George Shearing Quintet with Nancy Wilson
the Swingin’s Mutual
Capitol (ST 1524)
produced by Dave Cavanaugh and Tom Morgan
While all of Nancy’s 1960s albums will likely please her serious fans, some dates clearly stand out, and this early one with Shearing is clearly one of them.
The alternating back and forth between instrumental and vocal cuts works wonderfully, like pearls and diamonds lined up in a bracelet, and it causes one to wonder why this form of sequencing isn’t used more often. Instead of forcing the use of vocal fillers–too often an issue with albums of the 60s–this format fills the room with something worth talking about, works like a healthy conversation, and it offers space and repose, allows time for the music to sink into your soul. And with Nancy offering the vocals, the sequencing works like a tease, the instrumentals like head-spinning pauses between kisses.
Along with the two stars, vibraphonist Warren Chiasson and guitarist Dick Garcia get a little time to get their offerings into the conversations. It really doesn’t matter if you prefer Nancy’s jazz dates or her pop ones, this one will please everyone.
LINK TO SELLERS:
The Soul of Toots Thieleman
Recorded 1959, released 1960
Signature (SM 6006)
For this 1959 date, Toots is backed wonderfully with three Americans, Ray Bryant (Philly) on piano, Ray’s brother Tom on bass, and Oliver Jackson (Detroit) on drums, all the members helping to set the tone for the meeting and helping bringing Toots into their country, planting the sound deep into American soil, Ray getting plenty of time to get his piano into the conversation.
Of course, as the billing suggests, this is Toot’s album, his last name showing on all the credits of the originals on this set, his playing gracing every selection, the talented Toots alternates between harmonica and electric guitar, even whistling through his original “Brother John” that closes the set.
Toots shows he was not just an outstanding harmonica player, but a great guitar player as well–showing this clearly on cuts such as “Lonesome Road”–showing that the harmonica can color in a selection as much as any horn, and showing that the electric guitar can do the same. While blues and jazz guitar players revealed the ability for the guitar to offer rhythm and lead at the same time, adding electricity offered even more, making it easier for the guitar to fill in the song with colors much like horns had done for centuries.
This whole set is thoroughly enjoyable, a mix of originals by Toots and tunes by others—old tradition songs and jazz standards, Garner’s “Misty,” Reinhardt’s “Nuages,” and Parker’s “Confirmation”–the meeting laid back yet swinging, taut as a congregation yet relaxed as a Sunday afternoon, swinging like a porch swing with autumn in the air, the warmth of summer mixing with the latter parts of the year, youthful as young man, yet thoughtful as an elder. This might not be a great album, but it’s certainly a good one.
LINKS TO SELLERS:
Dr. John, the Night Tripper
Produced by Harold Battiste
Debut long player from the Doctor, the Night Tripper, produced and partially written by the legendary New Orleans native Harold Battiste, acid R&B, slow-crawling psychedelic nightmares, creeping from the swamps of Louisiana, cooked up in the Gold Star kitchens of the City of Angels, pots and pan acid batch bubbling voodoo, American as gumbo stew, jumping up on second-line hind legs for the “Jump Sturdy” strut down the street…tribal and influential, essential.
Almost not released by Atlantic and mostly ignored by the public (but likely noticed by the avant-garde element of LA who likely had influenced the Nighttripper), this recording eventually went on to take its rightful place in the annals of American music.
link to sellers (LP, cassette, CD, download, streaming):
Sings Harlan Howard
Produced by Ken Nelson
While sources are inconsistent–likely because facts are hard to determine when an artist comes from poor rootless beginnings–apparently Harlan was born in Detroit in 1927 and grew up in Michigan and Kentucky. He didn’t find success in his life’s calling until he was in his 30s, just before settling in Nashville and recording this debut album.
While he released a few of his own albums, he will be remembered mostly as a songwriter, for writing thousands of songs, many of which would become hits for various artists, first for hillbilly stars but also for soul and jazz artists. For example “Busted” would be a hit for both Johnny Cash and Ray Charles in 1963, and while “Chokin’ Kind” was first recorded by Waylon Jennings, it would become Joe Simon’s first number-one hits on the R&B charts.
This album came at a time when he was beginning to make a name for himself, and this set showed that he likely wasn’t going to run out of songs, as this features all new songs–from heartbroken ballads to the rather-dark humor of “We’re Proud to Call Him Son.” While Howard will be remembered for his songwriting (and for defining country music as “three chords and the truth”), this albums shows he had a good voice, perhaps coming out of Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb (although I’m sure he’d note others as well) and perhaps he should have been given more opportunities to record his own material. This isn’t essential but it suggests that fans of this artist (or hillbilly music in general) might be advised to check out Howard’s own recordings (along with the material he provided for others).
“We’re Proud to Call Him Son” download:
The Latin Sound of Henry Mancini
While Hank is of course the man (“Peter Gunn,” “Pink Panther,” “Moon River”….), unless you’re a huge fan of commercial orchestra music, you might as well leave most of his albums in the bin at the thrift store where you found them, but if you’re a fan of Latin lounge, this one is worth grabbing.
Make the World Go Away
When an Italian-American from Chicago sings an album full of hillbilly songs, probably the last thing you’d expect is a set of soul music, but that’s what you get.
Not only is this a soul album, it’s a good one, likely coming out of Ray Charles’ albums from a few years earlier. Like with Ray’s country albums, sometimes the arrangements are a bit much, but fortunately Yuro’s voice shines through.
Produced by Nesuhi Ertegun & Joel Dorn
recorded June 1969
Classic spontaneous combustion soul jazz from McCann/Harris (they’d never rehearsed or played together), the set opening with a definitive version of McCann’s signature tune “Compared to What?” (Gene McDaniels), the rest instrumental, cooking from the get-go, keeping it going from go to whoa, turning down the flame and getting a bit reflective on the cuts that close the sides.
Solid set from 1969, essential listen for fans.
Engineer: Bruce Botnick
Debut from this outfit, its blues-based sound pure L.A., a refreshing alternative to the meandering California psychedelic from Frisco. While it gets a bit silly at times, they always manage to pull out the slack, laying down a string of solid cuts that conclude with the epic “The End.” While, they had several solid sets, this debut was one of their best. It serves as a good intro to this band, and it’s essential listening for fans.
Engineer: Bruce Botnick
While this L.A. outfit had a strong beginning, cracks begin to show with this third set. Much of the material has a dreary feel to it, perhaps capturing not only the strain of fame on this band, but also the wilting of the flowers from the summer of love. Like all their 60s albums, this has its moments, but it’s their weakest album with Morrison.
Engineer: Bruce Botnick
Released August 1969 (September in the UK), reached #6 (ignored in the UK)
Perhaps recognizing that their previous album was a bit depressing, they pick up the pace and fill in the sound for this fourth set, backing the band with big arrangements and calling in plenty of guests. While this was an improvement over the third album, many felt otherwise. The Doors had finally found an audience in the U.K. with the third set, but they lost them again with this collection.
The set gets a bit overblown and silly at times, but the same is true with all their albums. This doesn’t have the dark menace of the early material, but it sees the band pulling out the slack and charging forward, something they’d continue doing in the 70s. It’s another worthwhile listen for fans.