Ron's Swing CD Reviews

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CD Reviews - Artists - N to P 

Compilations - A to I J to R S to Z

Anita O'Day (w/ Gene Krupa) - Let me Off Uptown (1999) 
Reviewed: 21 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: ****, LLLL
See CD at
This is a newly remastered Columbia best-of collection, containing a collection of songs (backed by Krupa's big band) recorded 1941 to 1945.  If you can get over the sound of the recordings, this is great stuff.  Great vocals, great arrangements, and a great band.  Great diversity of songs.  And the music is so engaging, I don't notice the low-fidelity.  In fact, these remastered recordings are very good.  The songs "Opus One" (155 BPM) and "Let Me Off Uptown" (155 BPM) are my favorites, but there are lots of other excellent songs, including "Watch the Birdie (160 BPM), and "Thanks for the Boogie Ride" (155 BPM).  Lots of good-tempo songs to dance to, virtually all from 135 to 170 BPM. Lots of great breaks, and good solos by drummer Krupa and trumpeter Roy Eldridge.  This is my favorite big-band era CD by far, and its the only one I listen to repeatedly in my car.  This is a Ron's recommended essential swing CD.
Anita O'Day - The Complete Recordings 1949-1950 (1998) 
Reviewed: 4 Oct. 1999.  Ratings: **, L
See CD at
This CD collects O'Day's rare recordings outside of Krupa and Kenton's bands, but before her successful solo career singing bop jazz in the late 50's.  (Her later stuff isn't that danceable.)  The first four songs are the best, and were actually recorded in 1945 with a band.  Tracks 5-9 were recorded with the Nat King Cole trio, and so sound kind of sparse, but the piano work is sweet.  The rest of the material isn't that notable and a lot of it is poor-sounding.  Lots of ballads.  This CD is for the true collector of her swing music. 
Sy Oliver - Yes Indeed/The Definitive Black and Blue Sessions (Black & Blue - 1996) 
Reviewed: 29 Nov. 2000.  Ratings: ***, LL
See CD at
Sy Oliver was a trumpeter, singer, and arranger for Jimmie Lunceford's band, and later, Tommy Dorsey.  His most famous charts include "Organ Grinder's Swing", "T'ain't What You Do", "Ain't She Sweet", and "For Dancer's Only".  In this 1973 session for Black and Blue he plays a wide variety of tempos and styles, all swing.  Some vocals, some instrumentals. I like "Yes Indeed" (125 BPM) and the blues "Move" (121 BPM). I wish they had used a string bass instead of an electric bass, though.
Sue Palmer - Boogie Woogie and Motel Swing (1999) 
Reviewed: 27 Mar. 2001.  Ratings: ***, LL
Sue Palmer and her band are a local San Diego band. She used to play with Candye Kane.  Sue Palmer plays a great boogie-woogie piano. The music and the band is very tight.  There's an excellent version of Milburn's "Down the Road A Piece" (177 BPM).  From the liner notes: "Sue Palmer and her Southern California accomplices have plotted an album of driving piano, expressionistic horns and dance-inducing rhythm which should fix any problems you might have."   There's a good variety of music on this CD.  Besides a few fast boogie-woogie tunes, there's also jazzy blues, jump blues, slow blues, and a swango song. This CD has mostly originals by Sue Palmer.
Sue Palmer - Soundtrack to a B Movie (2001) 
Reviewed: 4 Nov. 2001.  Ratings: ***, LL
More excellent boogie-woogie and blues from Sue Palmer.  Sue Palmer and her band really know how to play for dancers, but this CD is going for a much broader audience.  There are some excellent slow blues here.  But its the boogie-woogie piano that delights. Deejha's voice is full and powerful. See her website for CD ordering information.  
Alex Pangman - Can't Stop Me From Dreaming (Sensation Records - 2001) 
Reviewed: 5 Dec. 2001.  Ratings: ***, LL
Toronoto singer Alex Pangman doesn't always hit the note she's aiming for right away, but if you can forgive that, this is a fine CD filled with interesting songs from the late 20's and 30's.  Her voice is interesting, in a good way.  I really like the excellent rhythm guitar playing by Jeff Healy.  Great clarinet and trumpet work on many of the songs.  Heck, the whole band is tight.  Anyone with an interest in the really classic jazz sound will like this stuff.  This CD contains a great variety of songs styles and tempos.  I like "It's All Your Fault" (183 BPM), despite its western-swing sound, which I don't usually like!  I also like "Mama's Gone Goodbye" (132 BPM) which has the best soloing I've heard in a while.  See for CD ordering information.
Oscar Peterson Trio - Night Train (Verve - 1962/1997) 
Reviewed: 24 April 2000, updated 11 March 2001.  Ratings: *****, LL,
See CD at
Oscar Peterson is considered to be one of the best if not the best jazz pianist of all time, and this CD shows off his and his trio's talents brilliantly.  Recorded in 1962, Night Train contains a number of jazz standards, all instrumentals, most with a swing rhythm, all of  reasonably short length and all very approachable by the average listener.  In fact, Night Train is Oscar Peterson's most popular CD in as I write this review.  To evaluate its "danceability" is difficult.  I realize that dancing to a jazz trio (piano, bass, drums) is not to everyone's taste or ability.  The sound is sparse and jazzy.  But for discerning dancers, the first song, "Happy-Go-Lucky Local (aka Night Train)" (105-110 BPM) is great fun to dance to.  As is "Moten Swing" (139 BPM), and "Easy Does It" (111 BPM).  I know I overuse the word "groovy" in these reviews, but if it applies anywhere, it applies to these songs. These three songs have great patterns and breaks to play with. The other songs are mostly out of the prime dancing tempo range, so that hurt the Lindy rating. But listen to Peterson dancing his fingers around the keyboard, manipulating your emotions as easily as he manipulates the keyboard, and you'll understand why I gave this CD a rare 5-star rating.
Oscar Peterson - The Essential Oscar Peterson: The Swinger (Verve - 1992) 
Reviewed: 11 March 2001.  Ratings: ***, L,
See CD at
This compilation doesn't have many good songs for Lindy dancing. "Blues for Big Scotia" (100 BPM) (5:58) has some fun patterns for those dancers able to handle 100 BPM songs. A lot of the other songs are too slow or fast, have strange rhythms and melodies, or aren't swing (including two waltzes). Peterson's playing is as intricate as ever: never playing one note when five could fit in the same space.
Oscar Peterson - Trio plus One (Verve - 1964) 
Reviewed: 28 Mar. 2001.  Ratings: ***, L
See CD at
The "one" joining Peterson, Thigpen and Brown is trumpeter Clark Terry.  For dancing, "Blues for Smedley" (137 BPM) is good, but at 6:53, its very long for a dance song.  The CD is otherwise very listenable.
John Pizzarelli - Our Love Is Here To Stay (RCA - 1997) 
Reviewed: 8 Sept. 2001.  Ratings: ***, L
See CD at
Pizzarelli sings and plays guitar.  Most of these songs feature him singing in from of a big-band.   I like "Honey Pie" (137 BPM) a lot for dancing, the others aren't right for one reason or another.  This isn't an album of just Pizzarelli, the singer, there's plenty of room for the band to shine.  But the big-band is a little too "blast them with volume"/later Basie-like for me to love them, but there's OK. Most of this stuff swings, at one tempo or anther. I'm very impressed with Pizzarelli guitar playing.
Prairie Cats - The Big One (1999) 
Reviewed: 17 Feb. 2000.  Ratings: *, L
This is an unremarkable collection of songs by a modern swing band from Omaha.  None stand out, the melody lines are too simple, repetitive.  The songs are originals, they didn't try to cover the same 20 songs as every other modern swing band.  The singing is very weak, they should let the woman vocalist sing more.  The drummer is pretty good.  The songs are mostly two basic speeds: above 210 BPM, or 140 BPM.
Elvis Presley - Elvis' Golden Records (1997) 
Reviewed: 28 Nov. 1999.  Ratings: ***, LL 
See CD at
Hey, he swings!  This album has 20 of his biggest hits.  I find the ballads boring even to listen to, but for dancing, I like "All Shook Up" (150 BPM), and "Jailhouse Rock" (167 BPM), This album also has "Hound Dog" (172 BPM), "Heartbreak Hotel" (92 BPM), Don't Be Cruel" (168 BPM), and "Blue Suede Shoes" (188 BPM). 
Elvis Presley - 30 #1 Hits (RCA - 2002) 
Reviewed: 30 Mar 2003.  Ratings: ***, LL
See CD at
Most of Presley's stuff is simple and a lot of it is cheesy, but he's the King for good reason.  I found another song or two on here compared to the above CD that I could spin for Lindyhoppers.  This CD contains remastered songs.
Lee Press-On and the Nails - Jump-Swing from Hell, Live at the Hi-Ball Lounge (1997) 
Reviewed: 5 Sept. 1999.  Ratings: *, L 
See CD at
I've seen them live a few times, and they always put on an excellent show.  Some live CDs capture a live performance in full glory, but this one doesn't do it for me.  The sound is really poor and the band doesn't sound good at all, very sloppy.  Covers and originals all done in that Lee Press-on over-the-top manner.  They rock/swing at high speed.  Bad or good, this band and this CD is not for the swing faint-of-heart.   Lee sings most of the songs, his wife does one, too.  They have an original sound, what other band would do "I'm Beginning to See the Light", "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" and "Hot for Teacher" in the same set?  I really hate to rate this CD so low, I really enjoy them live. 
Lee Press-On and the Nails - Swing is Dead (Irascible Records - 1999) 
Reviewed: 29 May 2000.  Ratings: ***, LL 
See CD at
While many of the other neo-swing bands have died, Lee Press-On's band, lives on with "Swing is Dead".  This CD is great improvement over their last effort.  Much tighter performances from everyone.  Great variety of songs here, from the cowboy "Ghostriders In the Sky" (155 BPM), to the spooky "Dark Half" (139 BPM), to a waltz/swing song.  Most songs are in a clever death theme.  Complete with interesting liner photos. When I DJ I play "That Only Happens in the Movies" (148 BPM).  "Hat Back Boogie" (201 BPM) is also fun, with lyrics "... you can keep all my CDs, I just want my hat back!"  This band is more of a performance band than a dance band, and they sure put on a great performance.  But there's a great variety of songs and tempos on this CD, and everyone, dancers and listeners alike, should be able to find something they like. 
Louis Prima - Capitol Collectors Series (1991) 
Reviewed: 20 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: ***, LL
See CD at
This collection consists of Prima's fun vocal shenanigans, another CD to make you smile.  Songs were recorded between 1956 and 1962, during the time Prima ruled Vegas.  He's a goof, bantering with saxophonist Sam Butera, doing call and response, changing tempos in the middle of songs, rhyming "I've God the World on a String" with "zing" and "sing like Bing", and being general irreverent.  "Just A Gigolo" (125 BPM) and "Jump, Jive & Wail" (195 BPM) are the big hits.  Prima is great in small doses--the 76 minutes of this collection  is too much at one sitting.   His songs swing with his band's distinctive shuffle-rhythm, but many swing too fast to dance to.  Prima's "Jump, Jive & Wail" is also found on the Wild, Cool & Swingin' CD.
Louis Prima - Ultra Lounge Artist Series (Capitol Records - 1999) 
Reviewed: 18 Feb. 2002.  Ratings: ***, LL
This is a full 2-CD collection of prima Prima.  This collection includes all of the songs on the above collection (I think) plus a whole lot more.  

Copyright 1999-2003 by Ronald Bloom

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