local Calypso Quintet – Vocal – A. Bedasse – Honeymoon
20 MONTEGO BEACH HOTEL CALYPSO BAND (FEAT. LORD LEBBY) – HOLD ‘IM JOE
21 TOWER ISLANDERS, THE – ADVICE TO MEN
22 Dan Williams and his Orchestra – Vocal Lord Fly – Transportation Kingston Style
23 Jamaican Calypsonians, The – Vocal – Lord Flea – Donkey City
24 COUNT OWEN AND HIS CALYPSONIANS – TAKE HER TO JAMAICA
25 Count Lasha and his Calypsonians – Calypso Cha Cha Cha
26 Lord Power and His Calypsonians – Mambo La La

Cd2
01 Sir Horace and His Merry Knights  – Vocal – Horace Abrahams – Morgan’s Mento
02 Lord Power and His Calypsonians – Special Amber Calypso
03 LORD TICKLER – LIMBO
04 COUNT OWEN AND HIS CALYPSONIANS – BROWN SKIN GAL
05 REYNOLDS CALYPSO CLIPPERS – VOCALIST BOYSIE GRANT – TENOR BANJO – EDDIE BROWN – SOLUS MARKET
06 Jamaican Calypsonians, The – Vocal Lord Lebby – Ethiopia
07 Chin’s Calypso Sextet – Vocal – A. Bedasse – Industrial Fair
08 Count Lasha and his Calypsonians – Dalvey Gal – Parson
09 Jamaican Calypsonians – Vocal – Hubert Porter – Miss Goosie
10 Jamaican Calypsonians, The – Vocal – Lord Flea – Mattie Rag, Brown Skin Gal
11 Ticklers, The – Vocal – Harold Richardson – Parish Gal
12 Jamaican Calypsonians – Vocal – The Mighty Panther – Cinemascope
13 MONTEGO BEACH HOTEL CALYPSO BAND (FEAT. LORD LEBBY) – BACK TO BACK, BELLY TO BELLY
14 Jamaican Calypsonians – Vocal – Hubert Porter – Miss Daisy And Brown Skin Girl
15 Count Lashers Calypso Quintet – Vocal Count Lasher – Trek To England
16 George Moxey and his Calypso Quintet – Vocal by Joseph Clemendore (Cobra Man) – My Brother Calamity
17 CHIN’S SEXTET (VOCALS A. BEDASSE) – ADAM AND EVE
18 Jamaica Boy (Denzil Laing) and his Kingston Calypso Orchestra – Mary Ann, Brown Skin Gal
19 Count Lasha and his Calypsonians – Perseverence
20 Jamaican Calypsonians – Vocal – Hubert Porter – Ugly Woman
21 Jamaican Calypsonians, The – Vocal – Lord Flea – Run Mongoose, Linstead Market
22 Count Lashers Calypso Quintet – Vocal Count Lasher – Water The Garden
23 MONTEGO BEACH HOTEL CALYPSO BAND (FEAT. LORD LEBBY) – BLOODSHOT EYES
24 Local Calypso Quintet – Vocal – A. Bedasse – Money Is King
25 TOWER ISLANDERS, THE – HOLD ‘IM JOE

Finally I wanted to sa:

‘I WOULD LIKE TO DEDICATE THIS RELEASE TO MIKE HINDLE, CHARLIE REGGAE, IAN CAUSER, PHIL ETGART & LOL FOR THE OPPORTUNITY, RICHARD NOBLETT, RON GEESIN AND THOSE INVOLVED IN THE BOOGU YAGGA GAL CD RELEASE FOR INSPIRATION, DAN NEELY & ALL MUSICAL ENTHUSIASTS EVERYWHERE, TO JAMAICA, & TO THE ORIGINAL ARTISTES AND PRODUCERS OF THESE SONGS, TO ALL FAMILY BUT MOST ESPECIALLY TO MY DAD BARRY MURPHY WHO ONCE RECORDED AND COMPILED AN LP FOR FOLKWAYS RECORDS & INSPIRED MANY MUSICALLY THROUGHOUT HIS LIFE.’
– THANKS ALL’

Bogumil – Album Cover Art Super Bad More and Agains


Bogumil Says:

‘Hello again, so it’s time for another comment on your favorite off the awful cover art critic, Bogumil. How many of you already know that I’m a Polish gentleman who collects LP with works of art truly shite and puts them on here – ‘Traces Musical’ with permission for you all to enjoy.

Again, although this time I was recently on a new trip to England, where he focused on collecting in the south east of the country again and this time they have come up with some doozies! Namely, Will Conrad and West Lps (of which I hope at least one copy of the guideline in if I find a place), and the upper reservoir of the last Lp joyfullness see. Enjoy, as they say in the best Polish restaurant, as you begin to eat boiled carp fish.’

Will Conrad, wondering where it is in this sense, you know? Answers on a postcard please Bogumil, located near the Potato, Poland.
Read sign, tell me please?
Another cover of Lp by Will Conrad and the West, these boys have to be famous, so where are they now? Scraping the dung to a local farmer? Wonderful drawing skills.
Accordion band, or a mental escape people? You decide.
When a man has a florid face and too jovial way, it usually indicates that something is terribly wrong, do not you think? Leaning also, same angle guitar and tree and guy, work of genius!!
Wow, oh to be strong Polish moustacche man on the bus after the ceremony the girls after work drink.
We'll meet again, and I know where, at the Central facelift, contractors budget wrinkle in Warsaw.
Auntie Vera, wartime spirit. Much sexual activity in older ladies, no lie!
In Poland, every night is party night. I'll drink potato vodka all night ... all night!
Mrs. Mills was a good horse, and donkey, the most reliable and musically Showoff. Pissed, always.
Engelbert Humperdinck, really his name? He will soon be representing Great Britain in the Eurovision Song Contest ... Nil points for name and then lips that look like chicken's bum crack.
Have not I always thought Acker Bilk's name sounded like a man vommitting? In this case, you probably saw the cover of Lp!
Looks like they found the secret of fashion victims Garden Blue Peter!
Pobierz swoje dziecko tank top, masz pociągnął!

A final note from Bogumil

Rumors reached me that some of my words are getting confused when I use Google translate, it is unfortunate, but nothing I can do in this situation. I asked Google to improve the translation quality, but sadly to say that currently have no plans to even bother to think about Poland at all ever.

Please accept my apologies, and until next time, ma wspaniałe życie.

Bogumił.

Studio One Lp Cover Art Book from Soul Jazz


Collected for your viewing pleasure

Just out from Soul Jazz, most recent purveyors of all that is Studio One related in the UK (music and otherwise) comes this coffee table booky wook, collecting some of the covers from Studio One’s catalogue for your viewing pleasure, though if you collect the Lps, you’ll have a significant amount of the artwork already.

No surprise there then?

It’s nice to have and there are a few you may not have seen before, such as the Tabernacle Gospel Lp covers or the Sri Chimnoy Lp (now legendary as a rarity) but there isn’t a lot here to stun an enthusiast for the label. Frankly that’s been the case with most of Soul Jazz’s output of Studio One material musically and so it is visually, also.

Odd

They (SJ) I think have missed a complete trick, in that on occasion they mention the sleeve notes and quote from them, they could have included many more, for the quirky nature of them are well-known and often amusing or enlightening. Including the cover of the Lp Pirates Choice (which has never it seems been reproduced as anything but a muddy turdish greeny brown of a poorly registered example of what NOT to do if you are a Litho printer) seems odd too. There are more Lps they could have chosen from, with more to offer the viewer, casual or otherwise.

I hoped for more

There is no logic or rhyme to the choices made and to the inclusion of some of the more recent Lp covers, which have little or no individually distinctive style whatsoever.

The forward by Steve Barrow is little more than yet another introductory level run through of Jamaican music history, though generally accurate for all that and still an engaging read for the newly converted. Though it should be mentioned that no Mento was ever to my knowledge released by Tewari on Down-Beat, only on sister label Caribou.

 

Cyril X Diaz & His Orchestra 10″ 4 track EP


Cyril X Diaz and his Orchestra 10″ 4 track EP on Soundway

I first ran into this tune when Phil Etgart played it to me, as the blueprint for the Gaylads and later Dennis Brown’s – ‘Africa’. It was a revelation then, and seeing as it’s a stand up tune in its own right, one worth having, now that I’ve got over my shock and delight at the historical note it plays on the Bamboo flute that is Jamaican musical history, I bought TWO copies, one for me, and one for my musical spar House of Reggae’s Ian Causer.

Up until recently it was only available as a traded MP3, or on a rare Cook 45rpm that last went for about £70 for a poor quality copy on eBastards or perhaps on an even rarer 78rpm, who knows, I don’t think anyone I know has ever seen one, let alone bought it on 78, but there are rumours!!!.

The tune according to the sleeve notes on the 10″ Lp (I’ll get to it in a second) states that ‘Taboo, is a famous Cuban standard that has been covered countless times. The song was written by the mezzo-soprano Margarita Lecuona, the neice of famous Cuban composer, pianist and bandleader Ernesto Lecuona’.

Though I’d heard of Ernesto Lecuona, I didn’t know, 1. It was originally Cuban in origin, 2. That it wasn’t written by Diaz, and 3. Was a famous standard. It’s crazy just how long some great music takes to permeate, how many times it has been or can be ‘re-discovered’ and why the hell a tune this good eluded me (or you for that matter) for so long.

A Short time ago a double cd of Jamaican chart music from the end of the 50s included the other version/recording of Diaz’s version of this tune, I wrote about that issue here – https://bigmikeydread.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/looking-back-the-jamaican-chart-hits-of-1958-1959/ but this latest 10″ EP features this song and three others, all worth inclusion and almost as essential, particularly Voodoo, which partners Taboo (or Tabu as it’s sometimes known) one the A side. Though you will find the version of Taboo on the 10″ is a different arrangement than that previously heard on the Cook 45rpm and the cd album mentioned above (I think, well I’m pretty sure, it could be the Monaural reproduction of the 60s Dansette I’m listening to it on as I write distorting it’s sonic sensibilities I guess…).

Though the 10″ will set you back a fair penny, as it’s a ltd edition pressing, I heartily recommend you go get your copy, it’s a show stopper!

Tracks are –

A1    CYRIL DIAZ & HIS ORCHESTRA    TABOO
A2    CYRIL DIAZ & HIS ORCHESTRA    VOODOO
A3    CYRIL DIAZ & HIS ORCHESTRA    CHIVE SOUP MERENGUE
A4    CYRIL DIAZ & HIS ORCHESTRA    SERENAL