It's now been almost a quarter of a century since Ace struck its first deal to release masters from the Modern/RPM/Kent/Flair group of labels. Shortly thereafter - in the early 1980s, to be exact - we set up our first ten inch series" and quickly released a slew of fine albums from some of Modern's mainstays of the early 50s, among them Jimmy McCracklin, Oscar McLollie and Jimmy "T-99" Nelson.
As the decade progressed, many of those Big Ten Inch Records were superseded by a twelve-inch equivalent - among them the compilation of Jimmy Nelson, whose supersizing occurred in 1987. And shortly thereafter Ace bought (and still owns) the Modern masters, and we - and the rest of the reissue world - moved on from vinyl to compact disc, thereby starting a second cycle of anthologising in the small, shiny, superior-sound five inch format.
Since I joined the Ace team a little over two years ago, I've been privileged to work fairly extensively with the Modern catalogue. And I'd have to say that of all the Modern reissues that I've played a part in anthologising for the format, this month's CD debut of Jimmy T-99 Nelson is one of those that I'm especially proud of. This hugely important artist, whose titular theme song T-99 Blues was among the pivotal R&B records of the first half of the 1950s and one of its most influential, has deserved a package such as this is for years. I could hardly be happier than I am as I write these words to know that, in CRY HARD LUCK, Jimmy is getting exactly what he deserves.
Neither Ace nor I would deny that CRY HARD LUCK is long overdue. Had technology been what it is now half a decade ago, this RT piece would probably have been written by someone else, as the CD would have actually been released several years back. Chief among the reasons it hasn't been, is that several of the original tape sources had not survived the years as well as they might have done, and only now do current sonic improvements allow us to bring you some of the damaged recordings in the excellent sound that you'll hear here. As compiler, annotator, project supervisor and top-tier JN fan, I can say with no small degree of certainty that all of you who also fall into the latter category will not fail to be impressed!
As well as at least one version of every track Jimmy Nelson recorded for the Biharis, this CD also contains a number of nice surprises for those who have bought Ace's vinyl reissues on Jimmy and may, at this point, be wondering what's on offer here to warrant an upgrade to compact disc. Well, aside from the fact that the masters are all presented in their best ever sound reproduction, the guys at Sound Mastering have also managed to significantly reduce the distortion on the tracks from Jimmy's 1960 Kent session, which was originally largely unissued due to technical difficulties. So much so, in fact, that we've managed to include one alternate take of the Fats Domino influenced She's My Baby that was once considered too rough to work with.
That's just for starters. During this CD's lengthy gestation we were also delighted to locate the original Olliet acetate of Jimmy's 78 rpm debut Baby Child. Previous vinyl reissues of this track - including the Bihari's own 1952 reissue, on RPM 329, have had the opening instrumental introduction excised, with the number coming straight in at Jimmy's vocal. The last minute location, just days before the project went to SML for mastering, of that Olliet acetate has enabled us to bring you, for the first time in hi-fi, the song as it was originally recorded, on bulky portable equipment, in an Oakland, California club in 1949.
These are just a few of the nice 'plus'es that ought to put CRY HARD LUCK at the top of every blues collector's "must-buy" list for this month. These, and the pleasure of hearing some classic early 50s west-coast blues shouting in sound so real you can almost reach out and touch it, performed by a man who's made an acclaimed comeback in the years since they were last reissued, and who is currently wowing audiences at blues festivals around the world with a mixture of these classic hits and the new material he's been recording in the last half decade for labels like Bullseye Blues and his own Nettie Marie imprint. These are the recordings that built this great bluesman's reputation, and on which reputation they still predominantly rest. The only persons who will be CRY HARD LUCK if they don't buy this superb CD are you lot."
by TONY ROUNCE