Recent Ace Gems - Part Three - Articles - Soundblab

Recent Ace Gems - Part Three

by Ian Johnston Rating: Release Date:

Another quick round up of recent releases from one of the best reissue labels in the world - Ace.

1. BEFORE THE FALL - Various Artists

A truly fantastic compilation of 24 diverse original songs covered by one of the most consistently vital groups of the past 35 years: The Fall. Compiled by Daniel Maier, who also provides the liner notes, and approved by Mr. Mark E Smith, Before the Fall encompasses the whole weird and wonderful world of the band. Within the slipcover sleeve, which sports a suitably deranged Savage Pencil illustration (Pencil previously drew the savage sleeve for the timeless 1981 Fall single 'Lie Dream of Casino Soul') of a malfunctioning monster jukebox robot, the CD includes some of the earthy musical roots of inspiration that have fired Smith's fevered and singular imagination.

Rockabilly ('Rollin' Danny' by Gene Vincent & hte Blue Caps - The Fall's first recorded single cover from 1985; Hank Mizell's 1958 reissue 70s hit 'Jungle Rock'; Tommy Blake's '$ F-Oldin' Money $'), punk ('This Perfect Day' by The Saints), 60s garage (The Sonics' blazing 'Strychnine', also covered by The Cramps; the cranked up 'Mr Pharmacist' by The Other Half), 60s pop (The Kinks' 'Victoria', 'Popcorn Double Feature' by The Searchers), disco ('Lost In Music' by Sister Sledge - the notes reveal that Nile Rodgers is a Fall fan), left-field rock (Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band's 'Beatle Bones 'N' Smokin' Stones'), blues (Leadbelly's 'Bourgeois Blues'), bizarre novelty records (Bob McFadden & Dor's wacked out 1959 hit 'The Mummy', Nervous Norvus' 1956 car crash 'Transfusion', Steve Bent's terrifying 1976 ditty 'I'm Going to Spain') and much more are included. As Maier points out, this is not a compilation of Smith's favourite music (if it was The Seeds and rockabilly king Charlie Feathers would inevitably be featured), but a chronological account of the tracks the band have covered. Yet Before The Fall makes for thrilling listening and a guide to what makes a good cover version: "A true cover is half not knowing it and half mutilation." - Mark E Smith.

2. ETTA JAMES - WHO'S BLUE? RARE CHESS RECORDINGS FROM THE 60s AND 70s

A magnificent compilation, compiled and liner noted by Mick Patrick, focusing upon devastating tracks by Chess Records undisputed Queen of Soul that previously languished as b-sides and album tracks. One track, the dynamic 1964 girl-group style 'Can't Seem to Shake It' is remarkably previously unreleased. As a teenager Etta James, with The Peaches, first made her mark with the 1955 R&B hit Modern single 'The Wallflower (Dance with Me, Henry)', which incidentally featured unaccredited vocal interjections by Richard 'Louie Louie' Berry, and Gaz's Rockin' Blues club anthem 'Good Rockin' Daddy'. Thankfully, unlike many other female singers of the period, James' career continued to ascend, in part due to signing with Chess in 1960.

This eclectic collection highlights that there is always more than one side to the incomparable Etta James. As well as her dynamic, renowned blues shouting style, amply displayed on her versions of the Willie Dixon penned numbers 'Fire' (1968), 'Nobody But You' (1960) and on Monk Higgins' heavy soul workout 'Don't Pick Me for Your Fool' (1966), on Who's Blue?, James also takes on jazz singing with 'It Could Happen to You' (written by Jimmy Van Heusan), girl group pop on Berry Gordy's 'Seven Day Fool' (1960), funky 70s style Stones rock 'Only a Fool' (1973), Mickey Newbury's soulful country 'Sweet Memories' (1969) and wins every time. With any other artist, Who's Blue? would be their greatest hits collection. Long may Etta James reign.

3. CHARLIE RICH - IT AIN'T GONNA BE THAT WAY - THE COMPLETE SMASH SESSIONS

During the mid 1970s, the stocky, prematurely- grey Charlie Rich (1932-1995), nicknamed The Silver Fox, was one of the biggest names in country music. After many years in the music business Rich finally struck gold with the huge international hit singles 'Behind Closed Doors' and 'The Most Beautiful Girl'. Dean Rudland's compilation of 29 tracks which the former Sun Records recording artist (Rich's 1966 spirited reworking of his Phillips International Records 1960 hit, 'Lonely Weekends' is included here) cut for Mercury Records' subsidiary Smash in 1965 and 1966 provide ample evidence for the uninitiated that there was much more to Charlie Rich than his alchemy with country music. In fact, it was probably Rich's diverse musical taste and abiding love of jazz and R&B that scuppered his finding commercial success earlier in his career.

Rich's first hit for Smash, 'Mohair Sam', has a New Orleans style strut; 'It Ain't Gonna Be That Way' eerily anticipates the country soul that Elvis Presley presented on his acclaimed 1969 comeback LP From Elvis In Memphis (Presley covered Rich's earlier Groove hit 'Big Boss Man'); 'Party Girl' is propelled by an R&B piano driven groove; 'I Washed My Hands in Muddy Water' is gospel; 'No Home' blends Rich's melodious voice with a string arrangement that would could have suited Roy Orbison and virtuoso jazzy blues piano, while 'I Can't Go On' builds with an intensity which recalls Phil Spector's work with The Righteous Brothers. Rich's buoyant 'Northern Soul' composition 'Dance of Love' is so good that Tom Jones covered it on his epochal 1971 live album, Live at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas.

4. THE ACE (USA) STORY VOLUME 3 -Various Artists

Ace UK continue to update its late 1970s and early 1980s vinyl compilations, originally assembled by Ted Carroll, Ray Topping and Roger Armstrong, of the famous Jackson, Mississippi rock 'n' roll/rockabilly/R&B label with this superb and comprehensive CD series. In fact, it was Ted Carroll's close professional links with the USA Ace owner Johnny Vincent which enabled UK Ace to enter the reissue licensing business in the first place and issue the Ace USA back catalogue from 1954 to 1964 on a series of five LPs.

Johnny Vincent's label was a couple of hundred miles and a state away, but Ace USA captured the sound of New Orleans during the 1950s into the 1960s. The master of New Orleans R&B and the lynchpin of the Ace USA stable, Huey 'Piano' Smith & the Clowns, is well represented here with the swaggering 'Somebody Told It' (1965), 'Everybody's Whalin''and the jumping traditional 'Little Liza Jane' (both 1956). New Orleans living legend Mac Rebennack, who found international fame as Dr John, is featured with a great slow burning instrumental, 'Sahara' (1961), and the cha-cha style flip-side of the thundering 1959 'Storm Warning', 'Foolish Little Girl'. Other numerous highlights include the slinky, Dallas-recorded 'What Will Lucy Do (aka Lucy Mae Blues)'(1957) by Frankie Lee Sims; Joe 'I Ain't Gonna Bump No More' Tex's rollicking 'Cut It Out' (1958); singing drummer Mercy Baby's 'Rock And Roll Baby' (1958); The Emerald's vocal group classic 'I Kneel at Your Throne' (1960), and Frankie 'Sea Cruise' Ford's rocking 1958 debut Ace USA single 'Cheatin' Woman'.

5. THEME TIME RADIO HOUR - SEASON 3 - Various Artists

Released towards the end of last year, this incredible third compilation of songs, all featured on Bob Dylan's acclaimed thematically based radio show, is a real treasure trove. The necessarily diverse selection of numerous genres of music, through careful running order selection, forms a compelling listening experience.
There are so many exceptional tunes, it is difficult to select a few to mention: Dave Bartholomew's hypnotic one chord 1957 blues groove 'The Monkey (Speaks His Mind)'; Big Boy Groves' bloody 'Bucket o' Blood' answer record to Lloyd Price's version of 'Stagger Lee'; Jerry Lee Lewis' 'Lust of the Blood' (a previously unreleased 1968 musical version of The Killer's interpretation of Iago's soliloquy from Othello); Mel 'Yosemite Sam' Blanc's 'Money'; Professor Longhair's licentious 1954 mambo rhumba boogie 'In the Night'; country legend Johnny Paycheck's 1967 mental illness ballad '(Like Me) You'll Recover in Time'; Clarence Ashley's 1929 banjo driven murder ballad 'Little Sadie', and Sanford Clark's 1967 semi-psychedelic country version of The Coasters' 'It's Nothing to Me' are just several of Dylan's best selections. The CD comes with a comprehensively illustrated 47-page booklet, featuring various music writers and musicians (including Elvis Costello, Pat Boone and Billy Bragg) writing about each selected track. This volume of Theme Time Radio Hour might just be the best yet.

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When New Orleans pianist Huey Smith wrote and recorded “Sea Cruise,” it was intended to be the follow-up to his hit “Don’t You Just Know It.” On my Rockaeology blog at http://bit.ly/eNsBGm I tell how Ace Records owner John Vincent,...

When New Orleans pianist Huey Smith wrote and recorded “Sea Cruise,” it was intended to be the follow-up to his hit “Don’t You Just Know It.” On my Rockaeology blog at http://bit.ly/eNsBGm I tell how Ace Records owner John Vincent, hoping to attract a white teen audience, stripped Lewis’ voice from the recording and had Frankie Ford sing it instead.

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