Ron's Swing CD Reviews

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CD Reviews - Artists - D to E

Compilations - A to I J to R S to Z

The D's 3 - Cool Cats, Hot Chicks (2000) 
Reviewed: 3 Feb. 2001.  Ratings: **, L
This group is composed of a mother and her two daughters.  From Illinois, they sing smooth vocals, in the tradition of the Andrews Sisters.  Happy, upbeat music.  Tight harmonies.  The songs are mostly originals, with a few covers.  This CD was recommended to me, but while it doesn't appeal to me, but it may appeal to you.  The songs are very pop-oriented. 
  Dave Davies & the Hotfoot Club - 3 X 5 (1997) 
Reviewed: 20 Dec. 1999.  Ratings: **, LL 
This has a good, mellow swing sound.    Some of the songs were recorded in a trio, some in a quintet, hence the CD title, 3 X 5.  The trio's songs are a little sparse-sounding, but some of the other songs are quite good.  Some of the songs are vocals.  The band hails from Ithaca and the musicianship is excellent.  Good covers, I like "Live the Life I Love" (126 BPM).  "Til Tom Special" (176 BPM) is an excellent version.  Good mix of tempos, lots from 113 to 140 BPM.  His newer CD is even better, see The Hotfoot Club - Don't Ever Say Goodbye.
Peter Davis - Goin' to Lindy Land (2002) 
Reviewed: 20 June 2002.  Ratings: ***, LLL
As you can probably figure out from the title, this is a CD for us Lindy-hop dancers!  There aren't many bands out there today like Peter Davis that put out so much good music so suitable for Lindy-hoppers to dance to.   The songs are excellent choices and the tempos are right in the pocket, averaging about 145 BPM.  The playing is very good.  However, the singing is rough. At times, painfully rough.  If you wince when you hear off-key vocals, you might want to steer clear of this CD.  The groove and the music mostly makes up for it, however.  The songs all have a solid, classic swing or dixieland feel.  Most of the songs feature Peter Davis on piano, clarinet or saxophone.  The rhythm section is solid.  This CD contains a great mix of covers of great dance songs such as "Special Delivery Stomp" (165 BPM) and "Begin the Beguine" (125 BPM) and several fun originals.  The title song, "Goin' To Lindy Land" (152 BPM) is about the heaven on earth where "the lighting is just right", there's "a perfect connection each time you start to dance", the "temperature is always 65 degrees", "Frankie is swinging with us" and "favorite partners are lined up out of site..."  Its a little cheesy, but it's cheese about my Lindy-Hop addiction, so its OK.  I also like "Ollie Bop" (120 BPM) and "The Whistling Song" (150 BPM).  In general, I am able to overlook the vocal flaws of this CD and recommend it to you.  Lindyhoppers who buy this will be delighted.  See for CD ordering info.
Doris Day - Early Days (1944-1949) (Living Era Records - 2000) 
Reviewed: 30 Nov. 2000.  Ratings: **, LL
Before she was a movie star, Doris Day was a noted big-band singer.  These songs, recorded with Les Brown and George Siravo's orchestras, were all top 25 hits.  Her voice is surprisingly good.  I like "Come to Baby, Do" (129 BPM). A lot of the others are slow ballads or fluff pop songs that don't hold any interest for me.  I buy CDs for one song, but you shouldn't. 
Blossum Dearie - Verve Jazz Masters 51 (Verve - 1996) 
Reviewed: 2 Jan. 2002.  Ratings: ***, LL
Dearie sings mostly mellow jazz and accompanies herself on piano.  Her voice is girlish and appealing.  The songs are sweet.  Songs were recorded in the late 50's.  For swing dancers, "Dearie's Blues" (124 BPM) is the most appealing.  Kenny Burrell, Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen accompany her on this and many of the other songs.
  Dino Martinis - The Bottle Collector's Lounge (1995) 
Reviewed: 27 Aug. 2000.  Ratings: **, LL 
See CD at
Spirited neo-swing, lounge, and jump blues from up north, Calgary way.  A well-played organ on some of the songs provides just enough to distinguish this band from the rest of the pack.  The songs are all originals, and that's also refreshing.  The woman singer has a pretty good punch, too.  Tempos are all over.  There's a lot of songs with non-swing rhythms.  For those into neo-swing and lounge, this isn't that bad.  That said, I won't be listening to it a lot since I'm not into lounge.  Note that this band has been hard at work swinging longer than most.  They are survivors, and that says a lot.
  Dino Martinis - Steak and Comedy Night (1994) 
Reviewed: 27 Aug. 2000.  Ratings: **, LL 
See CD at
A similar album to the one above, but cheesier.  They even make a swing song out of Alanis Morissette's "One Hand in My Pocket" (184 BPM).  
Dion - Runaround Sue  (Capitol Records - 1993) 
Reviewed: 28 Nov. 2000.  Ratings: **, LL
See CD at
Everyone knows the song "Runaround Sue." It hit the top of the charts in 1961 and has been endlessly recycled on oldies stations.  But it swings, and at 161 BPM, is a good upbeat novelty swing song.  Another good song to slide into the mix to shake things up a little is "The Wanderer" (116 BPM).  The rest of the songs on this best-of collection are throw-away pop songs that only an oldies lover would listen to.
Floyd Dixon - Wake Up and Live (Alligator Records - 1996) 
Reviewed: 2 May 2001.  Ratings: **, LL 
See CD at
Floyd Dixon was one a 50's jump blues performer.  In his later years he had a comeback, and this CD is part of that.  On this CD, Floyd Dixon sings the song he originated "Hey Bartender" (135 BPM), later covered by the Blues Brothers.  The CD consists of a mix of slow blues and moderate tempo (115 to 141 BPM) blues songs.  All the songs are Dixon originals.  The band is good, but Dixon's voice is a little worse for wear. 
Floyd Dixon - Marshall Texas Is My Home (Specialty Records - 1991) 
Reviewed: 3 Nov. 2002.  Ratings: *, L
Boy this is generally terrible--boring tunes, off key singing, tepid saxophone solos.  But this has the original "Hey Bartender" (130 BPM), a fun song.  R&B from the 50's.  And a couple decent slow blues.
Judi Donaghy - Sink or Swing 
Reviewed: 27 May 2002.  Ratings: **, LL
Donaghy is a jazz vocalist from Minneapolis.  Her voice is clear and sweet.  In my opinion, these songs aren't as dancer friendly as fellow Minneapolis jazz vocalist Charmin Michelle.  Some of the songs aren't swing rhythm.  She sings fewer standards and songs in the ideal tempo range.   I like "Emitremmus" (175 BPM), "Love for Sale" (137 BPM), and the instrumental "Such Sweet Thunder" (108 BPM). See here for more info on Judi Donaghy.  
  Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw - Swingsation (1999) 
Reviewed: 30 Oct. 1999, revised 15 May 2003.  Ratings: **, LLL
See CD at
On first listen, this appears to be an excellent CD for Lindy Hoppers, as it contains lots of good hi-fi big-band songs in the mid-tempo range.   But after further listening I decided that the arrangements were a little cutesy or weird.  I haven't ended up playing these songs a lot for dancers when I DJ.  This CD contains nine songs by Dorsey followed by eight songs by Shaw, recorded between 1950 and 1953.  All instrumental.  Dorsey's band was regarded as a "sweet" band but these songs are mostly medium-tempo, non-ballad songs.  Tempos start at 105 BPM and most range from 135 to 150 BPM.  The recording here of Dorsey's 30's hit, "T.D.'s Boogie Woogie" (140 BPM) is excellent and perfect for Lindy Hop.  The songs on this CD by Shaw and his last big band are very cheesy and slower, ranging from very slow to 160 BPM. His clarinet sure sounds pretty.  "Continental" (140 BPM) is my favorite of Shaw's songs. 
Tommy Dorsey - The Seventeen Number Ones (1990) 
Reviewed: 4 Oct. 1999.  Ratings: *, L
See CD at
Recorded 1935 to 1942, it shows it age.  I like most of my other big-band CDs better than this one.  The sound quality is low, and most of this CD contains sweet-sounding songs and ballads, including a couple with Sinatra.  I probably picked a bad Dorsey collection.  I do like "Satan Takes a Holiday" (145 BPM), with its playful melody line, using clarinets and interesting countermelodies and breaks.  Thanks to DJ Hep Jen in Seattle for turning me onto to this song.
Tommy & Jimmy Dorsey - Swingin' In Hollywood (1998) 
Reviewed: 1 Feb. 2000.  Ratings: ***, L
See CD at
This is a collection of songs recorded from 1941 to 1944 for various movies, so the sound equipment was tops and the sound quality is better and the songs are longer than usual for that time.  75 minutes of music.  There's a scorching "One O'Clock Jump" (260 BPM) here and some other good fast songs.  Rhythms, hot solos, energy, diversity.  Such a nice listening experience after listening to Glenn Miller (which I just reviewed prior to this one). But I don't find many songs here good for dancing.  Either they are too fast (200+ BPM), too slow, have weird breaks or rhythm changes, or otherwise don't grab me.
  Rebecca Kyler Downs - Love Me Like Candy (2000) 
Reviewed: 1 Aug. 2000.  Ratings: **, LL
Ms. Downs is one of the backup singers in LA's swing band Red and the Red Hots.  On this CD, Ms. Downs sings some upbeat songs, but more of them are slower sultry lounge songs.  Her voice is often very breathy.  Sometimes over-exagerated.  Many of the songs are written by Ms. Downs, and arranged by Red Young.  Some are kind of intriguing, some are kind of cheesy.  I can't find fault the backup band, technically dead-on, and they are given room to solo, hurrah!  All swing bands should give bands room to solo, no matter how vocal-centric they are.  I like her version of "Early in the Morning" (137 BPM) with its Latin rhythm.  There's a decent version of "Sunny Side of the Street" (140 BPM) as well.  A number of the songs are too slow for Lindy. 
Dukes of Wail - No Turning Back (1999) 
Reviewed: 28 May 2000.  Ratings: **, LL 
This is another jump blues band, this one out of Cleveland, Ohio.  Along with the standard "Jump, Jive & Wail" there are covers of more interesting, obscure songs.  The singing is not bad, I've heard a lot worse.  The band is fairly tight, and the soloing OK.  Some good breaks.  They aren't bad, I bet they keep the dancers in the Cleveland area entertained.  The recording quality isn't the best.
Eight to the Bar - Behind the Eight Ball (1998) 
Reviewed: 28 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: ***, LL
See CD at
This band from Connecticut is a good tight jump blues swing band, playing a mix of covers and originals.  Good singing by the female vocalist, and good harmonizing with another female vocalist and other band members.    Good variety of tunes.  Unfortunately, not many of the songs lend themselves to Lindy, due to high tempos (7 of 12 above 185 BPM) or rhythm.
Eight to the Bar - Hey Sailor (2001) 
Reviewed: 13 May 2003.  Ratings: **, L
I really like this band's clever and original songwriting.  However, I think this CD isn't as good as the CD I reviewed above, but I'm having trouble putting my finger on exactly why.  (Some reviewer I am!)  For one thing, I'm not as enthusiastic about this style of swing as I was a few years ago.  That aside, I think the playing and singing isn't as tight as the album above and I'm not as impressed with the arrangements.  The drumming is perhaps too mechanical and doesn't swing enough for me.  The recording quality doesn't seem as good. However, with their clever songs, spirited singing and playing, I'm sure they put on a good show, so be sure to check them out when they come to your town.  (See, I told you you shouldn't have sent me this CD!)
Roy Eldridge - After You've Gone (Decca/MCA - 1991) 
Reviewed: 12 Jan. 2003.  Ratings: ***, LL
This CD contains songs recorded 1943 to 1946 where Roy Eldridge is leading his own groups, after the Gene Krupa orchestra.  Sound quality ranges from not great to OK.  Eldridge is an amazing trumpet player, his solos are blown with gusto and power.  He's known for hitting the high notes. His playing dominates the songs, and I get tired of hearing him, especially in the many ballads.  For dancing, I especially like "Jump Through the Window" (150 BPM) with its driving rhythm and soft and loud parts.  I also like "Fish Market" (127 BPM).  The song selection is refreshingly different.  There's some decent fast songs, too.
  Les Elgart - Two Classic Albums from (1996) 
Reviewed: 30 Oct. 1999.  Ratings: *, L
My search for hi-fi big band music strikes.. nothing.  Unlike the above highly-rated Dorsey/Shaw Swingsation album, this album bores me.  Even if the music is hi-fi, recorded in the 50's, and with a lot of the songs in my supposed preferred tempo range, they just don't make me want to move. For the record, this is a combination of the Elgart Touch and For Dancers Also albums.  There isn't much jazzy improvisational stuff here, mostly just simple melodies with this punchy style that over-emphasizes each downbeat.  Poor arrangements of classics.  Over-simple, over-smooth sound.  Bland.
Kurt Elling - This Time Its Love (Capitol - 1998) 
Reviewed: 6 Sept. 2001.  Ratings: **, LL
See CD at
If you like Sinatra, you'll like Elling.  He's a crooner, for sure.  Most of this CD is exceptionally sleepy music.  Yawn.  You can dance to "I Feel So Smoochie" (154 BPM) and "The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing" (127 BPM).
Duke Ellington - This is Jazz 7 (1996) 
Reviewed: 16 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: **, L 
See CD at
With so much Ellington out there, how do you find a good one with a lot of danceable tracks?  I haven't figured that out, yet, but don't choose this one!  It is an Ellington starter kit, featuring a little of everything, most of his classics.  The first four are recorded in low-Fi in the 20's and 30's.  I find this "C-Jam Blues" version (the original?) a little boring, forgive me, oh jazz purists.  It's still got the wonderfully building dynamic, though.  This CD has all the famous Ellington songs, including "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue". 
Duke Ellington - Best of Duke Ellington Centennial Edition (1999) 
Reviewed: 16 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: ***, LL 
See CD at
This CD presents 68 minutes of classic Ellington, chronologically from 1927 to 1967 (all but four recorded before 1946).  There are so many sweet sounds coming from these fine musicians, even the static and fuzz doesn't disturb me as much. 
Duke Ellington & Johnny Hodges - Side by Side (Verve - 1959) 
Reviewed: 28 Nov. 1999.  Ratings: ****, LL 
See CD at
Recorded in 1958, and 1959, this is small-group jazz featuring the famed saxophonist Johnny Hodges.  Also has Harry "Sweets" Edison or Roy Eldridge on trumpet, depending on the track, and Ellington or Billy Strayhorn on piano.  This is excellent jazz, with Hodges' mellow saxophone sound a delight to the ears.  Awesome sound quality.  These songs mostly feature long solos by one instrumentalist, one following each other, with mostly just rhythm backing, so they don't lend themselves to dancing, in my opinion.  But "Big Shoe" (134 BPM) is pretty good, with a good swinging start, a good strong rhythm, some predictable structure, excellent solos.  It is sure to appeal to those dancers who like their swing "jazzy".  Tempos are: 176, 131, 134, 202, 109, 115, 110, 105, 170.   I haven't been a great fan of highly improvisational jazz, but boy, when it sounds like this, I start to wonder why.  Maybe if more of it sounded like this!  Great late-night listening.
Duke Ellington & Johnny Hodges - Back to Back (Verve - 1963) 
Reviewed: 25 April 2000.  Ratings: ****, L
See CD at
Here Ellington, Hodges, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Les Spann, All Hall or Sam Jones, and Jo Jones play the blues.  Each of the seven songs is wonderful, but less conducive to dancing than those in Side by Side.  Note that each song is over 5 minutes long.  Tempos are: 165 (not swing), 89, 105, 70, 143 (partial non-swing),  89, 162.
Duke Ellington & Count Basie - First Time! (Columbia) 
Reviewed: 23 April 2000.  Ratings: ***, LL
See CD at
Recorded in 1961, this CD features both Ellington's and Basie's bands side by side.  I like "Until I Met You" (146 BPM) (formerly "Corner Pocket") and "Segue in G" (143 BPM), all 8:25 of it. Swinging jazz to dance to. 
Duke Ellington - Ellington '56 (Charley - 1996) 
Reviewed: 25 April 2000.  Ratings: ***, LL
See CD at
This import features Ellington re-arranging and re-recording some of his earliest songs.  I like this version of "In a Mellow Tone" (156 BPM) and others. 
The Duke Ellington Small Bands - The Intimacy of the Blues (Fantasy - 1986) 
Reviewed: 7 April 2002.  Ratings: ****, LL
See CD at
This is an excellent small group Ellington.  It has a killer song for dancing: "Kentucky Avenue, A.C." (135 BPM), with its little accents that a dancer can play with, driving rhythm, and its hot solos.  Selections 1-6 are a suite, of a sorts and were recorded in 1967.  These first six songs are the highlights. The solos are sweet, I especially like Cat Anderson's expressive muted trumpet and Johnny Hodges on saxophone.  The others were recorded in 1970.  
Duke Ellington - and His World Famous Orchestra '46 - '47 (Hindsight Records - 1992) 
Reviewed: 5 August 2003.  Ratings: ***, LL
See CD at
This is a 3-CD collection of Duke Ellington and his band playing in the immediate post-war years.  The style is slightly changed from the big-band sound of the early 40's, but it still has a fairly classic sound.  There are a few of the famous and classic Ellington tunes, but most of the collection consists of more obscure songs.  There are too many slow songs for my tastes, and a lot of the songs aren't that memorable.  Some of the songs are more like serious compositions than catchy pop songs suitable for dancing.  Ellington as a composer is pretty nice to listen to, though!  I did find a couple new songs (to me) to play for us dancers.
New! Duke Ellington - Ellington at Newport 1956 Complete (Columbia - 1999) 
Reviewed: 19 Feb. 2004.  Ratings: ***, LL
See CD at
I bought this for the wonderful vocal song "Tulip or Turnip" (137 BPM).  Unlike many of Duke's songs, it hasn't been played a million times.  Great solos and great live energy!  Of course, the performance in its entirety is famous.    
Duke Ellington - Also see Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald
Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra - Swingin' the Century (1999) 
Reviewed: 16 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: ****, LLL 
See CD at
This LA big band is excellent.  Most of the songs are originals by Bill Elliott.  Most of the songs are instrumentals, and a few feature a four-part harmony group with an old-time sound called the Lucky Stars.  I just love listening to the saxophones and the brass work together, carrying the melody in turns or interjecting just the right phrases to keep a solo or a vocalist truckin'.  This is real jazz, authentic big band jazz, with real jazz musicians playing really good jazz solos.  The average song tempo is fast, but that's what they prefer in LA, and the fast ones are the best songs here, anyway.  The songs are short. Bill Elliott is a dancer's band, and the CD includes BPM!  A rare treat.  The songs and melodies are catchy.  The songs are varied. My favorite is probably "When We Dance" (157 BPM).  The cheesy "The Shim-Sham" song, written especially to dance the Shim-Sham, is included.  My only complaints about the music is that sometimes the song lyrics are a bit trite, and the old-timey harmonies get to me after a while.  This 3rd CD of his is Elliott's best. This is a Ron's recommended essential swing CD.
Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra - Calling All Jitterbugs (1997) 
Reviewed: 16 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: ****, LLL 
See CD at
This is the 2nd CD by the big band with the really authentic sound.  Almost all originals, Bill Elliott really knows how to write and arrange excellent, sophisticated, songs.  His big band really goes for the authentic sound. The breaks and crescendos in the instrumental "Streamliner" really grab me.  He varies between short, punchy solos and extended treatments.  Everyone loves "Mildred, Won't You Behave" (200 BPM) I love the lyrics to "I'm Beginning to Like It", (130 BPM), about getting hip to swing: "I never thought I'd see the day, instead of slam, I'd swing and sway" and "I switched my MTV to AMC". A couple of the songs are not swing, or are too fast for me, hurting the Lindy rating.  "Bill's Bounce" (230 BPM) really really cooks.  Its very cool.  The last four songs aren't danceable, some are Dixieland or ragtime.  They are real old timey-sounding.  He wrote them for movie soundtracks.
Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra - Swing Fever (1994) 
Reviewed: 28 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: **, L
See CD at
This is Elliott's first CD, done all the way back in 1994.  Mostly originals.  The songs, the band's playing, and the singing aren't as good as his later efforts.  Too many vocal songs, in general.  The first song, "Struttin' With Kate" (215 BPM) is simply swinging. 
Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra - Live at the Hollywood Palladium (Wayland - 2000) 
Reviewed: 11 March 2001.  Ratings: ****, LLL
See CD at
More excellent swing from Bill Elliott's Orchestra!  This big-band is a true dancer's band, and every one of these songs are dancer's songs.  In contrast to his other CDs that featured mostly Bill Elliott originals, this CD has a lot of covers of classic swing songs by Basie, Calloway, Dorsey, Shaw, Lunceford, and even the not-so-classic Indigo Swing.  The sound quality is good, maybe a little echoey.  You feel you are right there at the Hollywood Palladium.  (I wish I hadn't missed that December 17, 1999 concert!)  Highlights are the Basie tune "Tune Town Shuffle" (168 BPM), and "One Girl & Two Boys" (185 BPM), the well-known (to dancers) song from the Kay Kyser film "Swing Fever".  Bill plays his own "hits" as well, including "Mildred..", "Bill's Bounce", "Strutting with Kate", "The Best Things", and "When We Dance".  Tempos are 141 BPM and up.  The musicianship is excellent, as it always is from an Elliott CD. 
Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra - Also see Introducing Dorothy Dandridge Soundtrack and John Lithgow.

Copyright 1999-2002 by Ronald Bloom

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