In case you hadn’t noticed from all those TV ads that started somewhere around the end of last July, it’s very nearly Christmas once again.
You know, Christmas – that December day when you unwrap endless piles of unwanted audio garbage in the morning, and spend the afternoon hoping Uncle George and Auntie Mildred have kept the receipt for the James Blunt or Jamie Cullum CD so that you can return it to HMV in exchange for something that actually does resemble music. (Oh, for the days of Record Tokens.) And if you are in ‘indecisive present-buying mode’ yourself, please be aware that there’s really no need whatsoever to inflict “Stock Aitken Waterman Gold” or the “Best Of The Eurythmics” (patently a titular contradiction of terms!) on a family member in an attempt to show your love at Christmas time.
It’s not actually a Christmas CD – and it certainly doesn’t contain a single turkey - but Ace has the set that’s guaranteed to make all Yuletide parties go with a swing. Our volume, MORE MELLOW CATS ‘N’ KITTENS is exactly what any hip dude or dude-ette will be wanting to listen to, while carving the festive bird/nut roast and distributing the sprouts – and who wouldn’t want to be in their number?
Once again it’s been my privilege (and it is a privilege) to root around in the realms of the earliest Modern recordings, in an attempt to come up with a compilation that will delight anyone and everyone for whom mid 1940s rhythm & blues is exactly where it’s at. With a still-vast stockpile of top notch, previously unissued, or unreissued masters to select from this is by no means a difficult or unpleasant job in itself - although difficulties do of course arise when it comes to making the final selection on what makes the cut, and what doesn’t. (Still there’s always the next volume to consider, isn’t there?)
However, in this case the two dozen gems I’ve selected for this second volume are at least the equal of those chosen for the first, and that MC&K2 may even be better overall than its predecessor! I had a wider range of repertoire to select from this time out, due to the fact that the copying of the Modern acetates has now pretty much finished, and the last leg of this marathon task brought some exciting new finds to the fore. I also decided to broaden the repertoire out to include material from other labels that Ace owns – thanks largely to the recent rediscovery of a thought-lost parcel of Sensation acetates, and to the mostly-terrific contents thereof. When the repertoire from the two labels was combined, the results proved to be more than merely formidable!
Several of everyone’s favourites from MC&K1 are making a most welcome return here (Many of them may well be back for volume 3, such is the quality of their yet-to-be-digitised repertoire). Hipsters like the great Butch Stone, flipsters such as Jake Porter and those finger-poppin’ daddies the Three Bits Of Rhythm will be welcome in any discerning household at any time of the day, night or year, no matter how many times they come a-calling. Joining them in their revelry on this outing are the great Kansas City 88 basher Jay “Hootie” McShann, his sometime musical associates Geechie Smith, Tiny Webb, Al Cake Wichard and Jimmy Grissom – plus a bunch of fine fellows and females from a few thousand miles north-east of Central Avenue in the shape of the Todd Rhodes orchestra, its satellite acts Emmitt Slay and Miss Kitty Stevenson and Dave Hamilton’s Noc-Tunes – surely one of the only R & B groups of their time to use a non-pedal steel guitar as a prominent instrument. All good, nothing bad, as the saying goes.
With all bar one of the tracks coming directly from the original acetates, the sound quality is astounding throughout. Just think how groovy this will all sound as an accompaniment to the post-blowout stilton and port, and how much less likely it will be to induce heartburn than cousin Craig’s thoughtful gift of Katie Melua’s latest ‘Dual Disc’.
Ace’s “More Mellow Cats’n’Kittens” are guaranteed to put the “Merry” in Christmas. God bless ‘em, every one…
By Tony Rounce