Ron's Swing CD Reviews

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CD Reviews - Compilations A to I

Compilations - A to I J to R S to Z

Barbecue Blues - Various Artists (1998) 
Reviewed: 17 Aug.1999.  Ratings: **, LL
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This is a neat blues collection of songs all concerning food.  Of course it has the Mitch Wood's "Boogie-Woogie Barbecue" (185 BPM) and Jordan's "Saturday Night Fish Fry" (170), but it has a couple other neat songs, too.  Many of the songs are old recordings, however.  Others don't swing.
Best of the Big Bands (Madacy) - Various Artists (1998) 
Reviewed: 26 Sept.1999.  Ratings: *, L
You'll see this collection in the discount bins--don't buy it!! I bought this 3-CD set by Madacy music group mostly because it was ultra-cheap and I figured I couldn't go wrong.  Well, it was still expensive for what I got.  Watch out for the other Madacy collections.  There are a lot of big-band compilations out there that have to be better than this one.  The songs and quality is terrible.  It doesn't even have any notes on when the songs were made.  Its like they obtained whatever version of these songs that they could get that were cheapest to license, and stuck them on this compilation.  One CD is Glenn Miller, and it sounds pretty bad, one CD is Benny Goodman, and its OK, and the third CD is a mix of bands, and its bad, with long songs, poor versions of songs best found elsewhere. 
Best of the Big Dance Bands - Various Artists (LRC - 1990) 
Reviewed: 19 Mar. 2001.  Ratings: **, LL
This import is a collection of big bands songs recorded live in hi-fi.  There no clue as to what year or where the songs were recorded, but as for the when, it must be 50's or later. There's six songs by Benny Goodman, three by Woody Herman, six by Harry James.  The Goodman songs are classics, performed straight. The others aren't as good.  Sound quality is very mixed, from good (Goodman) to awful (James). 
Big Bands in Hi-Fi (Volume 1 - Let's Dance) - Various Artists (Capitol - 1995) 
Reviewed: 17 Aug.1999.  Ratings: ***, LLL 
(Out of print)
This is a double-CD that consists of 150+ minutes of big-band songs recorded in the 50's.  All the hits are there except "Sing, Sing, Sing", oh joy!  Most recorded in glorious Hi-Fi.  It has Herman's "Caledonia", Basie's "Jumpin' at the Woodside", Goodman's "Jersey Bounce", and on and on.  The tempos are all over the map, but not as many from 120 to 165 BPM.  There are some vocals and some non-swing songs.  This is a great collection.  You'll have to go elsewhere for Fletcher Henderson, Glenn Miller, etc.  I find myself hitting the skip button too often for various of the slow, Lawrence-Welkian type songs, so that hurt the ratings, and makes me recommend the Oscillatin' Rhythm collection first.  My favorite big-band song is here, however, "Two O'clock Jump", by Harry James (160 BPM).  It starts quiet, you listen to the bass thumping and feel the energy building, and the trumpets and percussion blow you away in the end. There's a couple of excellent, hard-to-find Shaw tunes here, too.
Big Bands in Hi-Fi (Volume 2 - In The Mood) - Various Artists (Capitol - 1995) 
Reviewed: 29 Sept. 2002.  Ratings: ***, LLL 
(Out of print)
I finally bought this out-of-print collection used and it was worth the wait.  This is volume 2 of the Big-Bands compilation that Capitol put out a few years back.  It features hi-fi recordings in the 50's of the famous big bands doing some of their famous songs from the swing era.  As before, I hit skip on the sweet and slow songs by Freddy Martin, Glen Grey and Kay Kyser.  But I totally dig the hi-fi Goodman and Shaw songs--songs I can't seem to find anywhere else.  Good Basie, too.  There's a great hi-fi version of "Begin the Beguine" (141 BPM) by Shaw.  The Glen Grey version of "In the Mood" (171 BPM) is note-for-note identical to the Glen Miller version.  Some re-recorded big band songs just don't have the edge that the originals do, but most of these do.  This 2-CD collection has over 150 minutes of music.  Some overlap with Oscillatin Rhythm compilation and Harry James Trumpet Blues. As before, not enough songs in the tempo range I prefer, but a good collection none-the-less.
Big Bands Golden Era of Swing Vol. 1 (Drive Archive - 1995) 
Reviewed: 25 April 2000.  Ratings: **, L
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This is an odd collection of big-band tunes by various bands, from Basie/Billy Holiday in 1938 to Woody Herman in 1958.  Only 3 of the 12 tunes were recorded prior to 1946.  Sound quality is OK, but considering the years, should be better. Lots of obscure songs and obscure versions that I'm not crazy about.  Only 38 minutes.
Blue Note Blend, on the Count of Three - Various Artists (Capitol - 2000) 
Reviewed: 24 Dec. 2000.  Ratings: **,  
This is the third collection of jazz compiled for Starbucks.  Lots of songs from the 60's and 90's.  If you have been tempted by this collection while sipping a Capuchino, be forewarned that there is not much for a Lindy-Hopper here, but otherwise its a good collection of diverse jazz songs.   Blues, latin rhythms, ballads, bop, you name it.  Patricia Barber's "The Beat Goes On" (105 BPM) makes me want to move, bluesy like.
Blues Masters - Volume 5: Jump Blues Classics - Various Artists (1992) 
Reviewed: 28 Aug.1999.  Ratings: ***, LL
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This is a good collection of from classic R&B/jump blues songs recorded from 1948 to 1957.  It features 18 songs by artists such as Louis Prima, Wynonie Harris, Roy Brown, Jimmy Liggins, Wynona Carr, Bullmoose Jackson, and Tiny Bradshaw.  Lots of low-fidelity songs.  Its interesting that Little Johnny Jones "Hoy Hoy" (150 BPM) is essentially the same song as Roy Milton's "Hop, Skip & Jump" (170 BPM).  The collections Risque Rhythm and Jumpin' Like Mad are still my R&B collections of choice, but this one is also good. 
Blues Masters - Volume 1: Urban Blues - Various Artists (Rhino - 1992) 
Reviewed: 27 June 2000.  Ratings: **,  
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This collection has a lot of great slow swinging blues songs, mostly from the early 50's, from the early blues greats like Erskine Hawkins, Jimmy Witherspoon, Pee Wee Crayton, Charles Brown, Guitar Slim, Guitar Slim, Johnny Otis and the like.  It only has one Lindy song, but lots of classic guitar blues.  Great liner notes.
By George and Ira - Various Artists (1998) 
Reviewed: 20 Aug.1999.  Ratings: **, L 
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This tribute to Gershwin consists mostly of slow ballads, and multiple vocal and instrumental interpretations of the same songs.  But I adore Sarah Vaughan's "They Can't Take That Away from Me" (125 BPM), it really swings.  The rest are comatose. 
A Celebration of Blues - Great Swing Blues - Various Artists (1997) 
Reviewed: 16 Feb. 2002.  Ratings: **, L
This is a collection of electric jump blues.   Lots of electric guitar.  I bought it for the song "Laying in the Alley" (125 BPM) by Big Joe and the Dynaflows. 
New! Chicago - Music from the Miramax Motion Picture (Sony - 2002) 
Reviewed: 26 April 2003.  Ratings: ****, L
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This is a excellent movie and soundtrack. OK, so it isn't exactly a swing cd. But my only rule for reviewing CDs for this website is that they have at least one swing-danceble song, and this CD sure does.   The song I play for dancers is "Roxie" (133 BPM) sung by Renee Zellweger.  Its so fun!  Try to hit the breaks... "Roxie!"   with a suitable broadway style pose!  It has enough of a steady rhythm to make it suitable for dancing.  And you have to love the lines "... their gonna recognize my eyes, my hair, my cheek, my boobs, my nose!" and "...and they love me for loving them and I love them for loving me..."  The backing band is tight.  A lot of the other songs are "jazzy", as well, in a 20's style.
Cocktail Combos - Various Artists (Capitol Records - 1997) 
Reviewed: 16 Feb. 2002.  Ratings: ***, LL
This 3-disk CD collects some simple early jazz.  Cocktail Combos, as I learn from the extensive liner notes, are small quiet bands, usually without drums.  They don't interfere with cocktail conversation.  Represented are King Cole Trio, Johnny Moore, Charles Brown and Floyd Dixon. Because this was released as part of a Blues series, most of the songs are blues.  Good mellow listening.  Charles Brown sings the best ultra slow blues.  His voice just oozes the blues.  For dancing, I love "Red Cherries" (116 BPM) by Floyd Dixon.  
Diner Mite, The Swinging Diner - Various Artists (Sony - 1994) 
Reviewed: 16 Feb. 2002.  Ratings: **, L
Cute novelty songs about food from the Modernaires, Kay Kyser, Cab Calloway, Les Brown and others. 
Everybody Dances Swing (Series #1) - Various Artists (Ripete Records - 1997) 
Reviewed: 23 April 2000.  Ratings: **, LL
This is another swing music collection mostly of interest to West-Coast swing dancers.  It was put together by some people in South Carolina.  Lots of foot-tapping blues numbers here by modern bands that I've never heard of and a few classic bands like The Clovers.  There's even a George Gee number at the end "My Heart Stood Still" (141 BPM) that's ruined by clapping and talking.  Tempos are all in the 120 to 150 BPM range or so.  Some of these songs are pretty fun!  Like The Clover's "Drive It Home" (122 BPM), J.D. Cash's "Triple Shot..." (132 BPM)
The Fabulous Swing Collection - Various Artists (RCA - 1998) 
Reviewed: 21 April 2000.  Ratings: **, L
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With 64 minutes, this CD has a good collection of many of the famous big-band swing songs recorded between 1933 and 1940. Goodman, Miller, Dorsey, Barnet, Shaw, Ellington, Calloway, Berigan, Lunceford and Henderson are all represented.  The expected songs are included, with few exceptions.  Sound quality is poor.  Mostly only uptempo songs are included.  The BPMs for the 19 songs are, in order: 171, 180, 165, 175, 199, 271, 166, 160, 96, 184, 208, 193, 231, 128, 149, 255, 217, 185 and 230.  Ouch. 
From the Vaults, Vol. 3 - Capitol Jumps - Various Artists (Capitol - 2000) 
Reviewed: 1 Oct. 2000.  Ratings: ***, LL
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This is a collection of songs from the early years of Capitol records.  The songs were recorded 1943 to 1953.  Despite the title, this collection isn't limited to jump blues, but contains a mix of big-band, slow blues, bop and ballads among its 23 songs.  They did a good job remastering the music and the resulting sound quality is excellent for its era.  There's a wide variety of tempos, as well. 
Great Jazz Singers - Various Artists (EMI - 1995) 
Reviewed: 25 April 2000.  Ratings: *, L
Featured on this CD are a selection of jazz singers spanning more than fifty years.  Singers include Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Williams, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, Peggy Lee, Billie Holiday, Nancy Wilson, June Christy, Mel Torme, Anita O'Day, Nat King Cole, Dakota Staton.  This collection is too eclectic and the songs are too cheesy to appeal to my ears, and there too few songs with the right tempos to appeal to my feet.  I do like "A Walk in the Black Forest" (133 BPM) by Salena Jones.
Great Ladies of Jazz - Various Artists (Polygram - 1993) 
Reviewed: 25 April 2000.  Ratings: **, L
This is a 3-CD set.  Sarah Vaughn and Dinah Washington are featured on the 1st CD, Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald on the 2nd, Nina Simone and Pearl Bailey on the 3rd.  There are six songs for each artist, which is enough to get a feel for that artist's style.  I couldn't find this in print anymore. Pity, its a neat format, although there's not many danceable tunes here.  Too many pop songs, slow songs, orchestral songs.
Great Swing Classics in Hi-Fi - Various Artists (1999)  
Reviewed: 5 Sept.1999.  Ratings: ***, LL
See CD at
There are a lot of big band compilation CDs out there, but I prefer those in Hi-Fi, but the big-band era was finished by the time high-fidelity recording techniques were developed.  So CDs like this one rely on the famous big bands re-recording their classic songs, but in the 50's.  Some would argue the 40's originals are better.  Maybe.  This CD has 14 songs by Goodman, Ellington, Stan Kenton, Harry James, Glen Gray, Les Brown, Billy May, and Woody Herman. The Oscillatin' Rhythm or the 2-CD Big Bands in Hi-Fi collections are better.  No songs on this CD are repeated on either compilation.
Groovin' the Blues - Various Artists (Jazz Moods series) (Concord Records - 1999) 
Reviewed: 1 Sept. 2001.  Ratings: ****, LLL
See CD at
If you like modern, groovy, swinging blues, this compilation CD is for you.  I already had a lot of the CDs that these songs were taken from, but I've found a couple new gems to play for the Lindy Hop dancers I DJ for, particularly "Wild Women Don't Get the Blues" (138 BPM) by Dennis Rowland.  There are also songs by Ernestine Anderson, Jack McDuff, the Cheathams, Gene Harris, and Ray Brown.  Five of the 11 songs can be Lindyed to, which is an excellent ratio, the others are slow blues, funk or latin rhythms. All extremely well-done.  Songs are long and full of excellent soloing.  I dare you to try to not move your head or your toe while you are listening to these songs. 
Hipsters, Zoots, & Wingtips, the 90's Swingers - Various Artists (1998) 
Reviewed: 18 Aug.1999.  Ratings: ***, L
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Except for Indigo Swing's "Swing Lover" (115 BPM), the rest of this compilation contains all very fast songs, most >190 BPM. But the selection of bands and songs are top-rate, and there are good liner notes about each band.  This collection includes songs from Royal Crown Revue, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Flying Neutrinos, Big Time Operator, Diana Krall, Red & the Red Hots, Blues Jumpers, Lavay Smith, Ron Sunshine, Steve Lucky, Bill Elliot, Brian Setzer, Set 'Em Up Joe, and Jumpin' Jimes.  I have found it worthwhile to get virtually all of these band's CDs.
Hipsters, Zoots, & Wingtips, Vol. 2 - Original Swingers - Various Artists (1999)
Reviewed: 5 Sept.1999.  Ratings: **, LL
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Unlike Vols. 1 and 3, this CD doesn't contain a mix of songs by the new swing bands.  It contains the original versions from the 40's and 50's of some of the songs being covered by the bigger modern swing bands, like Lavay Smith, Indigo Swing, and Mighty Blue Kings.  Its interesting to hear the originals, and how close they followed them, but in most cases I prefer the modern version.  
Hipsters, Zoots, & Wingtips, Vol. 3 - Various Artists (1999) 
Reviewed: 18 Aug.1999.  Ratings: ***, LLLL 
See CD at
Many of the swing collections out there suck, with their focus on the worst of the hard-core neo-swing.  And despite the stupid name, this compilation is the best available at the time I write this review, providing good selections from a large variety of quality swing bands.  It would allow anyone unfamiliar with these bands to sample a lot of them at low risk.  Unlike Volume 1, the tempos are reasonable, averaging 160 BPM--someone must have taught the producers how to dance, or the value of variety.  There are preview songs from upcoming CDs by Big Time Operator, the Jump, Jive & Wailers, and Lavay Smith, as well as songs by Indigo Swing, Steve Lucky, Ray Gelato Giants, Johnny Nocturne, Bill Elliott, Eddie Reed, Bellevue Cadillac, Vargas Swing, Camaros, Love Dogs, and Nick Palumbo & the Flipped Fedoras.  And again, notes about each band.  They also throw in a couple songs by the two big swing-band influences: Louis Prima & Louis Jordan.  I play a lot of these songs when I DJ.
Hollywood Swing and Jazz - Motion Picture Soundtrack Anthology - Various Artists (Rhino - 2000) 
Reviewed: 4 Feb. 2001.  Ratings: **, L
See CD at
This is a double-CD anthology of 51 swing and jazz songs from movie soundtracks. (MGM, Warner Brothers and RKO films).  A lot of these songs can't be found elsewhere other than this collection.  Songs range in length from just over a minute to eight minutes, and were recorded 1934 to 1966.  Songs are performed by Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Mel Torme, Louis Armstrong and many others.  The liner notes are substantial.  Because they were recorded for the movies, often the sound quality is better than you would ordinarily expect for the era.  I like the versions of "Traffic Jam" (258 BPM) and "One O'Clock Jump" (270 BPM) here.  To listen to.  I like the lyrics in "You've Got To Know How to Dance" (181 BPM)-- "if you want to win my heart ... you don't have to have degrees, from a lot of universities, all you need is rhythm in your knees, and you gotta know how to dance!"  (Well, it hasn't worked for this reviewer, yet.) This song and many others on this collection aren't good for dancing, as they feature time changes and other odd breaks and vocal inserts (as befitting a movie!), or they are part of a medley. This collection is bound to appeal to fans of old swing and the old movies!  (Unfortunately, I'm not.)  Disk 2 has a good song, "Coffee Time" (107 BPM) by Carmen Rae, and some groovy Gerry Mulligan tunes. 
Honkers & Bar Walkers Volume 1 - Various Artists (Delmark Records - 1992) 
Reviewed: 17 August 2002.  Ratings: ***, LLL
See CD at
This is a fun collection of early 50's saxophone artists blowing jazz-tinged R&B.   Simple songs, but a large number are danceable.  
Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (soundtrack) - Bill Elliott Orchestra and others (1999) 
Reviewed: 30 Oct.1999.  Ratings: ***, LL
See CD at
This HBO-movie soundtrack features the Bill Elliott Orchestra on the first 11 tracks.  The tracks by Bill Elliott include three of his best instrumental songs from his Calling All Jitterbugs album, one from his Swingin the Century album, and seven new songs.  Of these seven, two are slow ballads and the other five are other vocal songs of various tempos.  Of the new songs, I like "Your Red Wagon" (120 BPM) best.  The last 4 tracks are boring string-orchestra songs, the movie background music.  The imported songs help the rating, the ballads and orchestra songs hurt it.  I recommend buying the Bill Elliott orchestra CDs directly, this album is only for Bill Elliott completists.   

Copyright 1999-2003 by Ronald Bloom

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