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It’s Carnival Time At Ace With “The Ric and Ron Story Volume 1”

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Ric and Ron Story Vol 1While Ric and Ron Records were not the first little labels to make big noises out of New Orleans, Louisiana, they certainly were among the most influential. Between 1958 and 1963, Joe Ruffino’s labels boasted some of the Crescent City’s greatest artists – Professor Longhair, Irma Thomas, Chris Kenner, Eddie Bo, and Johnny Adams, to name a few. The U.K.’s Ace Records label has recently begun a new series chronicling The Ric and Ron Story, kicking off with Volume 1, You Talk Too Much. The compilation is so named for Ric single 972 by Joe Jones, the label’s only major nationwide hit – and perhaps, ironically, a side that was acquired on its way to the Top 10 by Morris Levy’s Roulette Records. This initial volume covers the period of 1958-1960 with 24 spirited, soulful R&B tracks in non-chronological order. All songs are in their original mono mixes.

Ric and its sister label Ron were founded in 1958 by New Orleans-based Joe Ruffino, and named for his sons. Though the labels were only active for a short period, some of the city’s greatest talents passed through the company’s doors. Ruffino founded Ric armed with masters from New Orleans’ Ace label (namesake for the current Ace Records) and went on to sign guitarist Al Blanchard in an A&R capacity and Al Johnson as an artist. When Blanchard moved on from the label, he was succeeded by Harold Battiste and Mac Rebennack, a.k.a. Dr. John, two gentlemen who would fill chapters in any book of N’awlins musical history. This illustrious team gave a break to the now-legendary Soul Queen of New Orleans, Irma Thomas, who recorded her first single “(You Can Have My Husband but) Don’t Mess with My Man” for the Ron label. Thomas is featured on two sides here, the aforementioned “Don’t Mess with My Man” and the B-side of her follow-up single “I May Be Wrong.”

Al Johnson, Ruffino’s first artist, is represented with two songs, “You Done Me Wrong” and “Carnival Time.” Along with title track “You Talk Too Much,” Johnson’s “Carnival Time” may be the signature song here. Recorded at Cosimo Matassa’s renowned studio, it reflects the joyous mood we still associate with the resilient city of New Orleans to this very day. And although it’s still a well-known song around Mardi Gras time, the story of Big Easy native Johnson is one of as much darkness as light. Drafted into the U.S. Army after recording the song, he returned in 1964 to find himself in dire financial straits. (His sole discography consists of two singles released on Ric in 1958 and 1960.) But Johnson continued to persevere and perform. A refugee of the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Johnson became a resident of Harry Connick Jr.’s Musicians Village project. He still can be found today, rousing appreciate audiences with “Carnival Time.”

Another New Orleans native, piano man Eddie Bo first made his name in traditional jazz circles before “defecting” to R&B. Apparently he was as dexterous with carpentry as with piano-playing; legend has it that Bo even built the Ric studio, coming from a long line of carpenters, bricklayers and shipbuilders! Also affected by the ravages of Katrina, Bo used his carpentry skills to help rebuild his neighborhood before his 2009 death. He’s heard here on 1959’s “You Got Your Mojo Working” and 1960’s “Tell It Like It Is” (not the same song that another famous son of New Orleans, Aaron Neville, took to the No. 2 spot on the Hot 100 in 1966).

Johnny Adams (you guessed it: a New Orleans native!) had his biggest successes in the late 1960s but began his recording career at Ric, where he worked with Mac Rebennack a.k.a. Dr. John as well as Eddie Bo. The future Dr. John produced “I Won’t Cry,” Adams’ first single for Ric, heard here in both its original version and a rare demo performance with guitar accompaniment. Adams arrived at Ric with a dramatic delivery (which inspired Aaron Neville, among others) and a big vocal style. Possessed with a great range, he could transition to a falsetto with ease. He’s also heard on “Come On,” also from 1959. Adams experienced a late-career resurgence when he signed with Rounder Records in 1983; he remained with the label until his death in 1998.

Edgar Blanchard was one of the most well-known session guitarists in New Orleans and had been a bandleader since the 1940s. Although he played on sessions for labels including Atlantic and Specialty, he actually recorded Ric’s first issued single. One side of that 45, “Let’s Get It,” is included here. Blanchard died in 1972. Like Blanchard, Professor Longhair, a.k.a. Henry Roeland “Roy” Byrd (1918-1980), was already an established name when he joined Ruffino’s labels. The good Professor’s piano style, it’s fair to say, shaped what is today thought of as the sound of New Orleans, and influenced Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Harry Connick, Jr., and countless others. He’s featured here with his definitive 1959 recording of “Go to the Mardi Gras” (which he first recorded in 1950) as well as with “Cuttin’ Out (Hey Now Baby).” Both tracks hail from his lone session for Ruffino. A special bonus here is a previously unreleased demo of Professor Longhair’s signature “Tipitina” recorded for Ric in 1959.

We have more after the jump, including the full track listing with discography, and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 22, 2014 at 10:09

Release Round-Up: Week of March 4

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Little Feat boxLittle Feat, Rad Gumbo: The Complete Warner Bros. Years 1971-1990 (Warner Bros./Rhino)

The eclectic rock band’s near two-decade run on Warner Bros. is celebrated in this new box set, featuring all the band’s original studio albums, an expanded edition of the live Waiting for Columbus and a bonus disc of recordings sourced from the band’s 2000 box set Hotcakes & Outtakes. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Dr John - Gris GrisThe Grass Roots, The Complete Original Dunhill/ABC Hit Singles / Irma Thomas, Full Time Woman — The Lost Cotillion Album / Professor Longhair, The Last Mardi Gras / Dr. John, The Night Tripper, Gris Gris / David Ruffin, My Whole World Ended/Feelin’ Good / David Ruffin, David Ruffin/Me ‘N Rock ‘N Roll Are Here to Stay / Marilyn McCoo, Solid Gold (Expanded Edition) / Charley Pride, The Gospel Collection (Real Gone Music)

Real Gone’s March madness features a host of titles, including two Mardi Gras-themed offerings from two New Orleans legends: Dr. John’s first album and a double-disc live set from jazz pianist Professor Longhair.

The Grass Roots: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Irma Thomas: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Professor Longhair: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Dr. John: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
David Ruffin #1: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
David Ruffin #2: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Marilyn McCoo: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Charley Pride: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Bob Dylan - 30th ConcertBob Dylan, The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration (Columbia/Legacy)

This multi-artist live tribute to The Bard, recorded at Madison Square Garden in 1992, is reissued as an expanded CD set as well as in a newly-restored DVD or Blu-Ray version with unreleased performances and behind-the-scenes footage.

2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
BD: Amazon U.S.Amazon U.K.

A Beard of Stars DeluxeT. Rex, A Beard of Stars T. Rex: Deluxe Editions (Universal U.K.)

Before Marc Bolan hit the sweet spot, 1970 saw him cutting two albums – the last credited to “Tyrannosaurus Rex” and the first credited to “T. Rex,” respectively – that saw him moving from psych-folk to the kind of music that made him a legend. Both albums are expanded with unreleased demos, outtakes and single material (including beloved glam cut “Ride a White Swan”).

A Beard of Stars: 2CD (Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.) / 2LP (Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.)
T. Rex: 2CD (Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.) / 2LP (Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.)

Rufus VibrateRufus Wainwright, Vibrate: The Best of Rufus Wainwright (DGC/Interscope/UMe)

A greatest-hits compilation from the theatrical singer-songwriter, son of fellow-renowned musician Loudon Wainwright III.

CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Bob FrankBob Frank, Bob Frank / Peter Walker, “Second Poem to Kamela” or Gypsies Are Important (Light in the Attic)

Light in the Attic kicks off its new Vanguard Vault series exploring the “obscure, non-traditional side of the legendary Vanguard Records archive” with the 1972 self-titled album from Bob Frank (“the best songwriter you never heard” per Big Star producer Jim Dickinson) and the rare 1968 follow-up to Peter Walker’s mystical psych-folk Rainy Day Raga LP.

Bob Frank: LP (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.) / CD (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)
Peter Walker: LP (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.) / CD (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Heart Magazine SACDHeart, Magazine / Peter, Paul and Mary, Peter, Paul and Mary (Audio Fidelity)

New, Steve Hoffman-mastered editions of two classic titles on hybrid SACD.

Heart: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Peter, Paul and Mary: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Written by Mike Duquette

March 4, 2014 at 08:32

It’s a “Solid Gold” March From Real Gone with Grass Roots, David Ruffin, Marilyn McCoo, and More

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Grass Roots - ABC Dunhill SinglesWe all know that March comes in like a lion, so it’s altogether appropriate, then, that Real Gone Music comes into March with a roar!  The label’s March 4 slate of eight titles emphasizes classic soul, with detours to vintage pop and country.  And as Mardi Gras 2014 falls on that very date, the sound of New Orleans is celebrated with a few very special releases, too.  From New Orleans, Real Gone presents titles from three bona fide Big Easy legends: Dr. John, Professor Longhair and Irma Thomas.  Sweetening the deal, the soul queen of New Orleans’ release unearths no less than 13 unreleased tracks!  That Crescent City trio is joined by a rare, never-on-CD solo album from The 5th Dimension’s Marilyn McCoo and Real Gone’s first-ever dip into the Motown catalogue with four long out-of-print albums on two CDs from The Temptations’ David Ruffin.  The line-up is rounded out by a collection of gospel sides from country legend Charley Pride and the complete hit A-sides from a group we knew the label would discover “sooner or later” – The Grass Roots!

Hit the jump for all of the details courtesy Real Gone’s press release, plus pre-order links to all titles!  And don’t miss out on the eclectic roster coming from Real Gone this February 4…all of the details are right here! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 22, 2014 at 13:41

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

Rock Hall Gets It Right

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The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its inductees earlier this evening, and the results are actually quite exciting.

The artists inducted are Alice Cooper, Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Darlene Love and Tom Waits. Leon Russell is getting the Award for Musical Excellence (formerly known as the Sidemen category) while the Ahmet Ertegun Award will go to Jac Holzman (founder of Elektra Records) and Art Rupe (founder of Specialty Records, the label that gave us Little Richard and “Tutti Frutti”).

Much of the press will go to Diamond finally receiving the credit he deserves as a rock artist, but this class – all consisting of solid performers from the 1960s and 1970s – is a bright one for fans of classic rock and roll. Let’s hope these accolades get the major labels to honor those artists with some nice reissues or box sets. (Here is a good place to start!)

The induction ceremony will air live on Fuse from New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria on March 14.

Written by Mike Duquette

December 14, 2010 at 21:35