Acrobat Music

Acrobat releases get well-reviewed across a range of specialist publications

Acrobat releases get well-reviewed across a range of specialist publications

From FRoots:

Various Artists The Greatest Country Hits Of 1957 (Acrobat ACQCD7109).

120 tracks on four CDs from a fascinating time when Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis were high in the country charts. Hard core country was dominated by the big voices of Ray Price, Webb Pierce with Johnny Cash and the Louvin Brothers bridging the gap. Not to be missed.


From Jazzwise:

The Aberta Hunter Collection 1921-1940 Acrobat ACQCD7112

This is a really valuable comprehensive set by one of the great singers to straddle the line between blues and jazz, whose pre-war dominance waned when she took up nursing from the 1950s to the 1970s, before her triumphant old-age return.


From Jazz Views:

The Tommy Ladnier Collection 1923-39  Fabulous FADCD2061

Tommy Ladnier was born in Louisiana 1900 and was an pupil of Bunk Johnson whilst he was still a child often playing alongside Bunk in his band. He moved to Chicago in 1917 and worked with guitarist Gene Sedric in Charlie Creath’s band, whilst in Chicago he worked with players including Jimmy Noone and King Oliver.

In the Twenties he worked in the bands of Sam Wooding and Fletcher Henderson in New York and rejoined Sam Wooding to tour Europe, unfortunately during this period he began drinking heavily.He returned to the USA during the post-depression years and opened a tailors shop with Sidney Bechet and it was during that he formed a band with Sidney Bechet, The New Orleans Feetwarmers which was probably the highlight of his career. On the break up of his marriage his drinking took a turn for the worse and after long period out of the music business. Thanks to Hugues Panassie he began recording again but he had lost his initial power and died of a heart attack he the early age of thirty nine.

This collection is a good overview of his career and covers most of the people he worked with over the years including blues singers Ida Cox and Ma Rainey.

On CD One there are eleven tracks by the Lovie Austin and her Blue Serenaders six of these are accompanying blues singers but it is Tommy Ladnier’s powerful cornet which demands the attention of the listener, the recording quality is acceptable considering they were recorded in the early Twenties.The recording quality on the Fletcher Henderson tracks is much clearer and  again it’s the cornet of Tommy Ladnier which shines.

CD Two brings the recordings into the Thirties and it has two tracks by the Noble Sissle Orchestra and shows it to be a well drilled group and has vocals by the leader. It is the tracks by the New Orleans Feetwarmers which are the highlight of the whole collection with both the clarinet and soprano of Sidney Bechet shining on all tracks ably abetted by Tommy Ladnier particularly on “Sweetie Dear” and “Maple Leaf Rag”.

“When You and I Maggie” by Tommy Ladnier’s own ensemble is storming with some powerful Sidney Bechet  and Tommy Ladnier.The Mezzrow / Ladnier Quintet were classics of the time and must contain some of Ladnier’s best work on tracks like “Royal Garden Blues” and “Everybody Loves My Baby” and despite what your opinion on Mezz Mezzrow might be he did enter into the spirit of the occasion.

If your tastes in jazz are of a more modern persuasion you really ought to listen to some of these tracks to hear where jazz came from.

Reviewed by Roy Booth


From Blues & Rhythm)

THE MOONGLOWS: The Complete Singles As & Bs Acrobat ADDCD3188 (Two CDs: 75:38; 75:53)

From their r&b roots in 1953 to their pop success in the later 1950s, The Moonglows' style fluctuated somewhat. From bluesy jump music, through wonderful harmony recordings to smooth ballads and rather bland pop-rockers. One thing remained constant though, their wonderful ability to sound great, no matter what they did and they were one of the most important of the classic groups that emerged in the 1950s. They possessed two of the most unique voices of the world of vocal harmony, Harvey Fuqua, who handled their earthy blues output and most of their later pop material; and the great Bobby Lester, whose soaring tenor enhanced most of their classic ballads. Their earliest sides, released on Alan Freed's Champagne label in 1953, 'l Just Can't Tell No Lie'/'l've Been Your Dog' (Champagne 7500) are two blues-laden tracks, the first a great ballad, with the flip being an earthy jump number, with a tough tenor sax solo. Despite Freed's plugging, the record failed to make waves and they made a move to Chicago's Chance label later that same year.

 Their twelve-month stay at Chance resulted in five singles, all highly revered amongst vocal group collectors. With solid accompaniment from Red Holloway's Orchestra, they consisted of a ballad on one side and a jump number on the flip. Amongst the ballads, standouts include 'Just A Lonely Christmas', 'l Was Wrong', 'Baby Please' and their definitive group version of 'Secret Love'. Harvey and Bobby took it in turns on impassioned leads. The blues flips will please fans of jump r&b, with their take on the blues standard 'Worried Life Blues', here retitled '219 Train'. Led by Harvey with Lester soaring away on the bridge, is bluesy r&b at its very best.

For five years from September 1954, the group recorded for Chess/ Checker, kicking off with their most famous recording, 'Sincerely', with Bobby Lester taking off on one of his great soaring leads. This, along with 'Most Of All', remain their best-known and loved numbers, but there are many other gems. 'Foolish Me', Starlite', the superlative 'In My Diary', 'We Go Together', 'When I'm With You', 'Penny Arcade' (not the King/ Orbison song!), 'The Beating Of My Heart' and several others remain highly revered ballads among the army of Moonglows fans.

By 1956, the blues and jump numbers were slowly being ousted by more poppy material though. Earthy numbers like 'So All Alone', 'Slow Down', and 'Chickie Um Bah' were becoming the exception rather than the rule, and it has to be said that numbers like 'See-Saw', 'Soda Pop', and Don't Be Afraid Of Love' were aimed squarely at the pop market. They could still do great ballads though: 'Blue Velvet', cut in late 1956, is in my opinion, the definitive version of this standard, with Bobby Lester on mellow lead. Pure class. Other truly great ballads from this period (usually with Bobby on lead) include 'Here I Am', 'I'll Never Stop Wanting You', 'Love Is A River', and 'Don't Say Goodbye' (with added strings), are all superlative recordings. The other mainstay of the group, Harvey, had been doing some extra curriculum work, recording duets with Etta James and others, but he remained part of the group and sang lead on an excellent version of Percy Mayfield's 'Please Send Me Someone To Love'. The Harvey-led 'Mister Engineer' was something of a throwback to the jump-blues era, whilst his 'Too Late', from 1957, seems to have been aimed squarely at the rock'n'roll market.

The 56 tracks on this double makes newly-available so many great recordings by a legendary group. The release is complemented by a very extensive and well-written sleeve-note from Paul Watts, plus there are basic discographical details. This is a must-get for fans of classic vocal harmony and r&b.

 Tony Watson 

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