FOR DANCERS ONLY- PRIMAL BEATS FROM THE BASEMENT
Reviewed by Ed Razor, March 2023 Released on Stag-O-Lee Records Buy the album here: https://www.stagoleeshop.com/for-dancers-only-primal...
I was so pleased to get this in the Dropbox for two main reasons first I am from the last century when RnB meant Chicago, chess label records and boom boom- out go the lights, and not Beyoncé and the shallow-brained emptiness of what is called R N B today.
This album is full old time dance music made by people that knew about the blues and the beat of the devils Rhythm. These songs were written and recorded when people knew about working hard and living wild in the new booming cities of the post war industrial intensity that was USA of the 50s.
‘Primal Beats’ showcases some great choons that shake the worlds’ worries from your brow and warm the parts other beats cannot reach.
The tales of working men and women are put to the bangs, twangs and growls of the blues where the city echoes the movement from the southern states and cotton fields to the long factory shifts in Chicago or Detroit. They take you to the shimmering night lights and boozy haze of the dance clubs and urban ghettos of 50s and early 60s USA.
The second reason is simply the big smile I get when people set up a club night to play the music they love and love to boogie to. This album lets the world know how the For Dancers Only R&B Club (from Dublin, Eire) has grown and grown.
For those that don’t know old school RnB the music comes from the same vaults that inspired every rock n roll and rockabilly band and then in the 60s British bands like the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac and The Yardbirds used the Chicago and Delta R&B templates to fuse a newer sound. This in turn influenced Led Zeppelin , Black Sabbath and AC/DC amongst a legion of others. So how the hell did we get to todays RnB? Don’t worry it’s just a rhetorical rant and at the end of the day you love what you love. So park the whinging, Ed, and stop preaching. Show them some love for they know not what they do.
With this compilation For Dancers Only share with us music that grows on you and uses that earthy sound from way back to make your legs twitch and body spasm in all the right ways. It may have been recorded in mono but it’s not monochrome it’s technicolour.
So let’s drop that needle and let’s get primal!
First up its Mercy Baby with Pleadin released on Ric Records in 1958.
Mercy Baby was the nom de plume of Julius W. "Jimmy" Mullins . Jimmy was a drummer, singer and songwriter and recorded in the late 1950s on ACE as well as the Ric label.
I like the hypnotic rhythm and rock'n'roll style vocals on Pleadin as well as the guitar contributions as Jimmy’s drums drive this opener along.
Willie Nix - Just Can’t Stay was released on Sabre Records in 1953. Nix also recorded for Sun Records and other labels the 1950s, including the Chicago based Chance Records. He also worked with Big Walter Horton, Elmore James, Memphis Slim and Ike Turner. This track is a fine example of how the early 60s Rolling Stones sound and feel was influenced.
Schoolboy Cleve released She’s Gone in 1954 on Feature Records. Cleve is an excellent harmonica player who worked with Lightnin' Slim, Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters, and Buddy Guy. He later recorded for Ace Records in 1957. She’s gone reminds me of Slim Harpo and has much of that feel and there is nothing wrong with that at all.
Willie Egans - Wear Your Black Dress from 1956 on Vita Records. Active in the 1950s in Los Angeles. Willie Egan was born Louisiana., moved to LA at nine, where he learned the boogie woogie piano. His first single was released on Elko Records in 1949. Wear your black Dress shows off a hammering right hand, used in the same way as the rock 'n' roll piano of Jerry Lee Lewis. It’s a fab rock n roll track.
Lightening Hopkins and Ruth Ames - Finally Met My Baby was released in 1956 on Herald Records. The great Texas bluesman Lightnin' Hopkins needs to be experienced if you don’t know his work. Even if you haven’t you would have heard a million and one other guitarists emoting his style and licks. This boogie blues track was recorded with his ‘girlfriend’ Ruth Ames. Hopkins riffs off of Ruth’s vocals conjuring up a series of improvised licks to a simple back beat.
Otis Spann is a Legendary sideman and performer in his own right and this track (It Must Have Been The Devi)l let’s us in on why some say he was at the same crossroads and made the same deal as Robert Johnson. But, whereas Johnson had a guitar, Spann had a rumbling ragtime piano dowsed in raw blues and kicking out a boogie woogie syncopation.
Spann is recognized as one of the great sidemen of the RnB genre and one of the premier Chicago blues pianists. Whilst he developed a fruitful career as a singer and frontman in his own right, Spann was perhaps best known for his performances alongside greater blues legends like Buddy Guy, Big Mama Thornton, Bo Diddley, and Howlin’ Wolf. Spann was most notably a member of the Muddy Waters’ band from 1952 to 1968. All this and more are in evidence on this excellent track.
You can also hear Spann on several early Chuck Berry recordings and he had a twilight project, collaborating with members of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac.
John Lee was a little known blues man and harp player from Mississippi before he moved to Chicago and released this track, Rhythm Rockin Boogie, in 1958 on Job Records. Although he never regarded himself as a professional, even though he knew the great harp man Sony Boy Williamson, this is a four to the floor stomper in true RnB style.
Little Hudson recorded I’m Looking For A Woman for JOB records in 1953. Hudson became an established Blues singer and guitarist, originally from Mississippi he moved to Chicago in 1939 there he worked with Willie Mabon and others from 1946 into 1950s. This track has all those boogie woogie piano riffs driven by the familiar low end pounding of the keys and the typical guitar rammed up to the mic for the solo giving us that slightly distorted sound. I love the vocals on this track which hark back to earlier country blues influences. You can just imagine a dangerous smoke filled nightclub in post war Chicago.
Donnie Williams Boogie Chilluns Playhouse, released in 1964, is a moody grooved piece of RnB with a Booker T organ pulse and riffing harp and sax peppering the backbeat. I love the laid back almost conversational vocals as Donnie suggests a night at the playhouse.
Ervin Rucker’s So Good is from 1960 and is one of a number of singles he made for the Duplex label. A mixture of Rock n roll and Chicago blues with great backing vocals and a lead line that you may have heard elsewhere.
Lonely Travelling by Lonesome Lee was released in 1958 and like another one of his tracks ‘Cry For Me’ it has a great rockabilly strut feel and when I mean strut think stray cat. You can hear the excellent guitar playing working the track and sending you to the dance floor for more.
Willie J. Charles track is called Feeling Kinda Lonesome and was released in 1962 Charles was a staff writer for the ‘Glad-Hamp’ label formed in 1961. This is his own composition and is more pop influenced than most of the tracks on this album. The vibes , organ and brass give it a great sing along mood and his vocals are really cool.
Eddie King’s Love You Baby from 1960 was originally out on the Job label and he was noted as a strong singer and player with a raw, gospel-tinged voice and an aggressive guitar sound similar to Freddie king and Little Milton. This is a potent 60's shuffling blues dancer that showcases those gospel and guitar influences.
Jimmy Raney and Slim Slaughter suggest You Drink Too Much Booze. The slander is killing me! Jimmy, an orphan, was named and raised by Ma Rainey in carnivals and shows where he became a tap dancer and drummer. His real name was Joe Dehorney from Oklahoma and on this track he teamed up with the wonderfully named Slim Slaughter , who I can find no more about at all. This track from 1960 is a true blues jumper with a pulsing piano and drums and tells the story of an unhappy beau whose lady likes the bottle more than she like him.
Gladys Tyler sings Pack Pp which was originally released on Coral in 1963 and is one of the later tracks on this compilation.
Gladys possibly came from New York but wherever she came from she had a voice as big as that City and this track blends R n B with the essence of early Motown. It’s filled with stalled breaks and pumping piano and a great sax solo.
Harmonica ‘ blues king ‘ Harris is another mystery man possibly from Mississippi. Here he gives us a blast of the Blues King Mango
Alfred “Blues King” Harris (aka Blues King Harris or Johnny Harris) recorded on three separate occasions in the 50s, each time under a different name. Some of the most exciting sounds on the Chicago blues scene during the 1950s feature the harmonica and Harris added to this blues blowing band of brothers of the time.
This track wiggles and jiggles around your senses with a beautiful harp sound and great drums that force you to consider some serious bow legged bopping.
You may tell I like this album and I encourage everyone to give it a spin and just for fun grab your dancing partners for a good time.
It’s full of one record acts, sidemen going solo and some genuine blues legends.
If this is your thing then keep digging and feast your R&B famine with some of those Chicago blues compilation albums, you know the ones, 100 tracks on four CDs for £3 or maybe a Chess records sampler. It’s all good stuff and all about what’s real and remains real for all us low life bottom feeders who work for a living.