Straight To Watts: Central Avenue Scene / Various


aec.aci868.2 9/2/03 New

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    Straight To Watts: Central Avenue Scene / Various Ace

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Review Text Straight to Watts is a 24-track collection of material originally issued by Jake Porter's Combo Records in Los Angeles between 1951-1954. Compiled by British record collector Tony Rounce for Ace Records, with excellent notes by Jim Dawson, this set -- which is merely the first volume in a projected set -- showcases the raw, woolly R&B and jump blues that stood in stark contrast to the slicker New York styles of the time. Pre-rock & roll and yet solidly swaggering with the same careening spirit of freedom and wildness, this stuff is full of heat and passion, piss and vinegar. Like Motown a decade later, Combo featured a few different house bands playing behind a revolving stage of frontpersons. Here, Chuck Higgins, Porter, Johnny Moore and his band the Three Blazers (which featured the incomparable Floyd Dixon), Ernie Fields, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Betty Jones, Jack McVea, Rozelle Gayle, Gene Philips, Honey Coleman, and many other obscure but now legendary R&B singers laid down vocal tracks for singles that were regional hits -- and some misses. This is the music that would be spun in the back of Dolphin's drugstore in Hollywood, and Porter made it all in a basement studio on Virgil Avenue in Watts. There are no standout tracks, as everything here is brilliant. This is the only side necessary for a jumpin' party on a summer night under the lights. But there are some real heretofore hidden gems here -- such as the "T-Town Mambo" duet between Ernie Fields and Angela Walls, or "Ridin' Mighty High" by Johnny Moore's band fronted by Dixon, who could move a song into overdrive the same way Joe Turner did. There are also several unreleased tracks that are mind-blowing -- the final cut, a Rozelle Gayle version of "The House of Blue Lights," feels like it was recorded there: it's drunken, loose, and pumps like mad. This is a classic set for anyone interested in the music of the period or region, whether you are a musicologist or an R&B nut. And if you aren't, this'll convert you or you're already dead. ~ Thom Jurek

Track Listing

CD: 1

  1. 1. Slowly Go Out of Your Mind - 4:42
  2. 2. Motor Head Baby - 2:21
  3. 3. Baby I Don't Want You No More - 3:33
  4. 4. I Owe Everybody - 3:30
  5. 5. I Got Hi - 3:35
  6. 6. Straight to Watts - 3:06
  7. 7. T-Town Mambo - 2:19
  8. 8. Ridin' Mighty High - 2:17
  9. 9. Oh, How the Geese Did Fly! - 3:43
  10. 10. Ain't Gonna Leave Baby - 3:12
  11. 11. Mama and Papa - 3:41
  12. 12. Talk About a Girl Child Being Down - 3:33
  13. 13. Take Off My Wig - 2:13
  14. 14. Monkey - 4:35
  15. 15. Whang - 3:57
  16. 16. Frustration, Frustration - 3:36
  17. 17. Fish Man - 3:59
  18. 18. Stormy - 3:54
  19. 19. Hi Ho Silver - 3:43
  20. 20. Where Have You Been - 3:20
  21. 21. Soul Without a Name - 2:22
  22. 22. Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad - 3:56
  23. 23. Safronia No. 1 - 2:27
  24. 24. House of Blue Lights - 8:33

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