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Archive for January 28th, 2013

Ace Embarks On Final “Sea Cruise” For Concluding Volume of “The Ace Story”

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The Ace Story Volume 5In 1979, Ace Records of London released Volume One of The Ace Story on LP, celebrating the music of its namesake label, Ace Records of Jackson (Mississippi).  Roughly five years later, Ace issued the fifth and final volume in the series.  Fast-forward to 2010.  That was when Ace revisited The Ace Story with a CD reissue of that original 1979 LP, expanded with bonus tracks.  The new and improved Ace Story series has itself just come to a close with the recent release of Volume 5 on CD.

The new Volume 5 draws on the period between 1956 and 1962 when Johnny Vincent’s Ace enterprise and its imprints (such as the Vin label) ruled the roost of New Orleans R&B.  1962 can be considered the line of demarcation for Ace, as Vincent had decided by then to concentrate on pop, rather than R&B.  Jimmy Clanton scored a hit that year with “Venus in Blue Jeans” penned by the Brill Building team of Howard Greenfield and Jack Keller, signaling just how far afield the label had come from its N’awlins roots.  The success of “Venus” led Vincent to take an A&R position with competitor Vee-Jay, though he continued to sporadically issue singles on Ace.  There was a return to soul music with a briefly reactivated label in the 1970s, and once again in the 1990s.  But the heyday of the original Ace will always be those heady days of the mid-to-late fifties and early sixties.

Some of the label’s most familiar artists appear on Volume 5, expanded from the LP’s 15 tracks to a generous 24.  Huey “Piano” Smith (“Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu”) and His Clowns are heard on two tracks, “Educated Fool” (1962) and “If It Ain’t One Thing, It’s Another” (also 1962).  Huey also appears on the original 1958 recording of his song “Sea Cruise.”  Recorded with Gerri Hall, Johnny Vincent refused to release the “Huey and Jerry” version, and of course, Ford’s version went on to hit status and in fact kicked off the original Ace Story Volume One.  You can decide for yourself whether Vincent was right!  Charles Brown (“Merry Christmas, Baby”) offers “Love’s Like a River” (1960), and Lee Dorsey (“Working in the Coal Mine”) is represented with his 1959 recording of “Rock.”  Like Joe Tex and Benny Spellman, Ace recording artist Dorsey would soon find much greater success elsewhere.  Ace star Clanton sings two tracks here, “You Aim to Please” (1958) and “What Am I Living For” (1961), with the former co-written by New Orleans music impresario Cosimo Matassa.

What role did a legendary Night Tripper play at Ace?  Hit the jump!  Plus: the full track listing with discography, and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 28, 2013 at 14:05

Skydog, Celebrated: Life of Duane Allman Explored in New Career-Spanning Box Set

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Skydog - Duane Allman Retrospective

Duane Allman was just 24 when he perished on the streets of Macon, Georgia, the victim of an accident involving his motorcycle and a flatbed truck carrying a lumber crane. Yet in a short but intense period of time, the Nashville-born slide guitar virtuoso had established a reputation as a creative and versatile musician with invention to spare.  His distinct tones on a Wilson Pickett recording caught the ear of Atlantic Records’ Jerry Wexler, and while based at Rick Hall’s Muscle Shoals studio, Allman graced albums by everyone from Percy Sledge and Aretha Franklin to Lulu and Laura Nyro.  As leader of The Allman Brothers Band, Duane had only participated in three studio albums and one groundbreaking live set before his death, but his music still resonates today for anyone who’s ever felt a connection to soulful southern rock.  Now, more than 40 years after his 1971 death, Rounder Records is celebrating the legacy of Duane Allman with the release of a comprehensive, career-spanning box set.  Due on March 5, Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective is a 7-CD, 129-track box set drawing on every period of Allman’s career from session stalwart to adventurous bandleader.  Rare album tracks and long out-of-print singles sit alongside hits and fan favorites for a box that could easily be called The Ultimate Duane Allman.

Skydog is the first box set to put the entirety of Allman’s too-short career in perspective.  The first disc chronicles Duane’s pre-Allman Brothers bands.  His early band The Escorts, with brother Gregg, opened for The Beach Boys before morphing into the Allman Joys.  Though that pun is hard to resist, it wasn’t long before The Allman Joys joined with the remains of The Men-its to become the trendier Hour Glass. Signed to Liberty Records, the Hour Glass made its name opening for the likes of The Doors and Buffalo Springfield, and recorded two albums of pop-soul very much of its time.  Though Duane and Gregg’s heart was in a sound much earthier, the works of The Hour Glass showed the Allman brothers’ flexibility.  Disc One of Skydog features recordings by The Escorts, The Allman Joys and Hour Glass as well as 31st of February and The Bleus.

Allman’s remarkable session guitar takes precedence on the second disc, adorning tracks by such Atlantic Records artists as Clarence Carter (“Light My Fire”), the “Wicked” Wilson Pickett (“Hey Jude”), Arthur Conley (“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”), Aretha Franklin (“The Weight”), King Curtis (“Games People Play”) and the Sweet Inspirations (“Get a Little Order”).  By the third CD, you’ll find Allman Brothers Band recordings starting to alternate with Duane’s still-busy session career, as well as three tracks from an abortive solo session helmed at Muscle Shoals by Jerry Wexler.  Duane’s “Goin’ Down Slow,” “No Money Down” and “Happily Married Man” are all treats you’ll hear from that date.

What else will you find?  Plenty!  Hit the jump for all of the details, including a full track listing and pre-order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 28, 2013 at 10:11