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Getting the Beat
on 10 June 2011
Rex has clearly set its eye on show-drumming enthusiasts whilst working within the restrictive 50 year copyright rules. So, how does it fare?
It is a somewhat odd collection yet an interesting one. There is an imbalance with Gene Krupa allocated four tracks but Buddy Rich gets only two and they are as Tommy Dorsey's drummer. Glaringly missing is anything by the other member of the great drum triumvirate, Louie Bellson. The influential drummer Chick Webb gets only one track. Most big band lovers will have the majority of these tracks in one form or another but there is not really a dud track among them within their context.
Nearly a third of the tracks are by British bands and, odd as it may seem, it is here that the unusual and the rarely heard raise the interest. The Parnell/Seamen tracks ("Kick Off"/"Trip to Mars"/"Knockout") are around on a number of compilations and re-issues; the two from Eric Delaney ("Oranges and Lemons"/"Delaney's Delight") are his original Mercury recordings (my main reason for buying this disc as this is, as far as I know, the only source of them in CD format); the Ken Mackintosh tracks are rarely heard and I've never heard Lou Preager's "Bring on the Drums". Thus, on a personal note, these tracks become the more interesting.
On the technical side, the sound is pretty good given the age of the tracks. As with any compilation, both quality and volume tend to vary a bit according to source and age but they have all been cleaned up quite well.
The notes are very general. Glenn Miller is reduced to Glen Miller and Phil Seamen is reduced to the singular (Seaman). I take issue with the claim that Kenny Clare was the imported drummer with KenMackintosh on "Skin Deep". I used to have the HMV 78rpm disc of this and, later, it came out on a cassette tape which I have. In both cases, Kenny Hollick was the drummer stated. The last time I spoke to Eric Delaney he was of the opinion that it was Hollick and Kenny is, I believe, still around. Can he confirm or deny?
Any compilation of this nature is subjective and this one, overall, is enjoyable. I personally would have cut out one of the familiar, however good, Parnell items in favour of something with Ronnie Verrell and the Ted Heath Band ("Rhapsody for Drums"?) and/or a guaranteed Kenny Clare item ("All Clare") with the Johnny Dankworth Band for these are surely obvious omissions.
Again on a personal whim, I would have been tempted to go for a double CD set (one for American and one for British bands). The American one could have included Cozy Cole's "Topsy", the essential "Skin Deep" (Duke Ellington/Bellson), something from Buddy Rich with his own band and perhaps Woody Herman's "Skinned"/"Skinned Again" or one of the drum numbers by the various Louis Armstrong All-Stars.
On the British side, apart from the ones noted above, a track or two from Joe "Drumnasticks" Daniels would not be out of place, nor Jock Cummings with Cyril Stapleton's Show Band. Something from the brilliant Vic Feldman would be obligatory. There are many other drummers (Tony Crombie, for example) who could be featured.
Ah, well, we can all dream and hope. The fact remains that everything is controlled by availability, commercial viability and a bit of foresight. So, if you are drum minded, just sit back and enjoy the familiar and the not so familiar. And it won't cost you a fortune.