Ron's Swing CD Reviews


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Compilations - A to I J to R S to Z

 
Jazz and Romance - Various Artists (St. Clair - 1999) 
Reviewed: 28 Mar. 2001.  Ratings: ***½, L
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I bought this budget compilation of light 80's and 90's jazz for the Dee Daniels vocal version of "Things Ain't What They Used To Be" (115 BPM). 
 
Jazz at Week's End - Various Artists (Concord Records - 1999) 
Reviewed: 1 Oct. 2001.  Ratings: ***, L½
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The lead-off song is awesome: "Sunny" (143 BPM) by Ernestine Anderson.  The rest of the CD is mostly easy-listening jazz.
 
Jazz Juice 2 - Various Artists (Beechwood - 1995) 
Reviewed: 19 Mar. 2001.  Ratings: ***½, LL½
You can find the coolest stuff in used record stores.  This import is all about a certain vibe of jazz music that was played by a certain DJ at a certain club called Dingwalls in the U.K.  Groovy, ba-by!  Jazz-funk.  Acid-jazz.  I can't help but love the ultra groovy version of "The Girl from Ipanema" by Lou Rawls (126 BPM).  "Fever" by Peggy Lee is here, too.  And you've never heard "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens" until you've heard it performed by Mark Murphy.  Only half the songs swing, though.
 
Jazz That Cooks - Various Artists (Highnote - 1999) 
Reviewed: 2 Jan. 2002.  Ratings: ***, LL
This collections contains a number of modern-jazz instrumental and vocal songs, all of them are high-energy songs, but not all are swing-danceable.  Best songs are:  "Big Fat Daddy" (125 BPM) by Irene Reid and "Midnight Creeper" (112 BPM).  
 
Jiving Jamboree - Various Artists (1995)
Reviewed: 4 Sept.1999.  Ratings: ***, LLL½
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This collection was put together with dancers in mind by a "Jive" instructor in London.  Almost every song is in that hard-to-find range of between 155 and 190 BPM!  It has 25 tracks and 62 minutes of R&B/early Rock 'n' Roll songs recorded mostly between 1949 and 1957.   All are simple songs mostly based on the 12-bar blues scheme.  These are great, fun, upbeat songs designed to make you dance and smile, not to stretch your brain.  But most dancers just notice the beat and the breaks, anyway.  The low-voiced singer in the Cadets sings a great "I Want You" (155 BPM).  I also love the silly "Ain't Got No Home" (170 BPM) by Clarence Henry.  This collection also has Louis Jordan's "Saturday Night Fish Fry" (175 BPM), Bobby Day's "Rockin' Robin" (175 BPM) and good songs by Big Mama Thornton, Jimmy Liggins, Mills Brothers, and Young Jessie.
 
Jiving Jamboree 2 - Various Artists (1999)

Reviewed: 25 Sept.1999.  Ratings: **½, LL½

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This sequel to the first Jiving Jamboree collection is not as good as the original.  Like the first, it is a compilation of danceable, but more obscure songs from the R&B/early Rock & Roll era.  It has 24 songs recorded mostly between 1947 and 1957.   The songs don't grab me as much as the first collection, but they still sound good and make you want to move.  Tempos are mostly between 150 and 185 BPM.  I like "Bom Bom Lulu" by Gene & Eunice (160 BPM) with its good breaks. 

 

Juke Box Jive, The Birth of Rock 'n' Roll - Various Artists (1997)
Reviewed: 25 Sept.1999.  Ratings: **½, LL½
Here's a double-CD collection of 48 R&B Songs mostly recorded from 1944 to 1946.  You can really hear the evolution of music from these songs, with their big-band influences, to the R&B and R 'n' R songs in the Jiving Jamboree collection, to the R 'n' R songs on the Bill Haley CD.  This collection includes songs by Wynonie Harris, Buddy Johnson, Tiny Bradshaw, Slim Gaillard, Louis Jordan, Cootie Williams, Joe Liggins, Joe Turner, Cab Calloway, Bullmoose Jackson, Lucky Millinder, Camille Howard, and many others.  I still think the Jumpin' Like Mad collection is better.  Sound quality is sometimes poor on these songs, even worse than you'd expect for the era. My current favorites are "Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop!" by Lionel Hampton (140 BPM), "I Want a Tall Skinny Papa" by Lucky Millinder (135 BPM), Ooh Mop  by Jack McVea (150 BPM), "Walk 'em" by Buddy Johnson (130 BPM), "Gotta gimme Whatcha Got" by Julia Lee and her Boyfriends (210 BPM), and particularly Apollo Jumps by Lucky Millinder (140 BPM), a big-band instrumental with lots of great layers of rhythm.  Tempos are everywhere, lots from 150 to 170 BPM.  Most songs are in the 12-bar blues pattern.
 
Juke Joint Jive (The Right Stuff / Capitol - 1999) 
Reviewed: 11 April 2000.  Ratings: ***, LL½
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This is an interesting collection of swing which attempts to cover all the "roots" of the current swing movement.  It has classic big band swing songs by Gene Krupa, Glen Gray, Harry James, Tommy Dorsey, and Benny Goodman, as well as songs by Louis Prima (Jump Jive & Wail, as usual, as well as Sing Sing Sing), Calvin Boze, Cab Calloway, Dave Bartholomew, and Ella Mae Morse, and early R&R songs like Joe Turner's "Shake, Rattle and Roll" and Fat's Domino's "Be My Guest".  Not very focused, but not a bad collection, if you can pick it up used, like I did.  I have many of the songs on other collections but you might not.  The Glen Gray "No Name Jive" and Harry Jame's "Two O'clock Jump" songs are the excellent hi-fi versions.  Tempos are fast, mostly 139 BPM and above. 
 
Jump 'n Jive (Alladin/Capitol - 1999) 
Reviewed: 25 March 2000.  Ratings: ***½, LLL
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This is a great collection of post-war swing and R&B by some of the best artists of the time.  These 15 songs were recorded 1944 to 1956.  Anchored by the Prima classics "Jump, Jive & Wail" and "Just a Gigolo", the other songs are very different, some on the groovy, jazzy side.  Great range and mix of tempos here: 74 to 245 BPM. I like "She's the Unsleepin'est Woman" by T-Bone Walker (125 BPM), "For You My Love" by Nat King Cole & Nellie Lutcher (150 BPM), "I Know Your Wig Is Gone" by T-Bone Walker (143 BPM), "Come over to My House" by Julia Lee, and "Walkin" by Nat King Cole (116 BPM) with its great big band backing.   Also has songs by Louis Jordan, Amos Milburn, Illinois Jacquet and others.  Great sound quality.
 
Jump, Jive & Wail - Various Artists (1998) 
Reviewed: 20 Aug.1999.  Ratings: *, L
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This is a poor collection of the classic R&B tunes.  The first song is Prima's Jump, Jive & Wail.  Of the other 11 tracks, 10 of them are all found on the Jumpin' Like Mad double CD collection!  The whole CD is only 33 minutes long.  Don't make the same mistake I made, just buy the other collection!
 
Jumpin' Jive - Jump Blues Essential - Various Artists (1999) 
Reviewed: 20 Aug.1999.  Ratings: **½, LL½
Out-of-print
One of many recent R&B/jump blues collections, its tagline is "features the biggest & most important jump blues artists & hits of the era including many that are now influencing the new swing artists of the 90's." Songs were recorded 1945 to 1954. Lots of low-fidelity songs.  I really like "Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop" by Lionel Hampton (140 BPM), and "Walk 'Em" by Buddy Johnson (125 BPM), with advice: "...walk 'em, ...just rock a little bit and let the rhythm flow through!" Erskine Hawkins, Lucky Millinder, Roy Milton, Roy Brown, Ruth Brown, Joe Liggins, Joe Turner and others are also represented in these 18 tracks, 55 minutes.  None of these tracks are on the Jumpin' Like Mad collection.  At least 3 of my favorite tracks from this CD, "Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop.", "Walk 'Em" and "Choo-Choo ChBoogie" are also on the Juke Box Jive collection.
 
Jumpin' Like Mad: Cool Cats & Hip Chicks (Double CD) - Various Artists (1996) 
Reviewed: 20 Aug.1999.  Ratings: ***½, LLL 
Out-of-print as of Aug. 2000
This is a great collection of danceable classic R&B songs, recorded from 1942 to 1956, by the big artists of the time, like Joe Turner, Ella Mae Morse, Calvin Boze, Jimmy Liggins, T-Bone Walker, Nellie Lutcher, Louis Jordan, & Big Jay McNeely.  Some of these songs barely pre-date Rock and Roll, and were covered by the first R&R bands.  These songs continue to be covered by modern swing bands today.  The sound quality of many of the songs is very low and fuzzy, others are fine.  Most of the tempos are perfect for dancing.  And with over 140 minutes of music and 51 songs, everyone is bound to find something they like.  I like "Fine Brown Frame" by Nellie Lutcher (130 BPM), "Jumpin' Jack" by Ella Mae Morse (125 BPM), and "Blow Man Blow" Calvin Boze (150 BPM). 
 
Jumpin' The Blues - Various Artists (Ace Records - 1990) 
Reviewed: 30 Sept. 2000.  Ratings: **½, LLL
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This CD contains 58 minutes of R&B and jump blues from 1948 to 1952 or so.  The sound quality isn't the greatest.  A lot of these songs sound the same, and are uninteresting.  But there are a few good songs.  Most of the songs are in the Lindy tempo range.  I like "Cadillac Boogie" (137 BPM) by Willie Brown, and "Hobo Boogie" (128 BPM) by Waymon Brown. 
 
Jumpin the Blues Vol. 1 - Various Artists (Wanna Dance Records - 1997) 
Reviewed: 22 April 2000.  Ratings: ***, LL
This is a solid collection of jump blues swing songs, complete with BPM.  The tempos are 133, 144, 163 BPM and up.  Songs are by Roomful of Blues (2), Mitch Woods, Johnny Nocturne Band, the Love Dogs, Big Joe & The Dynaflows (3) and others.  Good stuff, it makes me want to move. 
 
Kansas City - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Polygram - 1996) 
Reviewed: 27 April 2000.  Ratings: **½, L½
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The idea was to capture the essence of the late-night blues sessions playing in Kansas City 1934.  The movie has a lot of intrigue set in the Hey-Hey club, with the band playing in the background.  The recordings sound kind of rough, live, with talking in the background, and most of the songs aren't great for dancing.  There's lots of slow blues songs and the 7 minute live "I Left My Baby" is way cool!  There's also a good uptempo version of "Moten Swing" (157 BPM).
 
Best of King, Federal & Deluxe Volume One (Collectable - 1994) 
Reviewed: 28 March 2000.  Ratings: **½, LL
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I bought this because it contained at least two great songs "It Ain't The Meat It's The Motion" by the Swallows (149 BPM) and "Lovin Machine" by Wynonie Harris (159 BPM) that I also had on other CDs.  The other 18 songs aren't near as good.  These other songs are mostly insipid early Rock 'n' Roll songs from the 50's that have a soprano singer over low bass singers singing doo-wop.  Yuck!  Some don't have a swing rhythm.  There's no liner notes at all and that really sucks, too.  There are songs by bands like The Checkers, The Dominoes, Otis Williams, Hank Ballard, etc.  But a few of the other songs are OK. 
 
Let's Dance - The Best of Ballroom, Swing, Lindy, Jitterbug and Jive (Rhino - 1997) 
Reviewed: 24 April 2000.  Ratings: **, L½
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The songs in this collection are, uhm, "diverse."  There's Aretha Franklin's "Think", Buddy Guy's "Messin With the Kid" and songs by the Commitments, Nina Simone, Patti Austin and others.  Bizarre.  Good for West-Coast swing, maybe.  But what's up with labeling  Melissa Manchester's "My Boyfriend's Back" (132 BPM) as a Lindy song?  Was the producer on drugs?   They do include three decent swing songs: "Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me" (124 BPM) by Nina Simone, "The Walkin' Song" (160 BPM) by Royal Crown Revue, and the ultra-fast "Jack You're Dead" (216 BPM) by Joe Jackson.
 
Lindy Hop Jamboree Series (BB Records/GEMA)
Reviewed: 25 April 2000.  Ratings: ***½, LLL½
This is a series of CDs put out by someone over in Germany and they aren't really available in the US except by someone in the know.   They consist of a series of CDs each with 24 to 26 danceable songs arranged from slowest to fastest, with the measures/minute listed (multiply by 4 to get BPM).  There appear to 10 CDs total.  I won't bother to review them in detail individually.  I haven't seen Part 1.  Parts 2, 3 and 4 consist of 1 CD each, ranging from around 101 to 250+ BPM.  Parts 5, 6, and 7 are double-CD sets.  Each set has one CD labeled "Groovin" with a variety of songs ranging from 108 to 160 BPM, and one CD labeled "Jumpin" with songs from around 165 and up.  Except for Part 5, Groovin, the songs are all big-band era songs.  The sound quality of many of the songs is low due to the age of the recordings.  Parts 2 and 3 have particularly old and poor-sounding songs.  The tempos of Parts 2-4 are almost all 160 BPM and up, which is above my preferred range, and Parts 5-7, "Jumpin" is all fast for me.  But the fast songs chosen are excellent!  Part 5, "Groovin" is my favorite by far, due to the sound quality of the songs, and the selection of songs, including songs by Ella Fitzgerald, Maxine Sullivan, The Big 18, Bette Midler, and the Hampton, Millinder, Herman, Anthony, McKinley, Dorsey, Brown, Calloway, Krupa, Ellington big bands.  In summary, this series is very well done, all the songs are great for Lindy-Hop dancing, especially if you like old songs, and fast songs.  If you ever get a chance to pick some of them up, take the opportunity!     
 
Malcolm X Soundtrack (1992) 
Reviewed: 20 Feb. 2000.  Ratings: **½, L½
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According to Spike Lee, in the liner notes, these songs were chosen to "re-create the distinct sound of the African-American experience."  Malcolm X liked to dance, and the movie has a good Lindy dance scene.  There are old songs by Lionel Hampton, the Ink Spots, Billie Holiday, Joe Turner, Erskine Hawkins, Louis Jordan, Ray Charles, and others, and one couple of modern songs by Arrested Development and Aretha Franklin.  This CD has many very slow songs (less than 100 BPM), a few fast songs (over 180 BPM) and a few non-swing songs.  There's really no must-haves on here for the Lindy-hop dancer. 
 
Mask Soundtrack (1994) 
Reviewed: 20 Jan. 2000.  Ratings: **½, L½
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This CD has a great modern swing song: "This Business of Love" (120 BPM). Otherwise, there's lots of random songs of various, mostly non-swing, music styles here.  Of the swing songs, there's also a hip-hop pseudo-swing song, "Hi De Ho" (196 BPM) by K7, an unremarkable Brian Setzer song, RCR's "Hey Pachuco" (262 BPM), and a good slow song: "Gee Baby Ain't I Good to You" (94 BPM) by Susan Boyd.
 
New Millennium Swing - Various Artists (1999) 
Reviewed: 21 Aug.1999.  Ratings: **, L
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You realize how many swing bands are really out there when you listen to a CD like this, with 14 of the 16 cuts from obscure bands.  I can't keep up with all these bands.  Every small swing band from New Orleans to Denver has a cut from their self-produced CDs on here.  Virtually all the songs are very fast, again, the producer probably assumes that Fast=Energy=Goodswing.   This compilation isn't terrible, but only if you use it as I do, to learn about new bands.  If I like their sound, I check out other cuts from their CD on Amazon.com, or elsewhere on the net, if I can find it.   From the same label (dm records), here are more collections of mostly obscure swing bands: Hipsters of Swing, Jump Jivin' Swing, Ultra Swing Nouveau (best bands). Its so sad that half of these collections have to have "Sing Sing Sing" on them. Ugh. 
 
Next Generation Swing, Volume 2 (Double Album) - Various Artists (1999) 
Reviewed: 20 Aug.1999.  Ratings: **, LL 
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This double CD has one CD of modern vocal swing bands, and one CD of modern big bands. The 1st CD is terrible.  The Jump, Jive & Wail version by "Big Daddy Orchestra" is god-awful.  And a band named "Hipster Daddy-O and the Handgrenades?"  Please. Yuck.  The song is yucky, too.  Do they think you can put "Daddy" in your band name and you're set?   Yuck.  And "Wally's Swing World" songs covering Sinatra?  Yuck.  The first CD does have a few good songs, but not many, from Bill Elliott Orchestra, Ron Sunshine, and the Senders.  The first CD contains mostly bad neo-swing bands doing bad covers with over exaggerated vocals.   The 2nd CD has a lot of good instrumental versions of songs by classic big bands.  Great versions of "Moonglow" and "Strictly Instrumental." The 2nd CD saves the collection. But the two CDs are totally different.  It's like mixing heavy metal with new age.   Looking for a good modern swing compilation?  Try the "Hipsters.." series instead. Looking for a good big band collection?  Try "Oscillatin' Rhythm" instead. 
 
Night and Day - The Cole Porter Songbook - Various Artists (Verve - 1990) 
Reviewed: 28 May 2000.  Ratings: ***, LL½ 
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This is a collection of songs by various artists singing Cole Porter songs.  There's a good variety of songs here, but of course, not all of them swing.  For Lindying, I like Bill Henderson's "Long Last Long" (129 BPM), and Dinah Washington's "I Get a Kick Out of You" (136 BPM).  Other songs by singers such as Mel Torme, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald.
 
The Original Jazz Masters Series Vol. 2 - Various Artists (DA Music) 
Reviewed: 27 Mar. 2001.  Ratings: ***, L½
A good compilation.  Songs were recorded in 50's and 60's.  Good version of "Satin Doll" (137 BPM) by Bud Freeman. 
 
Oscillatin' Rhythm (Great Swing Hits in Hi-Fi)  - Various Artists (Capitol - 1997) 
Reviewed: 17 Aug.1999.  Ratings: ****, LLLL
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This is one of the best Big Band collections on the market.  It consists of 60 minutes of Hi-Fi big band songs recorded by Capitol in the 50's.  There are songs by Glen Gray, Ray Anthony, Les Brown, Billy May, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, playing many of their hits from the 40's.  The finest musicians playing excellent big-band jazz.  I dare you not to tap your toes.  Only 4 of the 20 recordings are also found on my Big Bands in Hi-Fi double-CD collection.  I particularly like "T'Ain't What You Do" by Billy May Orchestra (165 BPM).  Even the slow songs are cool. Various tempos, with 7 of 19 falling in the range from 150 to 170 BPM.  This is a Ron's recommended essential swing CD.
 
Priceless Jazz Sampler 5 (GRP - 1999) 
Reviewed: 2 Oct. 2000.  Ratings: ***, L½
The price is right for Priceless Jazz samplers.  There are 14 songs in this collection, from a torchy ballad by Illinois Jacquet, Armstrong's "Alexander's Ragtime Band", three songs by Lionel Hampton, three by Betty Carter, three James Moody, and other miscellaneous songs. 
 
Really Swingin' - Frankie Manning's Big Band Favorites - Various Artists (1995) 
Reviewed: 3 Feb. 2000.  Ratings: ***½, LLL½
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Frankie Manning is the great dancer/choreographer of Whitey's Lindy Hoppers in the '40s, and he's teaching Lindy Hop again today, still going strong at 85!  These are many of his favorites for dancing mostly from the Big Band/Swing era.  There's 65 minutes, 16 songs, ranging in tempos from 138 to 190 BPM. Two of the songs are eight minutes long.  Good classic swing songs from Basie, Goodman, Lunceford, Shaw, Ellington, Miller, Hampton and Hawkins.  Sound quality isn't always the best.  Good dance songs, though, like "Tuxedo Junction" (150 BPM) and "Tippin In" (142 BPM) by Erskine Hawkins, and "Posin'" (188 BPM) and "Tain't What You Do" (164 BPM) by Jimmie Lunceford.
 
Risqué Rhythm - Nasty 50's R&B - Various Artists (1991) 
Reviewed: 17 Aug.1999.  Ratings: ***, LLLL 
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This is an album of old R&B songs with suggestive lyrics, recorded from 1949 to 1954.  From "Big 10 Inch Record" to "Rocket 69", these songs are classics.  Some of the songs are way Lo-Fi and too fuzzy.  My first instructors had this album and I think I learned to Charleston to "Walk Right In" by Jess Powell Orchestra  (165 BPM).  Other good danceable songs: "It Ain't the Meat, its the Motion" by the Swallows (145 BPM), "Work with me Annie" by the Royals (125 BPM), "Keep on Churnin" by Wynonie Harris (145 BPM).   The liner notes says that suggestive R&B records were tolerated  until the music was discovered by white teenagers, and a fierce campaign to stamp out suggestive records swept the country in 1954.  When I play these songs in a club, I wonder if people are really listening to the lyrics!  This is a essential swing CD. If you like this CD, consider Wynonie Harris.  This is a Ron's recommended essential swing CD.
 
The Rocketeer, Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack  (Hollywood Records - 1991) 
Reviewed: 28 Sept. 2000.  Ratings: **, L
I rented the movie "The Rocketeer" the other day (its pretty good), and discovered that it had a swing dance scene.  I bought the soundtrack, and the song "Begin the Beguine" (150 BPM) is indeed danceable, but it's kinda cheesy.  Its a recreated big-band vocal version.   
 
Roll Up the Rug, Triple-Time Swing Vol. 1 - Various Artists (Living Traditions - 1993) 
Reviewed: 21 April 2000.  Ratings: **, LL
This is a compilation of danceable rhythm & blues songs, mostly modern, and is best for west-coast swing dancers, based on the heavy beat and swing rhythm.  BPMs are included and range from 114 to 146 BPM.  There's songs here from Katie Webster, Elvin Bishop, Koko Taylor, Albert Collins, Little Charlie & the Nightcats and others.  My reviews are primarily directed at Lindy-Hop dancers and this music doesn't fit Lindy-Hop as well.  Lindy-hoppers would do better with other collections.
 
Roll Up the Rug, Triple-Time Swing Vol. 2 - Various Artists (Living Traditions - 1996)
Reviewed: 21 April 2000.  Ratings: **½, LL½
Like Vol. 1, this is a collection of modern blues best suited for West-Coast swing dancers.  Songs by Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, Lloyd Jones, and others.  Tempos listed and they range from 112 to 136 BPM).  Lots of electric guitars and harmonicas.  There are a few songs on this collection that I like for Lindy-Hopping, including Roomful of Blues' "One Bayou Drive" (132 BPM) and Bluesiana Triangle's "Doctor Blooze" (126 BPM).   
 
Rhythm & Blues All Stars Vol. 1 - Various Artists (Indigo Records - 1998) 
Reviewed: 27 April 2000.  Ratings: **, LL
Another collection of R&B and boogie-woogie.  The sound quality of most of the songs in this collection is pretty low.  Songs are by Jay McShann, Joe Liggins, T-Bone Walker, Eddie Vinson, Wynonie Harris, Jesse Price, others.  
 

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