Ron's Swing CD Reviews

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CD Reviews - Artists - Q to R 

Compilations - A to I J to R S to Z

Lou Rawls with Les McCann Ltd. - Stormy Monday (Blue Note/Capitol - 1990) 
Reviewed: 19 Oct. 2000, updated 23 Jan. 2002.  Ratings: ****, LLL½
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Lou Rawls has a soulful, groovy voice and a style all his own.  Covering blues classics, his versions are quite different from the ones I have by Jimmy Witherspoon, Ray Charles and others.  The songs "Stormy Monday" (128 BPM), (also good is the Barbara Morrison version) and "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water" (131 BPM) are awesome.  I also like the latin rhythm "Blues is a Woman" (133 BPM) and "Tain't Nobody's Business" (129 BPM).  This session was originally recorded 1962.   Most of the other songs are slow songs, oozing with the blues.  Les McCann plays piano in the jazz trio that backs him up.  I think you'll relish, as I did, his restrained but powerful solos in "..Muddy Water" and "See See Rider" (121 BPM).
Lou Rawls - Anthology (Capitol - 2000) 
Reviewed: 24 June 2002.  Ratings: ****, LLL½
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This two-CD set is a great compilation of some of Lou Rawls best songs from 1962 to 1970, highlighting Rawls at his bluesiest.  Lou Rawls is able to sing slow songs with extreme grooviness. Earthy soul.  Great live versions of "Stormy Monday" (168 BPM) and "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water" (186 BPM) delight those used to the great slower versions from Stormy Monday.  A wonderful live "St. James Infirmary" (114 BPM) as well as a bunch of excellent slow blues songs makes this an must-have collection.  All the good stuff is on the 1st CD.  The 2nd of the two CDs doesn't have much of interest to dancers.  The songs on the 2nd CD don't swing or are otherwise boring.
Lou Rawls - At Last (Blue Note - 1989) 
Reviewed: 3 Nov. 2002.  Ratings: **½, LL
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This collection features Rawls singing a variety of tunes, from ballads to blues, with lots of interesting guest artists.  Notable is his version of "Fine Brown Frame" (129 BPM) with Diana Reeves.  A couple of the slow blues songs are pretty good, including "Two Years of Torture" (77 BPM) and his version of Lyle Lovett's "She's No Lady" (97 BPM).  His voice is still smooth as silk. 
The Real Group - Live in Stockholm (1996) 
Reviewed: 16 Jan. 2000.  Ratings: ***½, L½
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The Real Group is an a cappella jazz group, and a cappella jazz is not normally something you'd think to dance to.  But I heard Ithaca's Bill Borgida play "Splanky" (107 BPM) at the Hop the Millennium dance event and it went over very well. Late at night, with the right group of jazz-appreciating dancers, this song grooves very well. Everyone runs up and asks "who was that!?"  Splanky is a killer song in general anyway but this song is so grooving and musical it will floor you.  Push you out onto it, that is!  From Sweden, yes, but don't worry, the vocal songs are sung in English. I don't think any of the remaining songs are good for dancing, but they sure are pretty.  I love listening to this band.
The Real Group - Unreal! (Town Crier Records - 1995) 
Reviewed: 28 March 2000.  Ratings: ***, L
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This is wonderful to listen to, but only one or two songs are marginally swing-danceable.  For listening, I like their up-tempo songs best.  There's too many slow ones, for my taste.  "Wait and See" is haunting.  There is a great a-capella version of the Beatles "Come Together".  Its not really jazz or swing, but I think it's cool.  So there.
Red & The Red Hots - Boogie Man (1998) 
Reviewed: 15 Aug. 1999, revised: 1 Aug. 2000.  Ratings: **, LL
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This is a jazz swing CD with some originals, from an LA band.  Some of the lyrics are a little silly, and some of the songs are too fast.  I like "Cab to the City" (135 BPM). 
Red & The Red Hots - Gettin' Around (1999) 
Reviewed: 1 Aug. 2000.  Ratings: **½, LL½
The horns are tight.  Red's vocals are expressive.  The piano is featured on many of the songs and its way cool.  I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would.  The songs are generally happy and entertaining, and a bit cheesy.  A couple of non-swing songs add spice to the swing mix.  Tempos range from two ballads, then from 112 to 225 BPM.  Good variety of songs.  I recommend this CD to those who like a more modern swing sound, like Casey MacGill.  This band is a survivor--a regular fixture in LA clubs, even in this post-neoswing era. 
Eddie Reed Big Band - Hollywood Jump (1997) 
Reviewed: 15 Aug. 1999, revised 31 Aug. 2000.  Ratings: ****, LLL
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Another LA band, they put on good shows and turn out good CDs.  For each track the kind of music it is (Jump Blues Vocal, Swing Standard Vocal, etc.), the original band, and the BPM is provided.   Gotta love that!  His Big Band musicians are excellent.  The songs are all excellent for listening and many are excellent for dancing, but the average BPM is a bit fast for my tastes.  Of all the covers I've heard so far, I think I like their version of Ellington's "C Jam Blues" best.  "Boogie Blues" (152 BPM), "Hollywood Jump" (168 BPM), and "The Lamp is Low" (132 BPM) are all songs I play regularly when I DJ.  This is really a great swing CD.
Eddie Reed - While the Music Plays On  (1999) 
Reviewed: 20 Jan. 2000.  Ratings: **½, L½
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This album has quite a different feel compared to Hollywood Jump.  It has songs by his small group, instead of his big band.  It has a much jazzier feel.  A jazzy pianist is very evident.  Reed sings in all of the songs.   Tempos are all over.
Django Reinhardt - Gypsy Jazz (Drive Archive - 1994) 
Reviewed: 19 May 2003.  Ratings: ***½, LL
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Django Reinhardt was one of the most famous of all jazz guitarists.  Songs were recorded 1947 to 1953.  Sound on the early recordings isn't great.  Some nice duets with a clarinet.  Songs are mostly either very fast or ballad-slow.  Lots of ballads. The playing is sweet!  For dancing, I like "Blues for Ike" (142 BPM).  "Swing 41" (240 BPM) is also a great fast tune.  
Betty Roché - Take The A Train (Bethlehem Archives - 1957) 
Reviewed: 12 Feb. 2003.  Ratings: ****, LLLL
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Every swing DJ knows how hard it is to find a jazz CD with more than one song good for Lindyhop dancing on it.  Unless the music is by a dance band.  This is just a typical jazz vocal CD, but this CD has not one, two or three, but four (at least) danceable songs, if your music tastes run towards the slower and groovier end of the dance music spectrum. You may not have heard of her, but Betty Roche sang with Duke Ellington in 1943 during the recording ban.  This session is from 1956 and features Roche fronting a tight band consisting of vibes, trumpet, piano, bass, and drums.  The vibes and muted trumpet provide quite a relaxed feel to all of the songs.  Roche's singing is full of feeling, and she can scat.  The songs excellent for Lindyhop dancing include "Take the A Train" (146 BPM), "In a Mellotone" (136 BPM), "Route 66" (133 BPM) and "Go-Away Blues" (128 BPM).  There are a couple more good songs, in my opinion.  Of course, there are a few ballads on the CD as well.  I skip over these sleepy ballads.  
Rhythm Rockets - Come Ride the Rocket (1998) 
Reviewed: 15 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: **½, LLL
This was one of my favorite local bands to dance to in Chicago.  The CD shows its independently produced and low-budget origins, and some of the singing and playing isn't perfect.  But the songs are fun and full of energy so I can overlook a few flaws.  They play covers of classic R&B tunes (a lot of Buddy Johnson) and a few originals.  If you ever get a chance, see them live, they put on an excellent show, and be prepared to Lindy your socks off.  Of 15 tracks, fully eight are in the range 125 to 135 BPM! I play "Causing Me Pain" (130 BPM) occasionally when I DJ.
Buddy Rich Big Band - Ease On Down the Road (Laserlight - 1996) 
Reviewed: 21 April 2000.  Ratings: **½, L
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This is an album of modern jazz and funk.  Recorded 1973 and 1974, it has some hard-hitting groovy tunes, all instrumentals.  It has one song that swings, "Senator Sam" (118 BPM), and it swings oh-so-well, in a 70's, groovy, bluesy, way.  I dig it, man.
Zachary Richard - Zack's Bon Ton (1988) 
Reviewed: 28 Aug.1999.  Ratings, **, L
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A couple of songs on this Zydeco album swing, including "Ma Petite Fille Est Gone" (160 BPM). 
Rob Rio - Bankin' On The Boogie (1992) 
Reviewed: 24 April 2000.  Ratings: ***, LL
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Fun boogie-woogie blues from this superb piano player.  This "best-of" collection includes 20 tunes from four of his previous albums. The songs are both originals and covers.  The piano playing reminds me of Amos Milburn, and the singing, like Elvis.  This guy sure plays a fast and furious piano in songs like "Bumble Boogie" (222 BPM).  The playing is flawless.  He plays solo in some of the songs, others with a band.  You'll probably laugh at loud at his funny songs, including "Chiropractor Blues" (61 BPM), with lyrics like "you know I want to jump on your bones", and "Dog Duty Blues" (133 BPM), about all about his troubles stepping in dog doo. Lots of up-tempo songs here, but there's a number of mid-tempo tunes as well. 
Rob Rio - Swingtrain (1996) 
Reviewed: 31 May 2001.  Ratings: **½, LL½
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Rob Rio and his band have been playing for swing dancers for a long time.  The back of this CD says that Rob Rio even kept swing dancers in mind during the whole project.  Indeed, many of the songs are danceable.  He covers the eminently danceable "Rockhouse" and "My Baby Just Cares for Me", but unfortunately, I like the versions by Ray Charles and Indigo Swing better.  Plenty of humorous and clever songs here as well, including "Save the Planet" (197 BPM) featuring the line "save the planet, let's get gay"; and a song about an adventure with the judicial system in "The Reefer Smoker" (56 BPM).  There's a number of boogie-woogie piano tunes included on this collection, but I think I prefer the ones on the Bankin' on the Boogie CD.
Duke Robillard Band - Duke's Blues (1994) 
Reviewed: 28 June 2000.  Ratings: ***, LL½ 
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Robillard was a founding member of the Roomful of Blues, and former member of the fabulous Thunderbirds.  This is one of his many solo efforts.  He plays a good blues guitar.  Most of the songs swing.  This album pays tribute to his idols, such as Albert Collins, Lowell Fulson, T-Bone Walker, and Guitar Slim. He has a good voice.  The song "Information Blues" (145 BPM) is a good little jazzy number.  A number of other songs are in a good tempo range, but sound like they are better suited for West Coast swing dancers.  "Glamour Girl" (63 BPM) is a good slow blues song.
Roomful of Blues - Swingin' & Jumpin'  (32Blues - 1999) 
Reviewed: 25 Sept. 2000.  Ratings: ***, LLL
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This is a compilation of the best of the early albums of the Roomful of Blues.  From New England, Roomful of Blues played classic jump blues way before any of the modern swing bands jumped on the modern swing bandwagon.  These songs were recorded in 1979, 1982 and 1983.  Most of the songs are instrumentals, and many sound the same, but they all have a great energy.  Some of the solos aren't polished, some are hot.  Duke Robillard is with the band on some of the best songs.  Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson joined the band for one of the albums, as did Big Joe Turner.  Tempos are from 72 to 200 BPM.  My favorites are Vinson singing about his personal equipment: "He Was a Friend of Mine" (74 BPM), "That's My Life" (132 BPM), and Turner singing "Cocka Doodle Doo" (147 BPM). 
Roomful of Blues with Joe Turner, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson (32Blues - 1997) 
Reviewed: 27 Mar. 2001.  Ratings: **½, L½
This is a double-CD reissue of two albums recorded in the early 80's with Joe Turner and Eddie Vinson.  The best songs are on the above Roomful of Blues Swingin' & Jumpin' compilation. Roomful of Blues has a full jump-blues sound. Joe Turner's voice is a little slurred at times. The slow blues songs with Vinson singing are the best, with good guitar and sax solos.  Many of the Joe Turner songs just don't stand out. Many overly long songs.
Royal Crown Revue - Mugzy's Move (1996) 
Reviewed: 15 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: ***, LL
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This California band was in at the beginning of the swing revival. Their sound is variously described as neo-swing and gangsta-swing.  With a major label backing them, they continue to put out well-produced and heavily marketed albums that bring new people into swing.  Hard-core swing addicts turn up their nose at them, however, because they rock as much as they swing.  This album is the perhaps their most well-known one, with a mix of originals and covers.  I can't help it, I like "Zip Gun Bop" (160 BPM) and a couple others. 
Royal Crown Revue - Walk on Fire (1999) 
Reviewed: 30 Oct. 1999.  Ratings: ***½, LL
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RCR's new CD is diverse.  I'm having a hard time reviewing it.  More of the songs sound more loungey than the other stuff I've heard by them.  Not much of the gansta-swing sound.  I like "Watts Local" (125 BPM) and "Hey Sonny" (125 BPM).  High-caliber, tight performances, as usual.  I thought that since RCR was a horn-based band, that would be the common denominator of their sound.  But one of the songs I like most, "The Stranger" (120 BPM) is just vocal, guitar and drums.  Three of the 12 songs are Latin rhythm.  Four of the others are 120-125 BPM swing, one very slow, the other four 190 BPM and up.
Royal Crown Revue - The Contender (Warner - 1998) 
Reviewed: 21 June 2002.  Ratings: **½, LL½
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More fun gangsta-swing from RCR.  Mix of originals and covers.  Very tight!   I like "Stormy Weather" (156 BPM).  
Jimmy Rushing - The Essential (Vanguard Records - 1974) 
Reviewed: 30 Nov. 2000.  Ratings: **, LL
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Jimmy Rushing was Benny Moten's, then Count Basie's singer.  Known as "Mr. 5 by 5", for his portly shape. I can't tell when these songs were recorded, but they sound like the 50's.  Unfortunately, they sound like they were recorded in a big hall and have this big echo effect.  Most of the songs are blues.  I'm unimpressed.  There's probably better collections of his stuff out there.

© Copyright 1999-2003 by Ronald Bloom

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