Ron's Swing CD Reviews

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CD Reviews - Artists - T to V 

Compilations - A to I J to R S to Z

Bobby Timmons - Moanin' Blues (Prestige Records - 1998) 
Reviewed: 12 April 2002.  Ratings: ****, L½
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I've bought a lot of piano jazz recently, and this compares favorably to all of it.  This is a best-of collection, with the songs originally recorded in the early 1960's. This is well-done soul jazz.  Timmons used to play with Art Blakely and Cannonball Adderley, among others.  There isn't much here for an average dancer except "Dat Dere" (137 BPM) which has some playful patterns, but its a little long at 5:25.  
The Treniers - Cool It Baby (Bear Family - 1988) 
Reviewed: 9 Feb. 2000.  Ratings: ***½, LLL
This is early Rock and Roll, but the swinging kind.  Recorded 1953 to 1956, these guys should have been huge.  I like them better than Big Joe Turner or Bill Haley.  The Treniers have a wider variety of songs.  The songs are catchy, the band has loads of energy and personality.  The songs have fun breaks.  I like their voices better than many other bands.  Tempos are mostly 120 to 155 BPM.
The Treniers - They Rock They Roll They Swing (Epic - 1995) 
Reviewed: 24 May 2002.  Ratings: ***, LL½
This is a collection of the Treniers rousing swinging early Rock and Roll taken from their sessions with Okeh.   The Bear Family compilations don't overlap with this collection.  The beats and clapping will keep you moving.  The saxophone soars throughout the songs, sometimes with little relation to the melody, but sometimes it sounds great.  There's a lot of forgettable songs on this collection, but a few highlights, like "Go Go Go" (182 BPM) and "Say Hey, The Willie Mays Song" (149 BPM).
Sue Tucker - Meant For You (2000) 
Reviewed: 1 April 2003.  Ratings: **, L
Here's another jazz vocalist from Minnesota.  Her voice is clear and the band good, but there's nothing unique or exceptional that grabs me about her singing.  However, there's an interesting and diverse song selection.  I don't like her pacing, sometimes she hangs back or advances the melody so much sometimes its unnatural and annoying (to me).  Very mellow renditions, there's not much for a Lindyhop dancer on this CD except maybe "Sugar" (115 BPM) or "Undecided". 
Joe Turley - When the Jitterbug Bites (Boogietime Records - 2000) 
Reviewed: 19 March 2001.  Ratings: ***½, LL½
I'm enjoying listening to this band out of Nashville, even though they mostly play a type of modern swing that I'm otherwise tired of.  But the songs are all originals, the band is extremely tight, and the songs capture my attention.  Maybe the swing resurgence could have had more of a chance with more bands playing quality music like Joe Turley.  He's two years too late, though.  This CD has a wide variety of songs, including high-tempo boogies, ballads and a rock/blues/swing song.  There's even a tango song.  There's a variety of instruments appearing in this mix as well.  Besides the standard ones, at times I hear organ, harmonica, flute and slide guitar.  Many of the songs have a country feel.  A lot of the songs are too fast for me.  Turley and his band have real talent. His weakness is probably his singing, but its not bad.  I like the instrumental "High Steppin" (137 BPM), with its interesting dynamics, breaks, and call and response soloing.  And for a silly neo-swing boogie tune, "Boogietime" (206 BPM) isn't half bad. 
Big Joe Turner - Greatest Hits (Atlantic - 1989) 
Reviewed: 8 Feb. 2000.  Ratings: **½, LL½
Recorded 1951 to 1958, these Big Joe Turner's songs show his transition from blues to early Rock 'n' Roll songs.  They all swing.  A lot of the early Rock 'n' Roll songs sound the same, with the same blues-based structure and similar tempos.  A lot of these songs were big hits in their day.  Haley made a big hit of Turner's "Shake Rattle and Roll" (156 BPM).  "Flip, Flop and Fly" (167 BPM) is also well-known.  The tempos of songs 11 to 20 range from 148 BPM to 182 BPM. Many of the rest are slow blues.
Big Joe Turner - The Very Best Of (Rhino - 1998) 
Reviewed: 7 May 2002.  Ratings: ***, LLL½
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This best-of collection includes only 16 songs compared to the Atlantic collection above, and only four aren't on the Atlantic collection.  But this collection has "You're Driving Me Crazy" (158 BPM) which has horns, sounds jazzier, is musically structured on something other than his standard 12-bar blues pattern, and uses the riffs from Moten Swing.  Most of his other songs are so simple they sometimes strike me as boring.  Other times they strike me as happy, upbeat, completely danceable songs.  
Sarah Vaughan - Embraceable You  (1996) 
Reviewed: 20 Jan. 2000.  Ratings: **, L½
Not a good choice for a swing dancer, this CD captures a live performance in Paris.  It has a lot of slow ballads or very fast songs.
Sarah Vaughan - Finest Hour  (Verve - 2000) 
Reviewed: 17 Nov. 2000.  Ratings: ***½, LL½
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There are a lot of ballads on here, but instead of being turned off, I find them very engaging.  Her voice just compels me to listen.  String orchestra and all.  Or maybe the two glasses of Chardonnay I just drank has put me in an appreciative, mellow mood. OK, now I've listened to a few more and I'm tired of ballads.  In her occasional ultra-fast song she shows her mastery of scatting.  But now I'm captured by yet another ballad, "Lover Man".  It must be the Chardonnay.  The two Lindyable songs are near the end of the CD, and they are superlative.  There's the beautiful "Lullaby of Birdland" (119 BPM), and the incredible 5-minute epic "Sassy's Blues" (133 BPM), where her scatting with the jazz trio backing her just builds and builds.  And I loved those two songs even before I drank the Chardonnay.
Eddie Vinson - Cleanhead's Back in Town (Bethlehem Records - 2001) 
Reviewed: 26 May 2001.  Ratings: ***, LL½
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Originally recorded in 1957, these tracks capture blues-shouter legend Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson at his best.  Some of the songs are remakes of his hits from the 40's.  Vinson is backed by sidemen from the Basie orchestra.  The music is jazzy R&B.  A lot of the songs are slow blues, others are uptempo.  His singing sounds like a bit like Joe Williams here, but its weaker.  The three bonus tracks are stereo versions of three of the songs, but the mono versions are better!
T-Bone Walker - T-Bone Shuffle (Culture Press - 1998) 
Reviewed: 29 May 2000.  Ratings: ***½, LLL 
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T-Bone was basically the inventor of the modern electric-guitar style blues.  From the liner notes "A whole generation of young blues players took up electric guitar after listening to T-Bone records."  This is a collection of his early songs recorded between 1942 and 1947.  His guitar style is very restrained.  With piano, bass and drums, it all sets a groovy mood.  Occasional appearance of saxophones and trumpets, as well.  T-Bone is a great expressive singer.  Lots of great slow blues songs.  A few songs, like the heavily covered "T-Bone Shuffle" (139 BPM) are danceable, as is "She's the No-Sleepin'est Woman" (123 BPM) and "I Know Your Wig is Gone" (145 BPM) and a few others.  Too many of the songs sound the same. 

© Copyright 1999-2002 by Ronald Bloom

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