Ace’s 30th anniversary is not our only cause for celebration this month (although it is, it must be said, a pretty good cause!) Almost a full year after Ace’s Alec Palao and I had logged and packed every single one of the King acetates – and nearly 9 months to the day after Ace’s Peter Gibbon and I unpacked the boxes, and made sure that all 4000 of them had survived the road and sea journey from Nashville via New York to Ace Towers – Ace is extremely proud to announce that the first two packages in the long-promised King-De Luxe ‘Acetate Series’ are, at last, ready for release.
Choosing the artists to kick off this series was not too hard, as both of those that we did choose are among the names most indelibly associated with Syd Nathan’s group of labels, and also among those who recorded for Syd for the longest periods of time. In the case of Roy Brown, his early De Luxe discography has long been part of the ‘Holy Grail’ for R & B collectors, in that the acetates for Roy’s 1947 unissued sides were believed to have perished in a fire in 1948. Happily, some lengthy detective work on the part of Mr. Gibbon and myself has revealed this not to be the case. At present, acetates for only three masters are still MIA, and we wouldn’t presume them to be lost forever as there are still a great number of unmarked, unidentified acetates to play through and identify aurally. If they ever turn up, they will of course feature on a future package. Till that day comes, we’re kicking off the R & B side of our acetates series with “Good Rockin’ Brown”, featuring 24 fantastic Roy Brown sides which pretty much represent his entire 1947 output for De Luxe.
Happily, not only have most of Roy’s acetates definitely survived, they have survived in an astounding condition. Although the tracks were recorded under somewhat primitive conditions, the brilliance of the music and of Sound Mastering’s incredible restoration techniques offer more than enough to detract from their technical flaws. You will hear things in a way that almost puts you on the floor of J & M Studios in New Orleans (where all of these tracks were recorded) and that lets you hear things exactly as engineer Cosimo Matassa heard them – even down to Roy keeping time, with his foot, on the breaks of the alternate take of “Good Rockin’ Tonight” that opens this set!
Several of Roy’s early ‘signature songs’ feature here in their first recorded versions. Where the actual master take still exists on acetate, we have used that as our first choice. And where it doesn’t – as in the cases of “Good Rockin’ Tonight’ and “Mighty, Mighty Man”, for instance – we have utilised the take that comes closest in style and spirit to the issued master. Where the original master was not issued and multiple takes exist, we have tried to identify the take that Cos or the Braund Brothers believed to be ‘best’. Only when we had no indication of which was the preferred take (or when we had only one complete take to ‘choose’ from!) have we made our own selections….
Many of the 17 unissued masters and performances that this CD contains were recorded in an effort to stockpile material in advance of the 1948 recording ban. Almost all of these sides could and should have been released. Had the 1948 record ban lasted longer than it did, many more of them probably would have been. As it was, most artists who wrote their own material had written plenty of new songs while the ban was on, and not unreasonably they wanted to record and release those instead. Roy Brown was no exception, and although he did go back and re-cut one or two of these sides for De Luxe in 1949 and 1950, most of them were not revisited. Thus we’re not only premiering unheard Roy Brown recordings here, we’re also premiering more than a few unheard Roy Brown songs!
There was never a time in his career when Roy Brown was anything less than great. The recordings on “Good Rockin’ Brown” are definitely among his greatest – featuring, as they do, a confident young twentysomething at the peak of his blues shouting powers, backed up by one of the hottest bands in New Orleans and bolstered, in later sessions at least, by the awesome lungpower of tenor star Leroy ‘Batman’ Rankin - who will be heard to ever greater effect in further RB volumes in our acetate series. Yes, that’s right, I did say ‘further volumes’ – plans are afoot for at least two more packages of Roy in this series, both of which will include further unissued material alongside familiar classics in the most unbeatable sound around…
…Have you heard the news? There really IS good rockin’ tonight!