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Jimmy's House Party, CD (£11.50)
JB from Kansas City out-Domino's the Fat Man on these great rockin' R&B tracks from the late 50s/early 60s - mostly recorded with Dave Bartholomew's band at New Orleans' legendary Cosimo's Studios.
He's nobody's idea of a household name, but mention Jimmy Beasley to most 50s R&B and rock'n'roll collectors and you'll immediately meet with a warm smile of recognition, and a surge of admiration for the man's recordings of the mid-to-late 1950s. Cherished completely by New Orleans collectors for his fine Fats Domino-influenced sides (some actually recorded in New Orleans with Fats' band, others recorded with an equally stellar line up of LA session greats including Beasley himself on piano), Jimmy didn't really record often enough to elevate his reputation into that of a superstar, but his half-dozen-plus singles and sole album are as important a rockin' legacy as are those of just about any acknowledged leader of the rockin' pack. Jimmy's House Party marks the first time that his most excellent Modern recordings have been comprehensively and legally anthologised for compact disc.
Born in Kansas City but resident in Los Angeles from a relatively early age, Jimmy Beasley was in his 20s when he went to work for the Bihari brothers - initially as a songwriter and session pianist - under the supervision of the great tenor player/arranger Maxwell Davis. It was Davis who hipped Joe and Jules to the fact that Jimmy could sing as well as he wrote, and they signed him to an artist contract that lasted, on and off, for almost a decade. Jimmy came to Modern as an artist at just about the same time that Fats Domino was beginning to cross over from exclusively R&B to rock'n'roll, and like most label bosses the Biharis were looking for their own Fatsalike. Versatile to a fault, Jimmy Beasley proved from the off with Ella Jane that he could be what they were looking for. And in the space of just over two years Beasley subsequently racked up seven or eight great vocal 45s that a) adhered to the Fats formula and b) were mostly just as essential as anything the Fat Man himself was coming out with at the time. Both sides of all of these 45s are featured on this collection, of course.
Modern's farsighted policy of releasing albums on virtually all their major signings meant that Jimmy also had a contemporaneous long-playing vinyl release. The Fabulous Jimmy Beasley came out on both Modern and Crown - and later, and at the height of the 'twist' boom, in slightly amended form as Twist With Jimmy Beasley. (This CD takes into account all the different configurations, of course!). Compiled primarily from masters that hadn't then been issued on 45, it's one of the greatest rock'n'roll albums that most people probably never heard at the time. Beasley was fortunate in that he got to record with some of the greatest R&B musicians in both New Orleans and Los Angeles, and both sets of studio wizards raised the bar on their already-immaculate performances to accommodate Beasley's excellent songwriting and piano skills. Even though it's an inescapable fact that Modern wanted Jimmy to be their Fats Domino, it's nonetheless true that even with the presence of the mighty Dave Bartholomew Band on the New Orleans-recorded cuts he still managed - with one or two exceptions - to sound like nobody other than J Beasley. That he could 'do Fats' as well as he does on My Happiness and the later, previously unissued That's The Way It's Gonna Be is - from a distance of more than 40 years -an ongoing pleasing bonus for Mr Domino's many fans...
While researching this project I was delighted to come across Jimmy's previously unissued take on the Long Gone / After Hours riff that's featured here. As befits his Kansas City origins, Jimmy was a heck of a piano player in his prime, and it's a shame that he didn't record a few more instrumentals besides Johnny's House Party (showcased here, for the first time, in a re-edited full length version) for public consumption.
To compensate for the fact that he didn't, there's plenty of chances to enjoy his warm, cheerful vocals on a wealth of good stuff that's mostly previously unissued on CD - and an equally-generous amount that's never been issued at all. In the latter department the remainder of the early 60s session that produced JB's final Modern single, the romping Ready To Go, is especially delightful to hear 37 or 38 years after it was originally cut, and in particular the very fine rocker Listen Here Big Brown Eyes - which, for myself as the CD's compiler and 'A'-class Beasley fan, is one of his very best recordings.
Ace's original vinyl issue of JIMMY'S HOUSE PARTY is an item that we have often been asked to transfer to CD down the years. Now it's been done at last, and it's our hope that everyone will agree that the wait has been more than worthwhile. Sadly Jimmy is not in the best of health these days, and when interviewed especially for this project by annotator Opal Louis Nations, he remarked that, whether or not he was around to see and hear the CD, he was glad that his grandchildren would get the chance to hear how fine he sounded in his prime. Of course they will, and so we hope will Mr Jimmy Beasley - as good rockin' a 50s R&B act as you'll ever encounter... ...
Ain't Nothin' But A House Party, y'all!
BY Tony Rounce