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The Okeh Rhythm & Blues Story 1949-1957
Various Artists
The Okeh Rhythm & Blues Story 1949-1957
Genres: Blues, Jazz, Special Interest, Pop, R&B, Broadway & Vocalists
  •  Track Listings (24) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (26) - Disc #2

Arranged in chronological order, this set begins with a strong emphasis on jump blues in the style of Louis Jordan and Big Joe Turner. Gradually, though, OKeh turned to more modern sounds. It jumped on the New Orleans R&B ...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Various Artists
Title: The Okeh Rhythm & Blues Story 1949-1957
Members Wishing: 6
Total Copies: 0
Label: Sony
Original Release Date: 7/13/1993
Release Date: 7/13/1993
Album Type: Box set
Genres: Blues, Jazz, Special Interest, Pop, R&B, Broadway & Vocalists
Styles: Jump Blues, Vocal Pop, By Decade, 1950s, Soul, Traditional Vocal Pop
Number of Discs: 3
SwapaCD Credits: 3
UPCs: 074644891225, 0693723424828, 0693723425320

Arranged in chronological order, this set begins with a strong emphasis on jump blues in the style of Louis Jordan and Big Joe Turner. Gradually, though, OKeh turned to more modern sounds. It jumped on the New Orleans R&B scene early with vital recordings by Paul Gayten and Lee Allen. The Treniers were an irreverent harmony/comedy group in the style of the Coasters, and Chuck Willis abandoned the swing rhythms of jump blues for the pounding 4/4 of rock & roll. OKeh's greatest moment came on September 12, 1956, when a case of Italian Swiss Colony wine helped Screamin' Jay Hawkins and New York's best session musicians (Mickey Baker, Sam Taylor, etc.) cut crazed, electrifying versions of "I Put a Spell on You" and "Little Demon." --Geoffrey Himes

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CD Reviews

Dig This Menu, Please!
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The music contained within these three discs covers the most criminally ignored segment of the last half of the 20th century - the pre-emergance of rock 'n' roll. How that general oversight came to be is inexplicable but suffice it to say if more rock 'n' roll fans heard these 78 cuts that shameful trend might start reversing itself because these songs are blistering hot.Sadly obscure artists from Chris Powell and the Blue Flames, to the wonderfully showboating Treniers, to the Five Scamps make their case for inclusion alongside such comparitively better known artists as Big Maybelle, Chuck Willis, The Ravens, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, and even the earliest notices from Marvin Gaye and Billy Stewart under the guidence of the Moonglows and Bo Diddley respectively. But known to one and all or only their families it doesn't change the fact that there's not a bum song in the lot, and some, like the hilarious "The Last Meal" by Hurricane Harry and "No Wine, No Women" by Mr. Google Eyes and His Musical V-8's are true lost classics and should be heard by anybody who's ever snapped his fingers or shuffled her feet to music. Don't worry if you've never heard of the singers or the song titles before, if you like rockin' and rollin', no matter what it was actually called at the time (R&B, jump blues, etc.), you will love the songs contained here and the entire set will be an eye and ear opening experience you'll want to share with your more close-minded friends.The packaging is fine (though the discs and jewel cases are identical, which can cause confusion on a quick glance), with a slim, but very good booklet that does its best to give sketch bios of the artists as well as sort out who played on what. Since that information is not quite clear thanks to shoddy A&R work at the time of the recordings, there is a lack of a full sessionography, unfortunate but entirely understandable. The booklet has tremendous pics though, all the writing credits, recording dates and a well written concise intro to the birth of this style of rhythm and blues as well as the OKeh label itself.The one problem, if it can be called that, is this: Boxed sets are by nature meant for the hardcore fanatic, not the casual listener. This is especially true if the boxed set in question covers an entire label, multiple artists and the corresponding neglected era in music history. Thus the compilers had to be aware that they weren't going to get many spur of the moment impulse purchases just to see what the music was like (although those who do will be amply rewarded for their faith). Yet they seemed to try and hedge their bets by having just three discs rather than a more uniform four. While it may have kept the price down and swayed a handful of potential buyers to pick it up, the true audience for this type of set is going to want more, especially considering OKeh had plenty of material to do so. As it is they left off the Treniers only charted hit "Go Go Go", Big Maybelle's original version of the well-known "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On", and a number of Andre Williams songs they praise lavishly in the notes while offering up just one to hear. Furthermore, despite Amazon's inclusion of his name under the product title at the top of the page, inexplicably left off is legendary white vocalist Johnnie Ray who worked with LaVern Baker (who's here under the name Bea Baker) at the Flame Bar in Detroit, a notorious stop on the black R&B circuit, and along with Baker was signed to OKeh. Because he recorded on a black R&B label, and before he was seen on television or in person by most, he was initially thought by record buyers to be black (not to mention perhaps female), and as a result his early two-sided smash "Cry" b/w "The Little White Cloud That Cried" made it to #1 and #2 respectively on the R&B charts in late '51/early '52. His later work veered entirely towards pop songs and arrangements, which along with his increased visability that showed he was pale white subsequently kept him out of the R&B realm in the future (though he and Baker remained good friends for life), but it would be great, as well as historically accurate, to hear Ray's first OKeh effort "Whiskey & Gin" as well as his two previously mentioned hits. But they are nowhere to be found here nor is Ray even mentioned in the notes.What they DO offer however is extraordinary, much of it previously unreleased at the time (including many Chuck Willis songs, who was perhaps their biggest star), and much from virtually unknown artists which would be near impossible to even find out about today, much less actually track down to hear. Just the sheer varience of approaches to songs you may know already from their more famous versions is facinating (Gene Vincent's "Jump Back Honey, Jump Back" which Hadda Brooks turns into playful flirting, Big John & The Buzzards turning both Shirley Gunter & The Queens doo wop classic "Oop Shoop" and the Clovers "Your Cash Ain't Nothing But Trash" into a comic bass-sung send-ups, or the scalding workout the Blue Flames give the proto-rock classic "Rock The Joint", later covered by Bill Haley as his first true rock effort). If that's not enough you can sample the delightful political incorrectness of "Stuttering Blues", the subtle jab at being black and dealing with white-enforced laws in "But Officer", or the birth of reggae rhythms in "Billy's Heartache". If all this isn't enough to convince you that this music and this set are at least worth a try then go back to your cheap little 8 song greatest hits collections, insipid Oldies radio and pitifully sheltered life. After all, you might be too old to change now, for as the song says - to get results you gotta "Catch 'Em Young, Treat 'Em Rough, Tell 'Em Nothin". You've been told. But will you listen?"
Heartily recommend this set.
Phillip G. Palmer | Kansas City, Missouri. USA | 10/27/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"On the recommendation from a friend, I bought this 3-disc set today. I was looking to hear Big Maybelle sing "Ocean of Tears" which had become a favorite of mine after hearing my favorite local band play it at their gigs. This song from Big Maybelle had not been released before this set came out. Anyway, I first threw it in and jammed on that particular song. I then started with the first song on that disc not knowing what was coming my way. Well, of course I knew it would be some blues, but I had not been into blues that much. I do like big band and jump blues type music. That being said, I am impressed with the sound quality and the great music on these discs. After having listened to just 2 discs so far I can honestly say that I haven't heard one bad song. There is some great horn blowin' and piano strummin' and a ton of heavenly voices on these discs. I can't accurately describe what it is I enjoy about this set like I was some kind of major-league musicologist. I just know it hits me in the right place. For me that's all that counts. Also I would like to point out that it is a great bargain for the price. It has 78 songs that will knock your socks off."