If it’s Christmas – and, I need hardly remind you, it very nearly is – then it must be time for Ace to bring forth its annual treat for lovers of quality 1940s R&B. Sock it to me Santa, ‘cause it’s time for the fourth instalment of the ongoing “Mellow Cats ‘N’ Kittens” series.
As always, your scribe/compiler has spent a rewarding year toiling at the Modern acetate coalface, unearthing a stack of raw rockers and groovers that the studio wizards at Sound Mastering have polished into sparkling, ice cool diamonds for your dancing and listening pleasure. The time spent in assessing the results of the ongoing vault trawl has once again been well worthwhile, with many hitherto unknown or unissued goodies coming to light as a bi-product of the hours that have gone into researching them.
You’ll re-encounter old friends from previous volumes, and make some new ones among the previously unissued and unknown artists. The breadth of repertoire ranges from the blasting, guitar-driven jump blues of the Felix Gross Orchestra to the cool, Charles Brown-influenced cocktail R&B of Billy Williams (not the Charioteers man), with stops along the way to take in Modern’s attempts to find their own Amos Milburn (Herb Fisher and the completely unknown Walter Smith) and Dinah Washington (Little Esther). Among other old friends we’re pleased to welcome back the Three Bits Of Rhythm, Pearl Traylor and Happy Johnson, all of whom return by genuine popular demand. And those who’ve taken us to task for failing to reissue the masters of certain tracks that we’ve previously issued alternates of will be delighted to know that the Roy Hawkins and Jimmy Witherspoon tracks featured here are indeed the master takes – both making their first appearance on an Ace CD for the first time.
With comprehensive and enjoyable sleeve notes from Ace’s man on Central Avenue, Jim Dawson, and as many nice pix and label shots as we could stuff into a Santa-sized CD booklet, Volume Four is the perfect follow-on to what’s preceded it, Mellow Cats-wise. It’ll put plenty o’ cool in your Yule, that’s for sure – and there are only another 365 shopping days till the release of Volume Five, which I’m working on already.
By Tony Rounce