While countless rockers started their careers in the New York suburb of Long Island before going on to worldwide success (Billy Joel, Twisted Sister, Steve Vai, Brian Setzer, Blue Öyster Cult, etc.), there have been countless acts that appeared poised for a breakthrough, but for whatever reason, fell short. Many longtime followers of Long Island-based rock would probably agree that tops on the "woulda/coulda/shoulda" list were the Good Rats, a group who played at some of the East Coast's best-known/biggest venues (Madison Square Garden, Nassau Coliseum, the Philadelphia Spectrum) during the '70s, while opening for such big names as Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, the Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen, Kiss, Journey, Heart, Styx, Meat Loaf, and Rush, among others…
The 40 tracks compiled on this two-disc set represent the entire span of pianist and singer Leroy Carr's recording career that spanned a brief seven years, from 1928-1935. The material represented here – all but one of these tracks were recorded for the Vocalion label – features accompaniment by guitarist Scrapper Blackwell on all but one selection, and Josh White on a handful as well. Carr's material here ranges from the classic piano blues of the era that spawned Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith to vaudeville and hokum tunes made popular by artists like Tampa Red and Georgia Tom. Carr's voice is the haunting thing here; it's higher and very clear, sweet almost, as evidenced by most of these sides. But there was an edge, too; one that belied a kind of pathos underneath even the most cheery material – check "Mean Mistreater Blues" or "Bread Baker." But the darker material such as "Suicide Blues" (one of six previously unissued performances), "Straight Alky Blues," or "Shinin' Pistol," is strange and eerie given Carr's smooth approach. Carr may not be the most well-known bluesman of the era, but his contribution is profound and lasting. This collection puts to shame almost all others with the exception of the multi-volume complete recordings on Document.
Willie Nelson joined Ray Price's Cherokee Cowboys in 1961, the first step in a lifelong friendship between the two men. From that point on, the pair never fell out of touch. At the height of his superstardom in 1980, Nelson cut a duet album with Price called San Antonio Rose, the first of three joint efforts they'd cut over the years. Whenever the pair got together, they'd sing the old songs, Western swing standards and honky tonk classics from the '50s and '60s – the songs that form the core of For the Good Times: A Tribute to Ray Price, a salute Willie delivered three years after Price's 2013 death.
Essential: A masterpiece of progressive rock music
Back in 1970, whilst browsing in my favorite used record store, i came across this album. Despite the ghastly sleeve art (not the cover pictured above), i turned it over and noticed “Sympathy” included in the track listings, a song i had heard many times on the radio in the office but had never really taken much notice of, despite it being a huge hit single. The photo of the band clinched it – in those days any strange album i found depicting “four hippies in a field / park / wood” was worth investigating as part of my “scene”.
With an outstanding solo quartet and a great chorus and orchestra, Davis leads a sterling performance that challenges the supremacy of his 1966 Philips recording of Messiah. Davis leads a dramatic performance; the famous "Hallelujah" chorus appropriately grand, the final "Amen" bristling with brazen energy, both sung with extraordinary tonal coloring and precise articulation by the chorus, which also shines in a lithe "He shall purify" and a vividly virtuoso "For unto us a child is born." Soprano Susan Gritton's solos are a delight, whether in the measured "Behold, a virgin shall conceive" or her exuberant "Rejoice greatly." The vocal purity of her "I know my redeemer liveth" makes this track a highlight. Alto Sara Mingardo's darker tones are especially moving in her arias and dramatic in "He was despised."
Over the years, the music world has seen its share of over-70 singers who kept performing even though they didn't have much of a voice left: Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra are among the names that come to mind. But when B.B. King entered his 70s, the veteran blues singer/guitarist could still belt it out with confidence, and he does exactly that on Makin' Love Is Good for You, which was recorded when King was 74…