Here are some more vital recent releases from the long running Ace Records, arguably one of the best reissue labels in the world. Evidence to back up this statement can be found in some of Ian Johnson’s previous reviews of Ace Records roundups for us such as this one, this one,this one or, indeed, this one. And those four just scratch the surface of the Ace Records Roundups Ian’s done for us ”“ use the search box to find more.

1. The Rumblers ”“ Rumblin’ & Rare

You really cannot argue with the pedigree of an early 1960’s instrumental guitar/sax band from Norwalk, California, who took their name as an act of devotion for the mighty Link Wray’s 1958 anthem ”˜Rumble’.

This excellent follow up to Ace’s 2010 Rumblers compilation, It’s A Gas, a terrific 28 track collection of the group’s recordings for the Downey, Highland and Uptown labels between 1962 and 1967, is once again loving compiled by esteemed musician/music archivist Brian Nevill, who also wrote the assiduously researched liner notes. The booklet also contains interviews with a host of rarely seen photos supplied by members of the group.

The Rumblers have often been classified incorrectly as a Surf band when they were in fact a sharp dressed, hard rocking white R&B group. The Surf classification occurred due to the fact that saxophonist Bob Jones named their classic 1962 breakthrough hit, ”˜Boss’, a surfing expression.

This chugging, menacing instrumental is so potent that it in part inspired The Cramps’ number ”˜Garbage Man’ on their 1980 magnum opus debut LP, Songs The Lord Taught Us. The B-side of ”˜Boss’, a rabid vocal driven track entitled ”˜I Don’t Need You No More’, anticipated by many years the more extreme garage punk style of the late 1960’s and punk of the mid 70’s.

As the title of Rumblin’ & Rare denotes, all but eight of the 24 tracks featured on this CD are till now unissued. The previously released material, the driving ”˜Boss Drums’, ”˜Harlem Nocturne’ (the unofficial anthem of Film Noir, given a truly fantastic Rumblers style make over), the slinky ”˜Walking With The Boss’, ”˜Boss Blues’ and the poignant ”˜Lost Weekend’ are from the only album the group produced, the 1963 LP, Boss.

Nine tracks on Rumblin’ & Rare are released here for the first time. Of these, ”˜Poor Boy’, the ”˜Underwater’ (a rockin’ track that rivals ”˜Boss’) and ”˜Wockytok’ are from the group’s initial Downey sessions, and are contemporaries with the Rumblers massive hit ”˜Boss’. ”˜Slingshot’ (which inventively borrows from James Brown’s version of ”˜Night Train’), ”˜Rumblin’ And Stumblin” (pure rock ”˜n’ roll), ”˜Wedgee’, ”˜Charger’ (simply twang-tastic) and ”˜Saxwax’ (saxophone powered R&B) are from the second line-up of the band (which cut the great ”˜Soulful Jerk’ featured on It’s A Gas). ”˜Lots To Learn’, a buoyant unreleased vocal track the group performed using the name Bel Cantos, remarkably produced by the youthful ”˜Walrus of Love’. Mr. Barry White.

In a word, Boss.

2. Various Artists:- Handy Man: The Otis Blackwell Songbook

Complied and noted by Tony Rounce (with Marty Walker), Handy Man is another fine entry in Ace’s Songwriter Series. If ever there was a more suitable candidate than Otis Blackwell for such canonisation as a great rock ”˜n’ roll songsmith is highly doubtful. His compositions for Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis (the tremendous ”˜Make Me Know It’ by Elvis from his outstanding post Army 1960 album Elvis Is Back! is included here, together with Jerry “The Killer Lee Lewis’ barnstorming Sun recording of ”˜Don’t Be Cruel’) alone would guarantee his entry into every music Hall Of Fame.

Handy Man, named after the song that brought worldwide chart fame to Jimmy Jones in 1959, is a commendable tribute to a man who, if he had only written ”˜Fever’ (Little Willie John’s 1960 version with string overdubs is featured on this disc), he would still be regarded as one of the foremost composers of the rock’n’roll era.

Among the numerous other highlights, covering the years 1953 to 1963, are the then 15-year-old Johnny Restivo’s rockin’ take on ”˜The Shape I’m In’ (foolishly rejected by Elvis), Derek Martin’s classic mean and moody 1962 version of ”˜Daddy Rollin’ Stone’, Sam Butera and the Witness’ joyful ”˜I Feel Good All Over’ and the late, great Solomon Burke’s simply awesome 1963 reading of the proto funky ”˜Home In Your Heart.’ Burke’s rollicking delivery is worth the price of this CD alone.

3. Various Artists ”“ King Northern Soul- Volume 3

Ten years after the previous volume, Ady Croasdell presents a dazzling collection of hot Northern Soul cuts from The King group of labels, including Federal, DeLuxe, and Hollywood. With a very welcome slant towards the funkier end of the music played in Northern Soul clubs, Volume 3 could be the best in the series to date. Volume 3 kicks off in fine style with Charles Spurling’s tough guy anthem ”˜That’s My Zone (He’s Pickin’ On)’, co-written by Soul Brother Number One, James Brown.

There can’t be many dance tracks which feature lyrics like this; “You don’t know me, boy, I’ll take, take your life now, keep on, keep on picking on my girl.” Yes, that’s Spurling’s ”˜Danger Zone’.

Charles Spurling is also featured on the grooving Brown production ”˜Popcorn Charlie’ and as a co-writer of Marva Whitney’s out and out 1968 funk work out, ”˜Unwind Yourself’, which manages to eclipse Hank Ballard’s 1967 original. The Brownettes’ 1968 ”˜Baby, Don’t You Know’, another James Brown number/production featuring a blistering guitar solo, is a solid gold dance floor nugget that ranks with anything James Brown recorded under his own name.

The sharp dressed dudes in white who grace the King Northern Soul- Volume 3 sleeve, The Presidents Band, offer the fuzz guitar driven, 1970 groove of ”˜Our Meeting’, the ill fated but incredibly talented Little Willie John (he died in prison in 1968 having been sentenced for manslaughter four years before) sings his heart out on the Latin flavoured 1962 cha cha number ”˜Until Again My Love’, while Hal Hardy with The Billy Cox Band (Cox was a colleague and close friend of Jimi Hendrix) deliver the moody yet up-tempo, ”˜House Of Broken Hearts’.

Mike Williams’ ”˜Something You Didn’t Done’, written by Nat Jones, James Brown’s musical director of the time, is a pure foot stomping beat monster that should have been covered by Alex Chilton.

In short, King Northern Soul- Volume 3 is 24 tracks of funky black soul of the first order.

4. Priscilla Paris ”“ Love, Priscilla ”“ Her 1960s Solo Recordings

The two stunning but delicate solo albums produced by the beautiful but seemly doomed songwriter/lead singer of the Phil Spector produced Paris Sisters, Priscilla Paris. Compiled and noted with obvious care and attention by Alex Palao, Love, Priscilla is the first ever collection of the trouble blonde beauty’s 1960s solo recordings.

As well as the albums Priscilla Sings Herself (1967) and “Priscilla Loves Billy” (1969, a remarkable tribute album to the great jazz singer Billie Holiday, which inexplicably misspelt Lady Day’s name on the cover), Love, Priscilla includes a 1968 single that was never released on an album, a rather strange but evocative version of Jim Webb’s classic ”˜By The time I Get To Phoenix’ (sung from the female point of view, pitching the lyric of the song somewhat out of balance) and four recently uncovered tracks, including the magnificently bleak ”˜The Dark Side Of Loving You’.

Priscilla first achieved success with The Paris Sisters, in which she sang lead vocals backed by her two older sisters Sherrell and Albeth. The group, who had been trained to be professional entertainers for the best part of a decade, enjoyed a huge 1961 international hit with ”˜I Love How You Love Me’, but the dreamy voiced Priscilla desperately wanted to record her own compositions, breaking free from any male Spector svengali figure.

The result was the tremendous 1967 album, Priscilla Sings Herself. The gorgeous and lush record captures the totally contradictory nature of the singer songwriter. ”˜He Noticed Me’ recalls happy teenage love and the cheerful ”˜I Can’t Complain’ is joyous, while the heartbreaking ”˜Stone Is Very, Very Cold’ and ”˜Help Me’ exposes a darker, urgent desperation.

The sensitively written and enchantingly sung Priscilla Sings Herself, sympathetically produced with an epic widescreen ’60s production by Charlie Greene and Brian Stone, should have made Priscilla Paris an international superstar to rival Nancy Sinatra. Tragically, this did not happen.

An audibly more comfortable Priscilla is evident upon Priscilla Loves Billie; the discerningly arranged collection of Billie Holliday covers (co-produced by Paris’ guitarist paramour Don Peake) was released in 1969. Despite Priscilla’s obvious affinity with the material (”˜I Loves You Porgy’, ”˜He’s Funny That Way’ and ”˜My Man’ are among the stand out cuts), and the fact that Billie Holiday’s pianist Jimmy Rowles is featured throughout, Priscilla Loves Billie also failed commercially.

In the late 1970s, after a period of grave depression, Priscilla moved to Paris, France where she owned a restaurant and operated a business that specialised in teaching French hotel workers how to interact with English-speaking tourists. Occasionally she sang in small Parisian clubs and recorded a third solo album, Love Is”¦, in London in 1978.

Priscilla died as the result of a fall in her home on Friday, March 5th, 2004. She was 59 years old. Love, Priscilla ”“ Her 1960s Solo Recordings is a fitting monument to her enduring maverick talent.

5. Various Artists ”“ The Ramones Heard Them Here First

Last, but by no means least, another in Ace’s series of compilations featuring the original versions of numbers recorded by a chosen performer or group of note. A previous CD featured songs covered by Elvis.

Now, expertly complied by Mick Patrick, The Ramones are justly in the spotlight with a vital collection of songs the punk titans covered during their monumentally influential career.

The Ramones Heard Them Here First. Is sequenced in the order in which the Ramones cut the songs. From Chris Montez’s restless 1962 pop hit ”˜Let’s Dance’ (covered by Da Brudders on their eponymous epochal 1976 debut album) through The Rivieras’ ”˜stomping 1963 ”˜California Sun’ (featured on The Ramones’ second LP, Leave Home), The Trashman’s immortal ”˜Surfin’ Bird’ and Do You Wanna Dance’ by The Beach Boys (both covered on Rocket to Russia), through to later covers, such as Tom Waits’ ”˜I Don’t Want To Grow Up’ and the Motorhead tribute ”˜R.A.M.O.N.E.S.’ (covered on the 1996 Adios Amigos), The Ramones Heard Them Here First is all thriller, no filler.

Fittingly the CD is dedicated to the memory of the late, great Joey, Dee Dee and Johnny Ramone. Concluding with two disparate tracks that Joey Ramone performed on his posthumous 2002 solo album, Don’t Worry About Me, illustrates the diversity that really lay at the heart of The Ramones trademark fast, buzz saw ”˜1,2,3,4′ attack sound – The Stooges’ ”˜1969′ and Louis Armstrong’s ”˜What A Wonderful World’.

The Ramones Heard Them Here First CD also includes a dazzling array of record labels, sleeves and memorabilia, while the liner notes, by one Ian Johnston, could even be worth reading too.

All records are available now.

All words by Ian Johnston. You can read more from Ian on LTW here.



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