Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Genres: Blues, Pop, R&B
Delmark Records should be lauded for its remarkable United Records reissue program. This series gives overdue recognition to the first successful black-owned record company, plus it allows us to rediscover Chicago musical ... more »
Delmark Records should be lauded for its remarkable United Records reissue program. This series gives overdue recognition to the first successful black-owned record company, plus it allows us to rediscover Chicago musical treasures like the Four Blazes. With smooth doo-wop vocals and the colorful sax of Eddie Chamblee, the Four Blazes topped the national charts in 1952 with the irresistible single "Mary Jo." But subsequent efforts didn't fare as well, so this slick vocal combo had to settle for regional immortality with their jive-influenced R&B. Proof of the group's brilliance can be heard in the uptempo jumps "Rug Cutter" and "Raggedy Ride," a vocal version of Jimmy Forrest's "Night Train," and the sparse beauty of "My Great Love Affair." But the most outstanding cut is their four-part harmony on Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo," featuring a four-measure sustained note that will send chills up your spine. --Ken Hohman
Classy group - classy disc.
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When compiling an early 50's rock 'n' roll CD collection a group that is sure to be at risk for omission is the Four Blazes. While that era (1948-1953) in general is constantly in danger of being forgotten entirely by those chronicling rock's rise to prominence, the Four Blazes in particular seem destined for modern obscurity. While the Orioles, Ravens, Dominoes and Clovers all have something notable (be it a reknowned lead singer, legendary record label or one huge crossover hit) to keep their names afloat the Four Blazes have nothing but the music they recorded as their legacy and that music, as great as it may be, is surely never heard by most.But here's your chance to make amends and get into heaven for your good deeds because "Mary Jo" is an excellent collection that could reverse those shameful trends of neglect if only more people would take the chance to discover it. The title track (a #1 R&B hit from '52) is what keeps their name from being completely whitewashed from the history books, a smooth uptempo ditty about a girl who left the lead singer, albeit with good memories. It has enough in common with what would eventually become known as "doo wop" to remain at least a footnote in that musical subgenre's story and completist collectors of that style will surely want to have this CD for that song alone. But to stop there would be a crime because this was a very polished and well-honed group with some superb recordings covering a wider array of styles than most vocal harmony outfits of the time.One of the reasons for this was their experience - by 1952 when they broke onto the charts they'd already been around in one form or another for over a decade and the particular assemblage that cut these tracks had been together since 1948. In that time they saw jump blues and jazz vocal groups come and go in popularity and they retained enough of those qualities along with the more modern and youthful vocal harmony style to be a truly cohesive unit. In addition they played their own instruments (and in Floyd McDaniels had a terrific guitarist), wrote their own songs (lead singer and bass player Tommy Braden being the biggest contributor) and were a truly professional group who could always be counted on by promoters to deliver a solid performance and so they stayed in steady employ even as the music scene changed around them.Two more minor chart entires followed "Mary Jo", "Please Send Her Back To Me" and "Perfect Woman", the latter being somewhat similar in style to their biggest hit, though with comical lyrics, but it is the rest of the disc that really shows off their wares. Highlights abound from the incredible group singing on "Mood Indigo" (that sustained four part note they hold in the middle truly does seem to go on forever and will leave you breathless as it surely must've left them), to the clever and energetic addition of lyrics to the famed instrumental hit of the day "Night Train" and especially the oh-so-cool posturing of two cuts, "Did You Ever See A Monkey Play The Fiddle" and "My Hat's On The Side Of My Head", which are as hip as anything you've heard from any era.With eight previously unreleased tracks from the vaults, including the great "Raggedy Ride", decent liner notes from the respected Peter Grendysa detailing their complete story, and the nicely done disc itself, a reproduction of the 78 RPM label of their biggest hit, this is a very solid collection of a group that bridges two distinct musical worlds, the cool, jazzy 40's and the hot, rockin' 50's. As such it falls somewhere in the middle but would definitely appeal to fans of both. It might not be as instantly overwhelming as some of their flashier rivals of the day, but it is consistantly classy and has a lure that may be hard to pinpoint but is very evident nonetheless.If you have any interest in the fertile roots of rock 'n' roll, a field virtually plowed under since the mid-50's when the mainstream crossover of that style became most historians starting point, give in to your curiosity and grab this collection. Unearthing something relatively obscure but eminently wonderful is one of the true joys of being a music fan. For those people this ain't a bad place to start - or to end up."
A 1950's Jump Blues / R&B masterpiece!
(5 out of 5 stars)
"At the same time Muddy Waters, et al, were establishing Chicago of the late 40's/early 50's as the capital of urban blues, there was another genre of black music being made on the West coast. Acts like the Johnny Otis Band, Big Joe Turner, Ray Charles, and Louis Jordan, to name but a few, were making a sophisticated flavor of R&B known as Jump Blues. This collection by the Four Blazes is strong proof that Chicago was involved as well. One of the first things I noticed on listening to this disc is the vocal work of Tommy Braden: smooth and mellow, he also had an edge that many crooners lacked. But he's not the only high point. The ensemble vocals, Floyd McDaniel's guitar work, and especially Paul Holt's beautifully spare drum work, are all top notch. In fact, I think every modern drummer should be forced to listen to this album: Holt uses brushes on a single small drum throughout (it might even be a cardboard box!) and accomplishes more than most players could with an entire roomful of instruments. If you like early Nat "King" Cole trio, Louis Jordan, or just want to know more about Jump Blues, this is a must-have."