Celebrating sixty years since the launch of one of the most successful independent record labels in US Popular music. Received wisdom would have us believe that before Motown, no black-owned record company had made a significant impact on the US mainstream. However, the actuality is something else entirely. Way back in the early 50s, long before Berry Gordy had written his first song, VEE-JAY RECORDS - a black, family owned and run, Chicago-based label - was establishing itself via a steady stream of Blues, R&B, DooWop and Gospel hits.
Chester Arthur Burnett, known as Howlin' Wolf, was a Chicago blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player, originally from Mississippi. With a booming voice and looming physical presence, he is one of the best-known Chicago blues artists. Musician and critic Cub Koda noted, "no one could match Howlin' Wolf for the singular ability to rock the house down to the foundation while simultaneously scaring its patrons out of its wits." Producer Sam Phillips recalled, "When I heard Howlin' Wolf, I said, 'This is for me. This is where the soul of man never dies'". Several of his songs, including "Smokestack Lightnin'", "Back Door Man", "Killing Floor" and "Spoonful", have become blues and blues rock standards. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him number 51 on its list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time."
Charly Bliss make no secret they’re a throwback. They hone in on an era from about 20 years ago, when seemingly every other band came blissed out, drenched in sun, and outfitted for a spot on the 10 Things I Hate About You or Jawbreaker soundtrack next to Veruca Salt. Back then, for every Breeders there were at least two Letters to Cleos or Stretch Princesses, and their legacy is now constrained doubly: condemned the first time around by a rockist critical establishment for being too poppy, then when everyone started being OK with pop again, dismissed with the same received condemnation. Thing is, this style never went away, it’s just tended to age down.
An early Blakey line-up in the years before Mobley/Timmons came on the scene – late 1957. Lets get real here, there is no world shortage of Art Blakey records. The interest is in Hardman and Griffin, a punchy and vigorous front line.
Bobby Patterson's I Get My Groove From You is a gritty 20-track collection of the Texas soul singer's '70s recordings, 19 of them recorded between 1971-1973 for Paula, one ("Right Place, Wrong Time") for All Platinum in 1977. He never had any hits, but Patterson's low-down delivery and the backing band's tough-as-nails sound deliver an enjoyable punch. He wrote most of the tunes here, focusing mainly on extracurricular affairs and their fallout.
Listening to Sketches of Life is something like finding a diamond midway through a box of Cracker Jack. It starts off with some typically easygoing midtempo quiet storm action that offers more cinders than real fire, but then it suddenly explodes with soul, jazz, and fusion – and some of the leader's finest performances this side of the old Crusaders. Henderson's trombone turbulence finds willing support from friends old (saxman Wilton Felder) and new (Rob Mullins, Dwight Sills), and these all-stars stretch the limits of the pop side of jazz. Especially impressive is Lee Oskar's bluesy, Toots Thielemans-styled harmonica playing. Henderson could do just fine without the rap and chant, but otherwise, he leads a fun-filled cruise through adventureland.
Trombonist Wayne Henderson has had a surprisingly sporadic solo career. During his years with the Jazz Crusaders, he only led two record dates of his own, and it was not until a decade after he left the group that he led his third session. Henderson does take some fine solos on this generally rewarding disc, which also features tenor saxophonist Wilton Felder (his old section mate in the Crusaders), keyboardist Rob Mullins, and guitarist Dwight Sills. The release, which is subtitled "The Next Crusade," is an extension of Henderson's old band, and the selections range from straight-ahead (including "Joshua") to soul-jazz and some funkier sounds. Worth picking up, although this CD will probably be difficult to find.
These two discs from Sun Ra and his Solar Myth Arkestra are not, as their title suggests, parts of a singular or continuous work. They were initially issued as two separate titles – similar to the two-part Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra – by the Belgian BYG Actuel label in 1971. Both volumes consist of mid-fidelity and primarily self-realized and -produced recordings. Despite the claim that these sides were taped in New York City at Sun Studios, Ra discographer Robert L. Campbell notes that by the time these tracks were documented, the Arkestra had ended its N.Y.C. residency and returned to Philadelphia.