Various Artists "Kent Harris R & B Family" (Ace CDCHD 1334)
by Sir Shambling
Big Fat Lie ~ Boogaloo & His Gallant Crew; Kissin' Bug ~ The Harris Sisters; Long Lean Lanky Juke Box ~ Dimples Harris & Her Combo; Saint Or Sinner ~ Ducky Drake With Dimples Harris & Her Combo; Big Chief Hug-Um An' Kiss-Um ~ Jimmy Shaw; The Freedom Riders ~ Harold Jackson & The Jackson Brothers; Love Came Tumbling Down ~ Dimples Jackson; Double Locks ~ Johnny Gosey; I'm The Only One ~ The Phillips Sisters; He's So Sweet ~ The Francettes; Show Me How To Shake Like That ~ The Lon-Genes; Diddy Bop ~ The Valaquons; So Far Away ~ Rooty Poots; Our Love Is Like The Sea ~ The Lon-Genes; I'm In The Dog House Again ~ Boogaloo & His Gallant Crew; Monday Is Too Late ~ Donoman; Someday I Won't Be Blue ~ The Phillips Sisters; You Stayed Away Too Long ~ The Francettes; Lover Supreme ~ Kent Harris; Take It Easy Baby ~ Ty Karim; Don't Just Stand There ~ Cry Baby Curtis; I Can't Work And Watch You ~ Ray Agee; Pay And Be On My Way ~ Eddie Bridges; Recession Blues ~ Adolph Jacobs; You Ain't Right ~ Faye Ross.
I first came across Kent Harris as the man behind two great novelty R & B songs “Shopping For Clothes” (covered by the Coasters) and “Cops And Robbers” (a hit for Bo Diddley) – and heard his original recordings of both of them. So as a confirmed West Coast R & B addict I was delighted to hear that Ace UK were putting out a CD devoted to his recordings and productions.
The set covers the period from the early 50s through to the late 60s and while the emphasis is on the rockin’ blues there is plenty of variety on view, from the novelty approach Harris himself used as “Boogaloo & His Gallant Crew” through the more jazzy style of his sister Dimples Harris, whose gutsy piano playing is a highlight on several of these tracks, to the wonderful Ray Agee whose “I Can’t Work And Watch You” is certainly one the best tracks on the CD. The name of the excellent Zeke Strong as arranger on this cut is not a coincidence. Lots of group sounds mingle with outright blues, and although my tastes are more on the 60s than the 50s, the earlier sounds do contain some goodies like Ducky Drake’s “Saint Or Sinner”. And praise be there are a few ballads as well.
It was my friend Greg Burgess who first noted that Donoman and Cry Baby Curtis were the same artist and this collection has excellent tracks under both monikers. The Donoman number “Monday Is Too Late” is a jumpy exciting piece of R & B, and the Curtis tune is the simply excellent “Don’t Just Stand There”, long a personal favourite. Again, note the involvement of Zeke Strong, whose big brassy band make this blue mid pacer a real killer. Sadly none of the tracks featured on this website by this gritty singer feature on the CD but compiler Ady Croasdell has written to me to say that they may well be included on a companion volume covering the 60s in more detail. Let’s hope so.
There are many other highlights here, including a very strong ballad offering from Faye Ross, a pounding “Take It Easy Baby” from Ty Karim and tough vocals from the Phillips Sisters especially on the fine “Someday I Won’t Be Blue No More”. While it is always easy to criticise the selection on a CD like this, I’ll refrain except to say that omitting Ray Agee’s brilliant “Tough Competition”, one of the very best West Coast blues I’ve ever heard, in favour of an unissued instrumental version by Adolph Jacobs strikes me as the height of folly.
But that aside there is so much good music on offer here, for the price of a CD it would be almost criminal not to buy it. Roll on Vol 2!