Another 2 disc compilation from 'One Day Music', which has fifty remastered tracks from the 'OKeh' label. There's a one sided intro as usual but no booklet - which is to be expected at this value for money price tag. The sound quality is good. The 50 tracks cover mostly R&B, Blues and Doo Wop (a decade later the label made many excellent soul records - many picked up by the Northern Soul Scene). There's a mix of well known artists such as Big Maybelle, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Dave 'baby' Cortez and Chuck Willis among others with lots of lesser known artists making up the rest.
Cd 1. (58.56mins) Tracks from 1954 - 1961 but mostly mid to late 50's. This disc starts off with the awesome 'I put a spell on you' no other versions even come close to this powerful and bizarre original. Other very good tracks are 'You give me the heebie jeebies' by Dave 'baby' Cortez and 'Billy's heartache' which is an early track by the wonderful Billy Stewart. There's also an early track by Frankie Valli. Overall 7/10.
Cd 2. (60.42mins) Tracks from 1954 - 1960 but mostly late 50's. Great tracks include 'You made me love you' and 'Frenzy' by Screamin' Jay Hawkins, 'I've got it bad' by Lois Lee and 'Pearl' by the Schoolboys - a great slice of Doo Wop. Overall, 7.5/10.
Overall, a very good compilation. Also seek out this labels soul output - Major Lance, The Artistics, Walter Jackson etc.
Okeh Records has had a long and complex history after getting into the phonograph records business in 1918. This has included collapsing or being collapsed more than once followed by a revival. In 1953 the then owner, Columbia, decided to dedicate the label to R&B, and transferred all the more poppy artists to another subsidiary. In the mid to late sixties, the label got recognition as a purveyor of soul music. However the music compiled here comes from an earlier period, broadly 1955 to 1961.
As a result of the machinations of Columbia, this album contains more R&B than most others in One Day's Legendary Label series. It's mainly up-tempo and upbeat, with a strong element of novelty. There's hardly any blues of the sort you would find at, say, Chess or RPM, but that's because One Day have carefully filtered these out into a separate release. Also, as yet, there's only a relatively small portion of gospel based soul of the sort emerging at King/Federal. Three artists in the soul or pre-soul category deserve highlighting. Billy Stewart spent a period at Okeh prior to his successful career at Chess. His doo woppy ballad, "Baby you're my only love" is a stunner. Chuck Willis also spent time at Okeh prior to his move to Atlantic. More blues based than Stewart, his contribution to early soul music doesn't often get the attention it deserves. The smoooooth and slightly more easy listening Brook Benton also spent time at Okeh before finding success elsewhere in the early / mid sixties. The considerably lesser known Little Joe also deserves honourable mention in the pre-soul category.
Other points of interest:
* Big Maybelle hearks back more to the jump blues era. Present and correct is her original recording of "Whole lotta shakin' goin' on" from '55, containing the usual jump blues euphemisms for rumpy pumpy. This the number that Jerry Lee purloined of course. * Some of the novelty tracks come close to the sort of things that we heard from the Coasters. The Eventuals "Charlie Chan" and the Marquees "Wyatt Earp" are good examples. * "Marshall Marshall" from Gar Bacon - amazing name! - uses the Bo Diddley riff * Perhaps surprisingly there are tracks from white guys included with all the R&B - Darrell Felts and the Skee Brothers (real names T.J. and Jim Shedlowsky) are in there - and they don't seem out of place. * There are a few (good) doo woppers but the set isn't overwhelmed with them.
I've saved the best till last. The gent whose song opens the album and appears in the title, Screamin' Jay Hawkins is easily the highlight. Initially trained in classical music his records defy categorisation even though they tend to get dropped into that big melting pot called R&B. His contributions here are uniformly excellent. "I put a spell on you" may well be the only number you were aware of before taking a look at this set. It's the only one present that got anywhere near the US or UK hit parade. In essence, Columbia and Okeh were targeting the US R&B Chart with these records and if one happened to break through to the Pop Charts that was a bonus.
Another name for much of the music here is black rock'n'roll aimed at a sector of the US population with the rest of the world blithely unaware. It was undoubtedly commercial but very specifically targeted.
Hard to fault these essential packages, 40 to 50 tracks of previously hard to find Rock. R&B by leaders and unkowns of the genre, collected by the recording labels. All tracks older thean 50 yrs so all public domain, no copyright fees makes the prices very affordable. Great recordings, smart packaging, well chosen tracks. Missing 5 stars only because of scant liner notes but for the incredibly cheap price I cannot complain. Great value, Great tunes.
Can't fault this collection. Great sound, great performers and great tracks - a real joy. If you like this music as much as I do then check out the Stax and Satellite Story and The Chess Story also from One Day Music, they are just as good. All in all a great bargain!
A nice collection of 50 tracks from the American Okey label. From doowop such as "Please say you want me" Schoolboys to raw R&B like "I put a spell on you" Screamin' Jay Hawkins. If this is your bag you won't be disappointed.