We weren’t in the least bit surprised at how well our expanded CD reissue of “The Ace (USA) Story Volume 1” was received. It’s been one of the most requested items in the “Why don’t you reissue more of your old vinyl albums on CD” stakes for years and, frankly, we’d have been more surprised if it hadn’t gone down well. In fact, it’s gone down so well that we’ve advanced the release of the second volume to satisfy public demand. The remaining three volumes are to be expanded and digitised during the course of next year. As with the previous and forthcoming collections, Volume 2 is enhanced by the addition of a dozen bonus tracks that complement those selected many years ago for the original vinyl LP.
Johnny Vincent may not have been a musician himself, but he certainly knew which musicians would make his 45s and albums sound as great as they did. By employing hands-on A&R men of the calibre of Huey “Piano” Smith, sax king Alvin “Red” Tyler and the young Mac “Dr John” Rebennack, who commanded respect among their musical peers, he always ensured that Ace’s rhythm tracks would personify the sound of New Orleans at its best.
The beauty of a catalogue such as Vincent’s is that there are so many great records in it that there’s no question of turning to anything not so good in an attempt to fill a CD. Volume 2 offers more of what Volume 1 delivered: the unbeatable goodtime New Orleans rock’n’roll and R&B for which Ace was famous (although one or two tracks were recorded outside of the Crescent City, next door in Houston).
Several Ace label stalwarts inevitably make their welcome return, but we also encounter a number of highly talented people who briefly figured in Johnny Vincent’s discography – and who, but for the lack of a hit record, may have figured more prominently than they did. Our roll call includes 40s R&B megastars Amos Milburn and Charles Brown duetting on Huey Smith’s rocking ‘Educated Fool’, Edgar “Big Boy” Myles and Issachar “Junior” Gordon stepping out from premier vocal groups the Shaweez and the Spiders respectively, more great stuff from blues kings Frankie Lee Sims and Julius “Mercy Baby” Mullins, a brilliant example of the early work of Crescent City legend Eddie Bo and more from the inevitably top quality repertoire of Ace mainstays Frankie Ford, Jimmy Clanton, Bobby Marchan and Huey Smith.
If this music doesn’t cure your blues and put a smile on your face, it really is about time you gave some thought to having that check-up from the neck up.
By Tony Rounce