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George "Harmonica" Smith -> Speckled Red




GEORGE "HARMONICA" SMITH Blind Pig 5049 Now You Can Talk About Me ● CD $15.98
14 tracks from this fine singer/harmonica player - 5 originally issued on 45s on the Carolyn & Sotoplay labels and the rest recorded at his last session for Murray Brothers in 1982 - one previously unissued.

GEORGE SMITH Official 15504 Blowing The Blues ● CD $17.98
26 tracks, 71 mins, recommended
George "Harmonica" Smith was a fine singer and harmonica player who, though obviously influenced by Little Walter, was true original who himself was a big influence on a number of harmonica players, particularly on the West Coast. In the 50s, 60s & 70s he recorded a number of prized singles for various small Los Angeles based labels - Lapel, J&M, Sotoplay, Carolyn and Hittin Heavy and this collection gathers most of them together. One of the joys of a collection of material like this is the considerable variety of material featured ranging from intense down home blues like All Last Night and Nobody Knows to great instrumentals like Hot Rolls, Loose Screws and a spine chilling version of Summertime to expendable novelties like Rope That Twist. George's singing and playing are excellent, sometimes playing chromatic harp, to great effect and is accompanied by top L.A. Session men like J.D. Nicholson, Pete Lewis, Jimmy Nolen, Curtis Tillman and others. Unfortunately some of these cuts were recorded in very funky studios and some were dubbed from worn 45s so the sound frequently leaves something to be desired. Brief notes and discographical information is included. (FS)

IVY SMITH & COW COW DAVENPORT Blues Documents 6039 Complete Chronological Recordings (1927-30) ● CD $15.98
20 tracks, 59 min., recommended. Most cuts feature Ivy (Iva) Smith's fine singing with only Davenport's bluesy/boogie-woogie-flavored piano as accompaniment--and it's enough. The 8 Paramount sides are, predictably, a bit noisy, and it's tough to make out the words at times, but excellent songs such as Barrel House Mojo and My Own Man Blues, which features Leroy Pickett on violin, make up for the aural imperfections. Other highlights include Milkman Blues/ Got Jelly On My Mind/ Wringin' And Twistin' Papa/ Mistreated Mamma Blues, all about that same familiar subject. (JC)

JIMMY SMITH/ MAX "BLUES" BAILEY Blue Moon BMCD 6010 Obscure Blues Shouters, Vol. 1 ● CD $14.98
5 tracks from 1949 by Jimmy Smith (not the organist) and 20 by Bailey from 1949-1953.

J.T. "FUNNY PAPA" SMITH Blues Documents 6016 Complete Recorded Works 1930-1931 ● CD $15.98
Before Chester Burnette there was another "Howling Wolf". Texas singer/guitarist J.T. Smith took the nickname after recording his brilliant two part "Howling Wolf Blues" in September, 1930. Smith was a fine singer and guitarist and a brilliant songwriter with an original lyrical approach - he was so full of ideas that several of his compositions were extended over both sides of a record. His theme song has been covered by a number of singers, mostly from Texas, since he first recorded it. This CD features 18 sides under his own name plus two duets with Magnolia Harris and two with Desser Foster. There were a large number of unissued titles recorded by Smith, mostly in 1935, and we can only hope that someday they will turn up. Sound is satisfactory and there are informataive notes by Teddy Doering - a most worthwhile release. (FS)

LAURA SMITH Document DOCD 5429 Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 1 : 1924-1927 ● CD $15.98

MAMIE SMITH Document DOCD 5357 Complete Record Works In Chronological Order, Vol 1 ● CD $15.98
24 tracks, 74 min., recommended In 1920 Crazy Blues sold 75,000 copies in 4 weeks, just in Harlem. And no wonder, black audiences hadn't had many opportunities to buy records by black artists, for one thing. And, for another, Smith sings it at the top of her form, her limited but pleasing voice exploiting what was already a pretty charming song. Her band of Jazz Hounds earns its name on such, jazz-flavored instrumentals as That Thing Called Love and elsewhere, and Smith herself sings as jazzy as she does bluesy, though at the time she must have sounded blue as hell. And while she's no Bessie, cuts like Lovin' Sam From Alabam and Jazzbo Ball delight. Besides, who doesn't want to own the first commercially recorded blues song? (First of 4 volumes.) Expect less than perfect sound quality. (JC)

MAMIE SMITH Document DOCD 5358 Complete Record Works In Chronological Order, Vol 2 ● CD $15.98

MAMIE SMITH Document DOCD 5359 Complete Record Works In Chronological Order, Vol 3 ● CD $15.98

SPARK PLUG SMITH/ TALLAHASSEE TIGHT Document DOCD 5387 East Coast Blues & Gospel, 1933-1934 ● CD $15.98
24 tracks, 73 min., very good Little is known about these two country blues guitarists. David Evans proposes that Spark Plug Smith was maybe just a crooner, performing in a simple direct manner with rudimentary guitar playing. A listen to You Put That Thing On Me, In A Shanty In Old Shanty Town, and Mama's Doughnut will convince you of this. As for Tallahasee Tight/ Louis Washington, here we have a limited performer, at least as illustrated by his recordings. He was possibly a street singer, performing 5 spirituals and 9 blues songs, including a version of Blind Lemon Jefferson's Black Snake Blues. (EL)

TRIXIE SMITH Document DOCD 5332 Complete Recorded Works, Vol 1 : 1922-24 ● CD $15.98
25 tracks, 78 min., recommended Trixie Smith (1895-1943), "The Southern Nightingale", was one of two most successful artists who recorded for the black-owned Black Swan label (the other was Ethel Waters). The titles she recorded during this time is quite impressive, including the original versions of Trixie's Blues (covered by Lizzie Miles), Pensacola Blues (covered by Edith Wilson), I'm Through With You (covered by Esther Bigeou, Josie Harley), I'm Gonna Get You (covered by Mamie Smith), and the wonderful My Man Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll). Once on Paramount Records, her success continued with again original songs like Freight Train Blues, Don't Shake It No More and Ride Jockey Ride. Given her popularity, resulting in the deplorable state of her early 78s, the remastering for this CD is quite acceptable. (EL)

TRIXIE SMITH Document DOCD 5333 Complete Recorded Works, Vol 2 : 1925-29 ● CD $15.98
23 tracks, 68 min., recommended This, the 2nd and last volume of Trixie Smith's complete recordings, features her famous Paramount Recordings with Louis Armstrong (The World's Jazz Crazy And So Am I, Railroad Blues, Mining Camp Blues), Fletcher Henderson (Everybody's Doing That Charleston Now, He Likes It Slow) and Jimmy Blythe (Messin' Around). All these titles were first recorded by Trixie Smith which says something about her credentials, and given the calibre of the accompaniment, they hold up well today. Messin' Around I find particularly strong featuring Johnny Dodds and Freddie Keppard who would cover this title some 3 months later (with Papa Charlie Jackson on vocals). The CD ends with her 1938 Decca recordings with Charlie Shavers & Sidney Bechet, made up mostly of excellent re-recordings of her early Paramount hits, along with two new titles (Jack I'm Mellow, My Unusual Man). Her very last recording was a 1939 one-off of Ivy Smith's No Good Man (with Henry Allen and Barney Bigard). (EL)

SMOKEY SMOTHERS Ace CDCHD 858 Smokey Smothers Sings The Backporch Blues ● CD $18.98
25 tracks, 70mins, essential
In August, 1960 Chicago singer & guitarist Otis "Smokey" Smothers entered the Cincinatti studios of King Records and in the company of guitarists Freddy King & Fred Jordan, drummer Phillip Paul and producer Sonny Thompson produced possibly the finest Chicago down home blues session of the 60s. Twelve songs were recorded in a relatively short period of time and each one is a minor masterpiece - Smokey's voice has a lazy Jimmy Reed quality, the songs are excellent and varied and the instrumental work is simply sublime. Freddy King had started his career being influenced by guitarists like Jimmy Rogers and Eddie Taylor and his playing here owes a debt to those musicians but also has elements of the more energetic style that he was developing. His solo work is astounding, varying from track to track to suit the mood of the song and the interplay with the guitar work of rhythm guitarist Fred Jordan (who is he?) brings to mind some of the duo guitar work on Muddy's 50s recordings. Tracks from this session were released on a series of singles on Federal and in 1962 on a King LP whose rarity is legendary. For this release Ace have gone back to the original master tapes meaning they were able to leave out the unnecessary dubbed on bass and present the original full length takes - some were edited when originally released. There are four tracks from another King session in 1962 with a different line up including fine harpist Louis "Little" Boyd - fine Chicago blues but missing the magic of that earlier session. Finally there are nine alternate takes from the 1960 sessions which are fine and interesting but clearly inferior to the issued takes. If you have any interest in down home Chicago blues you must have this! (FS)

LITTLE SMOKEY SMOTHERS Crosscut 11051 Second Time Around ● CD $16.98

THE SOUL STIRRERS MCA Special Products 22099 When the Saints Go Marching In ● CD $7.98
10 tracks, 33 min., recommended There must have been a shortage of photos in the MCA production department when this budget disc was being prepared for issue. Somehow they managed to put a photo of the Sam Cooke Soul Stirrers from the mid 50's on the cover of a reissue of this group's mid- to late 60's Checker label material. Having gotten that off of my chest, let me admit that the music here isn't bad at all. But the sound is definitely mid-60's. Among the featured numbers are Amen/ Don't Move That Mountain/ Blowin' in the Wind/ Amazing Grace, and Crying in the Chapel. Otherwise, the stereo sound quality is fine, and there are no notes at all. (DH)

THE SOUL STIRRERS Specialty 7013 Shine On Me ● CD $15.98
The importance of the Rebert Harris led Soul Stirrers can hardly be overstated. Harris is widely credited with having pioneered the stylistic innovations that gave birth to the hard gospel sound of the 50's and to the soulful vocalizing of his protege, Sam Cooke, who took over this group's lead singing duties when Harris left. Highlights include By And By, the previously unissued Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb, Everybody Out to Love Their Soul, How Long, The Lord is My Shepherd, and I Have A Right To The Tree Of Life. There are 26 cuts in all, 15 previously unissued. Good cover art, fine sound quality given the 1950 recording dates, and excellent notes by Ray Funk.. (DH)

THE SOUL STIRRERS Specialty 7031 Jesus Gave Me Water ● CD $15.98
25 tracks, 67 min., essential. Sam Cooke was one of the most original and influential vocal stylists of all time. Hear him in all his glory (1951-55) without edits or overdubs; his peerless soaring mellismas are a joy. Catch also the anguished spiritual tones of the great Paul Foster Sr. as he alternates sparingly with Cooke. The first eight cuts are pure unadulterated acappella. Includes the "long" version (one of 3 different unissued renderings) of All Right Now sung blazingly by gospel's hardest lead, Rev. "June" Julius Cheeks. A once in a lifetime treat. (OLN)

THE SOUL STIRRERS Specialty 7040 Heaven Is My Home ● CD $15.98
24 tracks, 62 min., recommended. Due to large sales potential and the widely popular lead vocal stylings of Sam Cooke, and later Johnnie Taylor, the highly charged and sometimes awesome work of Paul Foster, Sr., longtime Soul Stirrers' stalwart was so often left in the can. Now, for the first time, Foster's finest efforts can be heard in proper perspective. He either solos or acts as foil against Johnnie Taylor's spellbinding melismatic acrobatics. Johnnie Taylor brought soul and grace to the group, with breathtaking renderings of The Love Of God/ Out On A Hill. Foster offered a deep spiritual quality best reflected on Golden Bells and the beautiful title cut. A perfect balance of beauty and grandeur, and not to be passed up. Gospel Gold circa 1953-59. (OLN)

THE SOUL STIRRERS Specialty 7052 Last Mile Of The Way ● CD $15.98

THE SOUTHERNAIRES Document 5610 Complete Recordings, 1938-1941 ● CD $15.98
25 tracks from Harlem based gospel group including five from a 1938 radio program

CLARENCE SPADY Evidence 26080 Nature Of The Beast ● CD $15.98

CLARENCE SPADY Evidence 26084 King Of Herats ● CD $15.98
20 tracks, 46 minutes, very good. Fine modern uptown blues from Ernest Baker, who started out making singles in the 60s beginning with the legendary Old Town label, moved to L.A. where he's a supervisor for Sheriff's Dept, & was rediscovered after spending years in the Crenshaw Christian Center gospel choir! Backed up by able-bodied L.A. session stalwarts, this set of mostly up-tempo blues, complete with horn section, really satisfies. The set is mostly covers, though guitarist Jimmy Rip from Mick Jagger's solo band contributes an unrecorded Jagger/Rip tune Better Days, plus Jr. Parker's In The Dark, Harold Burrage's Cryin' For My Baby, Charlie Musselwhite's Long As I have You, etc (GM)

CHARLIE SPAND Document DOCD 5108 Complete Paramounts In Chronological Order, 1929-31 ● CD $15.98
Spand was a very talented Detroit pianist/ singer who probably came from Georgia, where he teamed up with Blind Blake. Blake's ragtimey guitar is an excellent complement to Spand's style, as heard on some of the earlier cuts here, including Spand's first effort Soon This Morning Blues and the amusing Hastings St.. The booklet author speculates that the guitar on Good Gal/ Ain't Gonna Stand For That is by Josh White. Most of the time, though, it's just Charlie and his piano facing hard times and harder women. Everything he recorded for Paramount is given chronologically - 25 sides in all - including the unissued Breakdown and an unreleased take of Got To Have My Sweetbread. Sound quality is usually adequate. (JC)

OTIS SPANN Analogue Productions 3016 Good Morning Mr. Blues ● CD $24.98
14 tracks, 50 min., highly recommended. Newly mastered using the Wilson Audio Custom Tube Mastering facility. These tracks, pulled from 3 Storyville LP's, represent Spann's complete Copenhagen session from 1963. Muddy Waters' long-time pianist favors slow, understated blues when performing solo, as it is here on all but one cut. And whether he's singing about his health (T.B. Blues/ Goin' Down Slow), or the ubiquitous blues pastry (Jelly Roll Baker), the results are beautiful and haunting. Guitarist Lonnie Johnson adds his six strings to Trouble In Mind. A most worthy addition to any blues collection. The new mastering gives added warmth and clarity to these fine recordings. New notes by John Koenig. (JC)

OTIS SPANN Original Blues Classics 530 The Blues Never Die ● CD $11.98

OTIS SPANN Testament TCD 5005 The Blues Of Otis Spann ● CD $11.98
15 tracks, 43 min., recommended. This reissue of Testament LP 2211 (with one additional cut) shows off Spann's immense talent in a variety of settings. Seven tracks have him alone at his piano, one (Vicksburg Blues) matches him with drummer Robert Whitehead, and most of the rest feature Spann on piano or organ with other members of Muddy Waters' Band, including the great James Cotton an harp. On the instrumental extra cut, Spann is joined by Johnny Shines on guitar, Big Walter Horton on harp. About the only rub is the occasionally diluted sound quality, but that is a minor complaint in the face of such fine blues. (JC)

OTIS SPANN Testament TCD 6001 Live The Life ● CD $13.98
16 tracks, 71 mins, recommended. Otis Spann was so good and died so young (in 1970 at the age of 40) that any chance to hear previously unissued recordings by him is to be treasured even if the sound on some of the material here is unexceptional. This is the first album in a series of reissues from the late Pete Welding's archive of previously unissued recordings. 12 of the cuts find Otis recorded live with his former boss Muddy Waters. There are five from a 1968 tribute concert to Martin Luther King with Muddy on acoustic guitar and an acoustic bass. Sound balance on these is not very good but there is beautiful singing and playing by Spann particularly on Tribute To Martin Luther King. There are seven cuts with the full Waters band with much better sound - Spann takes two vocals including a splendid version of the West Coast favorite Tin Pan Alley and Muddy does four excellent vocals and plays some fine slide on Can't Lose What You Never Had. There are two superb solo performances by Spann from around 1965 and a couple of accompaniments to Johnny Young and Slim Willis. A varied and entertaining collection though probably not the first Spann album to get. (FS)

OTIS SPANN Vanguard VMD 6514 Cryin' Time ● CD $13.98
OTIS SPANN: Blind Man/ Blues Is A Botheration/ Cryin' Time/ Green Flowers/ Home To Mississippi/ Mule Kicking In My Stall/ Some Day/ The New Boogaloo/ Twisted Snake/ You Said You'd Be On Time

OTIS SPANN Vanguard 79537 Best Of The Vanguard Years ● CD $15.98
18 tracks, 64 mins, recommended. The album title is a little misleading since this is everything Otis recorded for Vanguard and in between the two sessions here he recorded for several other labels. With the hyperbole out of the way let's get to the music. The first five tracks are from 1965 and were originally issued on the "Chicago - The Blues Today". Accompanied only by drummer S.P. Leary his piano playing is truly stunning - unfortunately he seems to be suffering from a bad cold and his two vocals sound very hoarse. There are 13 sides from a 1969 session with a band (3 of them previously unissued). Spann is wonderful but the band is only average and Barry Melton's guitar playing is too busy. The three unissued tracks are unexceptional - a fairly generic instrumental jam and a couple of gospel songs with the vocals dominated by Otis's wife Lucille. (FS)

THE SPARKS BROTHERS Document DOCD 5315 Complete Recorded Work, 1932-1935 ● CD $15.98
24 tracks, 77 mins, essential. Utterly superb collection featuring all the recordings of twin brothers Marion (Milton) Sparks and Aaron "Pinetop" Sparks. Thought to be from Mississippi they settled in St. Louis in 1920. As you might guess from his nickname Aaron was a piano player - and what a player - he had a beautiful rolling style and was a master of the mid tempo boogie bringing to mind the playing of Jimmy Yancey. His playing was imaginative and inventive - full of subtle nuances. He was also a superb vocalist with a warm mellow style though he only sings on four songs. He accompanies brother Milton on nine excellent songs and accompanies relatively undistinguished singers Elizabeth Washington, Tecumsa McDowell and Dorothea Trowbridge. Milton recorded two fine sides with a small group including Peetie Whaetstraw, fiddler Bill Lowery and an unknown clarinet and guitar player. The set is rounded out with two cuts where he is accompanied by pianist Walter Davis and guitarist Henry Townsend. This disc includes two interesting early versions of the blues standard Everyday I Have The Blues - one by Elizabeth Washington from 1933 called Whiskey Blues and one from 1935 by Pinetop. Though most of the lyrics are different to the familiar one, credited to memphis Slim, there is no doubt that the germ of the song is there. With a couple of exceptions the sound is excellent and there are fine notes from Mike Rowe. (FS)

SPARTANBURG FAMOUS FOUR & OTHERS Document DOCD 5445 Complete Recorded Works, 1938-1939 ● CD $15.98
24 tracks, 73 min., recommended The 3 North Carolina gospel quartets here hail from Spartanburg (Spartanburg Famous Four, Gospel Light Jubilee Singers) or thereabouts (Shelby Gospel Four)--Shelby is 40 miles away. The local "Spartanburg sound," influenced as it was by The Heavenly Gospel Singers, is evident throughout; each group, for example, is propelled by rock solid bass singers. All 3 exist on wax thanks to one studio session each, although the absence of future sessions can perhaps be explained not by a decline of quality but by a changing musical front. Most quartets, even well-established ones, did not survive the changes that grew up around WWII, and if they did, they usually didn't record again. In any case, the cuts here, of uniformly fine quality, represent some of the best quartet singing from an area famous for the art. (JC)

SPECKLED RED Delmark 601 The Dirty Dozens ● CD $14.98
18 tracks, 61 min., recommended Barrelhouse piano player Rufus 'Speckled Red' Perryman, best known for his recordings of The Dirty Dozens and The Right String But The Wrong Yo Yo already had one career behind him when the world "rediscovered" him in 1954. Red cut these tracks between 1955-57 and they became Delmark Records' first release. This CD reissue offers 8 additional cuts not previously available, among them The Dirtier Dozens and The Dirtiest Dozens, which are catalogs of vulgarity, and definitely in the running for raunchiest blues recordings of all time. (JC)

SPECKLED RED Document DOCD 5205 Complete Recorded Works, 1929-38 In Chronological Order ● CD $15.98


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