ACE'S 2003 NEW YEAR'S resolution to get even more firmly stuck into the reissue of repertoire we own has certainly resulted in some fantastic packages over the past 12 months. I've been privileged to continue the work of my colleague and friend Ray Topping and bring you several single and multi-artist packages from Modern and Combo, as well as inaugurating the well received and ongoing Ace 10 Inch" mid-price series. Across the water another colleague and friend, John Broven, has been working steadily through the B.B. King Crown reissues, as well as overseeing the Modern Downhome Blues series-.-this year's Meteor Hillbilly/Rockabilly double-.-and next year's Meteor Blues follow-up. Those who've been pleased with all this will be just as pleased to know that there's plenty more where these came from, and that we've doubled last year's resolution to ensure we get even more of them out as the year progresses!
We're already getting off to a good start in January, with the Joe Houston set discussed elsewhere and the long awaited second and final volume of Jimmy McCracklin's Modern and RPM masters. A joint effort by Ray and yours truly, this one picks up from where Volume 1 leaves off. It covers the later sessions in depth, along with some hitherto-unissued alternate takes of tracks whose master takes can be found on "The Modern Recordings 1948-50" (CDCHD 720). There's an added bonus in the form of some rare sides by (Lafayette) "Jerry" Thomas, Johnny Parker and (Alvin) "Baby Pee Wee" Parham, all of whom enjoyed musical associations with Jimmy during the timeframe of these recordings. Like many of the McCracklin masters featured here, these tracks have only previously been available in legal CD form on a hard-to-find Japanese package, so their inclusion here will be all the more welcomed by Jimmy's many fans.
There was originally a plan to make this an 18-tracker in the aforementioned "10 Inch Series" but further tape research revealed enough really strong, previously unissued alternate takes to bring it up to a full-sized set. I was delighted about this, as for me there's no such thing as too much McCracklin. And I really feel that each of the alts I've selected has enough personality of its own to make it a complement to the master rather than just an alternate. On these, Jimmy often sings different lyrics, the solos are as hot if not hotter, and each one of the six will be a real bonus for anyone familiar with the master takes Ray presented on Vol 1. Although there are no more Modern McCracklin masters to reissue, there are still a few more strong alternates in the vaults, and I'm hoping that I'll be able to use at least some of them on Ace's forthcoming multi-artist series of "Modern's Mello Kats'n'Kittens" that will debut in mid 2004.
McCracklin's versatility is well demonstrated throughout, particularly on the final sessions here, which show that you didn't have to be recorded at 2120 South Michigan Avenue to come up with a first-rate, North California variation on Chess' legendary Chicago blues sound. Tracks like Gonna Tell Your Mother point the way to what McCracklin would accomplish later on via out-and-out rockers like Georgia Slop and Let's Do It, while others like the humorous Couldn't Be A Dream and the previously unreleased Let's Get Together have a strong shuffle rhythm that's influenced - directly or otherwise - by the sound and style of McCracklin's sometime labelmate Rosco Gordon.
An important bluesman who too often isn't given full credit for his many accomplishments, Jimmy McCracklin is happily still blastin' the blues in much the same way that he has been since the 1940s. This CD presents some of his best work from arguably his peak years and - as the title implies - it's a real blast from the past!"
by TONY ROUNCE