The Blasters’ leader’s debut solo album from 1986. Features prominent contributions from the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Sun Ra’s Solar Arkestra.
After the much-admired Blasters broke up in 1985, the group’s founder member, lead singer and guitarist Phil Alvin chose not to form or join another band. He wanted to make an album that featured music by some of his earliest musical influences – artists whose records he had heard thanks to his parents while growing up in the California town of Downey in the late 50s and early 60s. In 1986, Phil got to do just that.
“Un ‘Sung Stories’” was warmly received at the time of release but the Slash label was not yet fully committed to the CD market and chose to issue it only on vinyl and cassette. The album didn’t receive a CD release until the 21st century, when a Japanese label put out a limited edition, and it’s never been issued in the UK in digital form until now. Suffice to say Big Beat’s release is not in any way limited, and will remain in catalogue as long as there are customers for it.
The term Americana was not yet in widespread use in 1986 but it suits the contents of “Un ‘Sung Stories’” perfectly. Phil drew repertoire from his own youthful favourite artists and songs, reviving an early Bing Crosby hit, a gospel obscurity by Elder Anderson Johnson and no less than four songs (three in a medley) by the great Cab Calloway. On a couple of tracks he was joined by some fellow former members of the Blasters, on others by the Dirty Dozen Brass band from New Orleans. Perhaps most significantly, he persuaded Sun Ra to come back from outer space for a couple of days to lead his Arkestra in a session that produced three of the album’s 10 cuts. The end product remains invigorating and compelling, and can now be heard in the kind of sound it fully deserves.
Hardly the most prolific of artists, it took Phil almost 15 years to produce another solo album but he remains busy in 2018 leading a re-formed Blasters and making the occasional album with brother Dave that are basically extensions of “Un ‘Sung Stories’”. If you have any interest at all in what’s now called Americana, it’s a set you will not want to be without.