Midnight At The Barrelhouse

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Midnight At The Barrelhouse

Postby blueswriter » Thu May 26, 2005 6:44 pm

[updated:LAST EDITED ON May-26-05 AT 03:08 PM (EST)]Various Artists
Midnight At The Barrelhouse
Rockin' California Rhythm & Blues 1947-1951

JSP (2003) 7713

http://cover6.cduniverse.com/MuzeAudioA ... 491614.jpg

5 CDs, 125 tracks, 358 minutes. Absolutely essential. If one person in particular is far too often overlooked for his contributions to West Coast Blues, Johnny Otis would definitely place in the top-five, if not land on the top shelf as the candidate with more votes than anyone else. The artists and bands Otis nurtured, organized, discovered, or led have often gone on to legendary status, but the California-born John Veliotes often sat perched behind his drums while others took the spotlight. As a youngster dreaming of stardom as a popular bandleader, Johnny changed his last name to the more African-American sounding Otis, and often passed as an African-American in later years due to his dark Mediterranean complexion, pencil-thin mustache, and a curly, well-coiffed, and greased head of hair. Although jazz was his first love, it was the success of his (and partner Bardu Ali's) Barrelhouse Club in Watts when Otis began focusing his attentions on R&B, blues, swing, and vocal group harmony. His eyes and ears were always centered on talent, and his credited discoveries are many with Little Esther Phillips, Mel Walker, The Robins, and Pete "Guitar" Lewis perhaps standing as crowning achievements, as well as his son Shuggie, who found fame for a brief period in the 1960s for his shifting abilities as a guitarist, keyboard player, and drummer. The varied and enormously talented Johnny Otis aggregations recorded prolifically throughout the 1940s and '50s, with Otis himself going on to record with yet another wide cast of characters from the 1960s into the 1980s. What's included in this expansive five-disc package settles squarely on his and the band's recordings from 1947 through 1951 and the featured artists deliver with stunning results. Vocalists are many including Jimmy "Mr. Five By Five" Rushing and Big Joe Turner, stand-up blues belters whose singing capabilities easily matched their girth, on My Baby's Business, Jimmy's Round The Clock Blues, and S.K. Blues while Little Ester Phillips gets a large portion of the proceedings with Deceivin' Blues, Love Will Break Your Heart, I Don't Care, and her classic Double Crossing Blues, among many more. The Robins, a dazzling vocal outfit, garner plenty of space as well on I'm Through, You're Fine But Not My Kind, Rain In My Eyes and I'm Living O.K. with brilliant guitar from Lewis, plus eight more. Pete "Guitar" Lewis takes center stage for a handful with Raggedy Blues and Crying With The Rising Sun showing his formidable skills as a singer, but it's on the instrumentals where he pulls out all the stops; Midnight In The Barrelhouse, Scratchin' and Ooh Midnight (with a croaking voice repeating the line "Ooh Midnight" in dark, sultry fashion could indeed be Lewis!) all feature brilliant and devastating over-amplified guitar work. Mel Walker's voice (surely a gift from the heavens) is yet another to behold with his smoky and understated style showing wonderfully in The Candle's Burnin' Low (without a doubt a true standout and one of the finest death-inspired slices of music this side of Screamin' Jay Hawkins), Because I Love My Baby So, Call Operator 210 and Gypsy Blues, but with another large handful, listeners will be returning to hear this man again and again. As if all this isn't enough, Joe Swift, Redd Lyte, Devonia Williams, Preston Love, Ivie Anderson, Cathy Cooper, Linda Hopkins, The Barreleers, The Vocaleers, Marilyn Scott, and George Washington all get space. There are vocal duets between Mel Walker and Little Esther, jumping horn-fused instrumentals, piano boogies, and far more that may raise the sick from their beds, and for those dealing with spells of sadness, the five-and-a-half hours of music may instead inspire severe cases of both Pollyanna and St. Vitus dance. If you enjoy blues in any form, you'll find it here; from the grinding, lowdown, and deep-in-the-alley styles of Pete "Guitar" Lewis to the joys of vocal group harmony from The Robins, and much more in the process. Small deductions for session details that aren't correct in spots and liner notes which skip somewhat lightly over Johnny Otis and his musically scientific mind, Midnight At The Barrelhouse still manages high marks for being a wonderful, enlightening, and extremely entertaining set of music. The following advice should not be taken lightly - do not hesitate in finding out the many wonders of Johnny Otis or those he launched to stardom. Superb!

http://www.jsprecords.com/

© 2005 by Craig Ruskey
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RE: Midnight At The Barrelhouse

Postby nizer » Fri May 27, 2005 3:46 pm

Thanks BW. I've dug that gone cat for a long time - I guess he never heard that white men can't sing the Blues. He's probably best known for "Willie and the Hand Jive" but also came up with my all-time favorite song title: "Baby You Don't Know It But You Just Kissed Me Goodbye".
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RE: Midnight At The Barrelhouse

Postby blueswriter » Fri May 27, 2005 4:18 pm

[updated:LAST EDITED ON May-27-05 AT 12:48 PM (EST)]Thanks BW. I've dug that gone cat for a long time - I guess he never heard that white men can't sing the Blues. He's probably best known for "Willie and the Hand Jive" but also came up with my all-time favorite song title: "Baby You Don't Know It But You Just Kissed Me Goodbye".

I think we all have favorites we identify a particular artist with, for me, Johnny Otis and Harlem Nocturne have always been synonymous with each other. But his catalog is laced with defining moments, and a healthy portion of it is in this box. Thanks for reading. There's more on the way soon...

I've been meaning to ask you... did you get The Hollywood Fats Band 2-CD set yet. I think you said you had ordered it a while back. Just curious what you think.
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RE: Midnight At The Barrelhouse

Postby nizer » Fri May 27, 2005 5:40 pm

>I've been meaning to ask you... did you get The Hollywood
>Fats Band
2-CD set yet. I think you said you had ordered
>it a while back. Just curious what you think.

Uh ---- sorry, not me. I haven't ordered anything for a long time, except maybe from the drugstore. My (infrequent) discretionary purchases are currently limited to my local 2nd hand CD shop - an I ain't seen any Hollywood Fats there....
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RE: Midnight At The Barrelhouse

Postby blueswriter » Fri May 27, 2005 5:43 pm

A case of mistaken identity on my part... next time I'll make sure I look back to see who it is. In this case, it was Trey.
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