Ace Records is the leading reissue record company in the UK, specialising in rock ‘n’ roll, soul, funk, blues, jazz, R&B, garage rock and punk. Here are five vital recent releases from them – words by Ian Johnston.
Insightfully and extensively noted and compiled by Mick Patrick, this brilliant CD offers a definitive musical portrait of the late, great, inscrutable producer / songwriter George ‘Shadow’ Morton, who died on 14th February this year.
Born in 1940, Morton’s wayward but dazzling career encompassed rock ‘n’ roll and doo wop in the 1950s through to proto-glam punk in the 1970s, by way of epic girl group melodrama and psychedelia from Long island in the 60s. Mick Patrick’s CD manages to cover all these genres to produce a near definite portrait of the producer who described his craft as follows: “I’ve never written a song. I write production. I’m a storyteller. I do soap operas. I’m more a director than a producer.”
Beginning with Morton’s 1958 rockin’ debut as a 16 year-old rock ‘n’ roller with The Markeys, ‘Hot Rod’, Sophisticated Boom Boom! features the producer’s successful 1964 attempt to cash in on Beatlemania (‘Only Seventeen’ by The Beattle-ettes), and his most famous work with the ultimate girl group The Shangri-Las (a previously unreleased version of their 1964 breakout hit ‘Remember (Walkin’ In The Sand)’, their classic ‘Give Him A Great Big Kiss’ and the bizarre epic ballad ‘Past, Present and Future’). The title 1965 track by The Goodies is unbeatable, while Morton’s unaccredited work on Iron Butterfly’s 1968 ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’ help shape the heavy metal genre and his 1974 production work with the New York Dolls (‘Puss In Boots’) and Mott The Hoople (‘Midnight Lady’) anticipated punk.
Sophisticated Boom Boom! The Shadow Morton Story is undeniably worthy of the man.
Mod Jazz – Various artists
A fantastic, deluxe double album package, compiled by Adrian Croasdell and noted by Dean Rudland, founded upon Croasdell’s first Ace Mod Jazz CD, originally issued in 1996.
Based upon the late 1950s / early 1960s singles that Croasdell played at his jazz nights at the 100 Club, Mod Jazz collects all the hot tracks that the original Mods should, and perhaps would, have been dancing to in Soho clubs during the early 60s.
The perfect dance compilation, Mod Jazz delivers the goods: from organist Shirley Scott with then husband saxophonist Stanley Turrentine’s driving ‘Soul Shoutin’’, Mark Murphy’s swingin’ reading of the classic number ‘Why Don’t You Do Right?’, Mongo Santamaria’s irrepressible 1963 version of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Watermelon Man’, The Nomos slinky work out around George Benson’s ‘Step Out And Git It’, Mose Allison’s ‘The Seventh Son’, Billy Hawks frenzied ‘Whip It On Me’, through to Brother Jack McDuff with The Big Band of Benny Golson’s rendition of the immortal Henry Mancini’s ‘Theme From The Pink Panther’, this justly celebrated compilation just does not let up.
If the hairs on the back of your neck don’t stand to attention to either Otis Spann’s version of blues legend Willie Dixon’s ‘I’m Ready’, Eddie Jefferson’s rabble rousing romp through Horace Silver’s ‘Filthy McNasty’ or Boogaloo “Joe” Jones’ fleet footed, guitar fuelled take on Nat Adderley’s ‘Games’, you really should consult your physician.
Mod Jazz was a landmark compilation on CD. On record, it is utterly indispensable.
Compiled and noted by Tony Rounce, this compilation is a must for all space cadets; a collection of vintage, whacked out music with a cosmic theme.
Opening the Berliner Philharmoniker’s ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra, op 30’ from the soundtrack of Kubrick’s 1968 picture 2001, Greatest Hits From Outer Space features freaky exotica (Les Baxter’s 1947 ditty ‘Lunar Rhapsody’, featuring a wild Theremin solo by Samuel J Hoffman), prime rock ‘n’ roll (a rare take of Billy Riley & His Little Green Men’s classic ‘Flying Saucers Rock ‘N’ Roll’, Gene Vincent’s ‘Spaceship To Mars’, from the soundtrack of the 1962 British movie, It’s Trad, Dad), 60s hardcore easy listening (Johnny Harris and His Orchestra’s lush ‘Footprints On The Moon’, which was actually used by the BBC to soundtrack their 1969 moon landing coverage) and venerable television themes (the original, and best, BBC Radiophonic Workshop rendition of ‘Doctor Who’, Leonard Nimoy perhaps conducting ‘Theme From Star Trek’ and The Ventures’ guitar twanging ‘The Twilight Zone’).
Even the blues (Lightnin’ Hopkins’ ‘Happy Blues For John Glenn’) and reggae (‘Space Flight’ by I Roy with Lee Perry) genres are represented. Best of all is a favourite tune of the late, great Lux Interior, the flat out bizarre instrumental that features sounds inspired by Sputnik – Jimmie Haskell & His Orchestra’s ‘Rockin’ In The Orbit’ (Space Satellite)’.
Ray Dobard’s legendary Music City Records was located in Berkeley, California, over the Bay from San Francisco. From the early 1950s until the mid 1970s, the black entrepreneur Dobard recorded, above his record shop premises, street level rhythm & blues, Doo Wop vocal groups and soul.
Dobard only managed to score a few minor hits – The 4 Deuces swinging celebration of a potent cocktail, white port and lemon juice ‘W-P-L-J’ and Johnny Heartsman’s ‘reimagining’ of Bill Doggett’s 1956 smash ‘Honky Tonk Part 1 & 2’, the raucous instrumental ‘Johnny’s House Party Part 1&2’) – but the quality of tunes recorded at Music City was exceptionally high.
This includes the large selection of black and white rock ‘n’ roll taped at Music City, most of it previously unreleased, uncovered by compiler, researcher and sleeve note writer Alec Palao for this CD. The 3 Honeydrops, one of the white rock ‘n’ roll bands Dobard signed created the wild 1957 rocker ‘Space Satellite’ and their unreleased soaring dance number ‘Chickaboom’. Other highlights include Jimmy Cicero’s piano pounding rocker ‘Devil’s Child’, Pee Wee Kingsly’s 1959 flute solo rocker ‘Nickel And A Dime’, featuring the future Chess legend Sugar Pie De Santo, The Gaylarks jumping vocal group ‘Doodle-Doo’ and ‘Mr Rock-N-Roll’ and The Five Crystels reworking of The Coasters’ ‘Yakety Yak’, ‘On That Train AKA Clickety Clack’, and their unreleased gem ‘Ya Ya’.
A veritable treasure trove of unreleased rock ‘n’ roll, Going Wild is aptly named.
Nippon Rock ‘N’ Roll: The Birth Of Japanese Rokabirii, 1958-1960 – Masaaki Hirao and His All Stars Wagon
A fascinating overview of the key years in the career of the man who was hailed as “Japan’s answer to Elvis”, Nippon Rock ‘N’ Roll: The Birth Of Japanese Rokabirii provides amble evidence that Masaaki Hirao and His All Stars Wagon band were no mere novelty act. Featuring both live and studio tracks, Nippon Rock ‘N’ Roll undoubtedly rocks and rolls in vital equal measure.
Masaaki Hirao and his group offer highly credible, wild and uninhibited versions of tunes by Elvis (‘Wear My Ring Around Your Neck’ and Hirao’s 1958 version of The King’s ‘Jailhouse Rock’ captures the sleazy vitality of the Leiber and Stoller number and made him a star in Japan), a rocked up Paul Anka number ‘Crazy Love’, Lloyd Price’s ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’, The Diamonds doo-wop flavoured ‘Little Darlin’’ and Little Richard (a fantastic 1958 rendition of ‘Lucille’ and a frantic live readings of ‘Jenny Jenny’ and ‘Ooh My Soul’). Blending traditional Japanese folk songs and jazz, coupled with elements of New Orleans R&B, Masaaki Hirao’s kinetic brand of Rokabirii was anything but a pale imitation of American rockabilly.
Compiled and noted by Howard Williams, this superb package is also available as a wonderful ten track, 10-inch red coloured vinyl album. Play loud.
All words by Ian Johnston. You can read more from Ian on LTW here.