Friday, February 28, 2014

Charles Mingus Speaks

Mingus Speaks
John F Goodman
photos by Sy Johnson
2013: University of California Press

Charles Mingus was one of the singular figures of jazz from the fifties through the seventies. As a bassist, composer, and band-leader, he was a formidable figure and person who left behind some of the most memorable body of compositions and recordings. He was thoughtful, intense, blunt, outspoken, humorous and, sometimes, volatile. John F Goodman was a writer for Playboy who did a number of jazz features for that publication who reviewed Mingus’ 1972 comeback concert and got intimate with him and some of his musical associates. The result is Mingus Speaks from the University of California Press.

Goodman interviewed Mingus a number of times and the conversations on a variety of topics are what this book is centered around including the comeback concert, jazz and his own music, his dealings with musicians and club owners, his personal troubles, the publication of his book Beneath the Underdog, his relationships on women and his viewpoints on issues of race. Goodman supplements these with interviews and commentary from Mingus’ associates including arranger Sy Johnson (also an accomplished photographer whose photos illustrate the book), Sue Mingus, Teo Macero, George Wein, Max Gordon (Gordon’s recollection of dealing with Mingus include when Mingus tore off the Village Vanguard’s front door and punched Jimmy Knepper), Paul Jeffrey,  and Bobby Jones.

We get discussions relating to the recording of artists and Mingus’ preparations for major concerts and the chaos relating to some of them. For example, Johnson notes that somewhat chaotic preparation for the comeback concert at Carnegie Hall as Mingus would be continuing to revise the charts up until the actual performance. Mingus was not a fan of the avant-garde artists like Ornette Coleman (and I note Bradford Marsalis recently made similar comments) asserting they could not play straight stuff. He expressed a similar antipathy to fusion and rock music, being particularly outraged by the declining visibility of jazz on the radio. The interviews and commentary from others round out and provide context for the conversations presented.

Mingus Speaks is an invaluable addition to the literature on Charles Mingus, aand jazz literature in general. Goodman’s assembly of this material fleshes out this larger than life legend while providing insight into his working methods and his life. It is a valuable supplement to Beneath the Underdog and Gene Santoro’s Mingus biography, Myself When I Am Real.

I received my review copy from the publisher.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Steve Howell's Yes, I Believe I Will

A Living Blues review described the music of Texas acoustic singer and guitarist Steve Howell as “a gentle, Deep South-inspired acoustic troubadour daydream that is sure to appeal to a diverse set of country, blues and roots music fans.” It is an apt description of his new release Yes, I Believe I Will on Out of the Past Music. Howell brings his low-key and genial vocals to a variety of folk, blues and country material backed by the deft support of his band, The Mighty Men, comprised of Chris Michaels (electric and acoustic guitars, bass), Dave Hoffpauir (drums) and Jason Weinheimer (keyboards).

While inspired by the likes of Mississippi John Hurt, Howell’s music is perhaps even more in the vein of such sixties folk troubadours as Patrick Sky, Eric Anderson and Tom Rush. Listening to him sing about meeting his gal on Sugar Hill on the opening blues I Had the Notion, he will never be mistaken for John Lee Hooker. The restrained approach gives a certain appeal to his interpretation of Willie Brown’s Future Blues if lurking the urgency of the classic Paramount 78. His country roots are evident on a fine reading of Mel Tillis’ Walk on Boy (a reminder of what a great songwriter this country legend was) and Doc Boggs Country Blues (AKA Hustling Gambler), a wonderful moody rendition of an old time ballad. Also nice is Wasted Minds, a contemporary country ballad, and a folkie rendition of The Fleetwood’s Mr. Blue.

Listening to this brings memories when I was in graduate school at the University of Buffalo when the folk club brought in the likes of Steve Goodman, Utah Phillips, Rosalie Sorrels and John Prime and while Howell may not reach of the heights of Goodman singing City of New Orleans and Penny Evans, but Yes, I Believe I Will is a delightful, congenial mix of folk, country and blues that will appeal to a wide range of roots music listeners.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Steve performing solo.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

John & Sylvia Embry - Troubles

The release of a long out-of-print album by the late John & Sylvia Embry, Troubles on Delmark, is an occasion for blues fans to rejoice. The album by the two (who had divorced when they recorded it) was originally titled After Hours when issued on Razor Records and the present release also includes a 45 by Johnny I Love the Woman and Johnny’s Bounce (which are the last two tracks here) along with previously unissued tracks (tracks 8-12). Embry was working at Buddy Guy’s Checkerboard Lounge, Theresa’s and other clubs, sometimes with Sylvia, who was a regular member of Lefty Dizz’s Band (playing bass) at the time. Others on these recordings include Riler Robinson on guitar and vocals, and drummer Woody Williams on drums and second vocals.

The result is some raw Chicago blues mixing Sylvia’s gospel-rooted vocals and Embry’s direct, searing guitar. The songs are straight-ahead blues best exemplified by Sylvia’s crying shout on the title track as he forcefully delivers a line about being accused of murder “but God knows I don’t even have a gun.” This raw blues is simply played. Like the late Son Seals, there is no artifice or emoting. Sylvia Embry sings her heart out while John Embry’s guitar compliments the pain expressed by her vocals.

There is a nice mix of material including the opening medium tempoed shuffle I Wonder Why; a cover of Brook Benton’s Lie To Me, with Sylvia showing a bit more subdued attack; and I’m Hurtin’ with Embry’s nice Dust My Broom slide guitar backing. Woody Williams trades vocals and raps on a soulful medley of The Falcons’ I Found a Love with Jerry Butler’s Rainbow, as John Embry adds responsive fills. The Jimmy Reed classic, Going To New York, is taken at a brisker tempo than the original with a nice driving solo. It is followed by a solid rendition of Mustang Sally with Williams taking the vocal initially before Sylvia delivers the chorus before John Embry takes a sharp guitar break. This is far from the hackneyed renditions of this song one usually hears three decades later.

Among the previously unissued songs, Sylvia’s Gonna Find My Baby is a strong original blues while Early Time Blues is a raucous reworking of Junior Parker’s Mother-in-Law Blues and Razor Sharp is a hot instrumental shuffle feature. The spirited rendition of Roosevelt Sykes’ Keep Your Hands Off Her,” with Sylvia and Williams splitting the vocal, is evocative of Got My Mojo Working. After Work is a fine atmospheric instrumental followed by a strong vocal and playing by Riler Robinson of Worry Worry. These two performances were location recordings.

Why John Embry stands out throughout as a strong guitarist, and displays much fervor on his rendition of Freddie King’s I Love The Woman. Listening to this selection and the rest of this release, one can imagine a somewhat smoke-filled club where John and Sylvia Embry laid down the blues in the same forthright fashion as heard on this most welcome reissue.

I received my review copy from Delmark. Here is a taste of this recording.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Dyad Plays Puccini

Dyad is a partnership between alto saxophonist Lou Caimano and pianist Eric Olsen and the two have a new recording of duets Dyad Plays Puccini (Ringwood Records). Olsen's wife, Operatic singer Pamela mentioned to him that Caimano’s alto saxophone reminded her of an opera singer and this fact led to this duet recording which fuses the lovely melodies of the great opera composer Puccini with the jazz instincts and inventions of Dyad. Each contributed more than simply their play as Olsen contributed seven arrangements and Caimano three.

While I am not overly familiar with Puccini’s operas, there was instant recognition of Musetta’s Waltz from La Boheme, and one is struck by the lovely, almost clarinet tone of Caimano along with Olsen’s stately accompaniment and his own lyrical solo. Other of the songs the dup interpret may be less familiar to my ears but the performances are equally enchanting and one can hear echoes of his music in more contemporary music. Portions of the rendition from of Ch’ella mi credo (from La Fanciulla del West”) evoke Paul Simon’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, and lead me to wonder if Simon was a Puccini fan in his youth. Caimano’s arrangement and very vocalized playing here certainly leaves a strong impression on the listener. Their jaunty rendition of the Act I Overture for Madame Butterfly contrasts with the delicate, wistful Che gelida manna, although both are beautifully performed in their own manner with some exquisite interplay between the two.

Puccini left us a body f some of the most memorable and lovely melodies in all of music and the marvelous jazz duo interpretations from Lou Caimano and Eric Olsen make Dyad Plays Puccini one of the most intriguing and delightful surprises to come along.

I received my review copy from a publicist.  Here is a selection from this recording. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Franklin and Mindte Go Dancing With Their Babies

Piedmont blues guitarist Rick Franklin and bluegrass mandolinist Tom Mindte have collaborated on a new Patuxent Music release Dancing With My Baby. This writer has known Franklin for close to three decades (including when we both were on the board of the D.C. Blues Society) and enjoyed his live performances with Neil Harpe and Rick Usilton and more recently with his Delta Blues Boys. His previous recordings included some with Harpe, a self-produced CD of Hokum Blues and the excellent Searching For Frank (on Patuxent) with Mike Baytop that was issued on Patuxent several years ago. Mindte, in addition to playing mandolin, is the chief force behind Patuxent Music. 

This is an affable recording from the opening reworking of Cecil Gant’s I’m a Good Man But a Poor Man, to the closing gospel number The River of Jordan. If Franklin takes most of the vocals, Mindte’s own high tenor harmony and also his leads have definite natural appeal. Mindte’s mandolin bridges his bluegrass background with the mandolin of such blues masters as Charlie McCoy and Yank Rachell. It lends a nice flavor to the performances. 

On nice relaxed rendition of Hank Williams Half As Much, Mindte’s supporting vocal lends a bluegrass flavor to it. An instrumental original Guitar & Mandolin Rag, is delightful while Crazy About Nancy Jane is a lively rendition of a song associated with Washboard Sam and a favorite of Western Swing bands. Two White Horses In a Line is a spirited rendition of an older spiritual number based on the recording by Joe Evans and Arthur McClain. while the interchange between black blues and early country music is displayed in He’s in the Jailhouse Now, first recorded by Blind Blake and later by Jimmie Rodgers.

The popular hymn “I’ll Fly Away” is heard along with Mississippi John Hurt’s Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me, with a backing that suggests some of Jimmie Rodgers blue yodels (without the yodels). This latter tune is followed by a rendition of Rodgers No Hard Times with Mindte taking the strutting vocal suggestive of the late Piedmont blues master John Jackson. Rocks in My Pillow, while credited to Son Tillis goes back at least to Roy Brown’s Hard Luck Blues with Mindte contributing another heartfelt vocal. It is a number associated with Washington DC area blues legend Warner Williams who has recorded it for Patuxent.

Engaging renditions of such folk and blues staples You Are My Sunshine and “Goodnight Irene, along with the hokum of You Can’t That Stuff Anymore round out this attractive and varied recording that will appeal to a wide range of acoustic roots listeners. For more information of this recording check out

Rick Franklin gave me a copy of this release. Rick and his Delta Blues Boys are playing Saturday February 22 at Cassatt's ( in Arlington, Virginia starting at 7:00 PM. You can enjoy some kiwi tweets along with some wonderful acoustic blues. Here is Rick in performance.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Eddie Cotton Here I Com

Eddie Cotton produced two exceptional albums over a decade ago, Extra and Live at the Alamo Theater, that did not receive the attention the music on them deserved. It was a welcome surprise to discover Cotton has a new release, Here I Come on the new DeChamp label associated with singer-harmonica player, Grady Champion. Cotton and Sam Brady produced this with Champion being Executive Producer. Others on this include Myron Bennett (bass), Samuel Scott, Jr. (drums) and guest artists Grady Champion (harmonica), Carlos Russell (harmonica) and co-producer Brady (organ).

Cotton has a university degree in music and spent time serving his father’s church. He brings some of the church to his soulful vocals and clean, crisp guitar work. An overly simple description of his sound might be Little Milton crossed with some Bobby Rush or Bobby Patterson in his vocals. Other musical influences include Latimore, Al Green and Curtis Mayfield as can be heard in his lyrics which treat relationships in a sophisticated manner.  The Little Milton influence is perhaps most obvious on the terrific slow blues A Woman’s Love that musically suggests Walking the Back Streets and Crying. 

Other songs here include a wonderful soul-laced ballad Friend to the End where Cotton sings about needing a friend who will understand, that he’s man who may mistakes but will never leave her alone with a chorus “Don’t look for me on Facebook; I’ve got a message I want to send; You can’t fool me with no jive picture; but I’m looking for a friend (yes I am) one who will go with me to the end.” No guitar solo, just a tight, understated backing. Get Your Own is a message song with a funky groove followed by the slow Bobby Rush styled Mr. Boo in his lead as he sings about having a sweet thing while channeling Albert King a bit in his stinging playing. Grady Champion adds some down-home flavored harp to Leave Love Alone as Cotton sings when love gets a hold of one, there is nothing one can do. The soulful No Love Back (suggestive of Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye) has the memorable line that “love don’t come with no love back guarantee.”

While the playing time is somewhat short (38 minutes), the performances are crisply delivered. There are no overlong blues-rock guitar jams and Cotton’s own solos are focused with plenty of bite to complement his excellent vocals. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another decade for more from Eddie Cotton. Here I Come is a terrific blues gem.

I received this from a publicist. Here is Eddie in performance at the 2011 Chicago Blues Festival.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Legendary Ike Turner: The Kat Sure Could Play!

Ike Turner's life may have been a controversial one, but their can be little doubt of his significant contribution to the blues, rhythm & blues and rock musical worlds. A four CD box, "The Legendary Ike Turner: The Kat Sure Could Play! (Secret Records) presents 118 songs (and over 5 hours of music) from singles Turner played on between 1951 to 1957. Some of these recordings include famous recording like "Rocket 88" by Turner and his own band The Kings of Rhythm, and others are backings to recordings by the likes of Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King, Johnny Ace, Bobby Bland and Elmore James.

There are so many historic recordings here starting with Rocket 88, but also including King's 3 O'Clock Blues, Wolf's How Many More Years, Boyd Gilmore's raucous Rambling On My Mind, and Rosco Gordon's No More Doggin'. The is a terrific delta juke joint band session that produced Drifting Slim's Muddy Waters pastiche Good Morning Baby, and Sunny Blair's house rocket, Step Back Baby. Junior Brooks terrific Gonna Let You Go is a reworking of a Muddy Waters recording with Ike on piano as he is on Elmore's frantic broom dusting on Please Find My Baby. Ike is present on Little Milton's early If You Love Me Baby as well.

Ike also had his own coterie of musicians including Eugene Fox whose Sinner's Dream and the two-part The Dream, are interesting bits of story-telling with Ike's evocative use of tremolo in his guitar noticeable. As The Sly Fox, Eugene Fox had a couple of other gems with his extroverted vocals; Hoo-doo Say (with a solo from Ike) and I'm Tired of Beggin'. Lonnie the Cat's I Ain't Drunk is a choice cover of a Jimmy Liggins tune that Albert Collins made famous. Johnny Wright's The World Is Yours is one of several times Ike adapted lyrics to Guitar Slim's The Things I Used To Do with Wright shouting with considerable vigor as Ike makes effective use of his Fender's whammy bar during his solo. 

Some of the latter recordings come from when Turner recorded for Federal and include such gems as Billy Gayles I'm Tore Up, Just One More Time, and Let's Call It A Day; Jackie Brenston's Gonna Wait For My Chance and Clayton Love's She Made My Blood Run Cold and Do You Mean It. Also heard are instrumentals including Cubano Bop and Trail Blazer.

Not every track is a classic, but throughout one can discern Ike Turner's ear and ability to craft the sound of the recordings with some nice piano on his earlier recordings and distinctive guitar in the later recordings. Included is a booklet with a lengthy overview of the recordings and Ike's contributions by Fred Rothwell as well as another booklet with discographical details on the selections included. The Kat Sure Could Play! is an impressive compilation of Ike Turner before Tina. Folks might check better mail order outfits like to purchase this.

I purchased my copy. Here is Clayton Love singing She Made My Blood Run Cold.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Frank Bey & Anthony Paule Band Have Soul For Your Blues

Frank Bey shared gospel bills with the Soul Stirrers with Sam Cooke, the Blind Boys of Alabama and others when singing gospel with his mother. As a teen he opened shows for Otis Redding and after committing himself to the blues, his career progress was undercut by a failing kidney. After several years of dialysis, he had a successful kidney transplant. A couple of years later he started making appearances with the Anthony Paule Band at Biscuits & Blues in San Francisco. In February 2013 they issued a solid live recording and now a year later Frank Bey & Anthony Paule Band have a new recording, Soul For Your Blues on Blue Dot Records. 

What is striking is just how strong the musical pairing of Philadelphia singer Frank Bey with San Francisco’s Anthony Paule Band is. Presented is a nice mix of lesser know blues and soul classics with choice originals and interpretations of lesser know numbers. The opening number is Willie Mitchell’s I Don’t Know Why with Bey’s strong singing suggesting the late Solomon Burke and Mighty Sam McClain. Tony Lufrano plays deep soul organ here and on most of this disc. Paule and guest Kid Anderson are featured on Paule’s driving blues I’m Leaving You, followed by the Muscle Shoals groove of Christine Vitale’s deep soul original I Just Can’t Go On. Paule evokes Steve Cropper with his fills and brief solo on this. Rick Estrin adds harp to a humorous Vitale-Paule blues, Don’t Mess With The Monkey

There is a jump blues feel to Wyonnie Harris’ Buzzard Luck with riffing horns behind Bey’s strong vocal and a T-Bone Walker styled guitar solo. Vitale, Paule and Karen Falkner wrote You're Somebody Else's Baby Too, that has the feel of mid-sixties B.B. King flavor. There is a nifty arrangement of Percy Mayfield’s Nothing Stays the Same Forever, with Mike Rinta on tuba (he is on trombone most of the recording. In addition to Rinta, kudos go to Nancy Wright’s tenor sax and Steffen Kuehn’s trumpet for their playing throughout. Bey is superb here with a vocal that suggests what Solomon Burke might have done with this song. There is also a wonderful interpretation of John Prine’s Hello In There, which again displays how Bey brings some of the same interpretative magic to a lyric that Burke did and MacLean still does, while marvelous restrained backing by the Paule Band. 

The funky Smokehouse and an instrumental rendition of “I Left My Heart In San Francisco showcase the band. Rinta takes an outstanding trombone solo on the former as does organist Lufrano, while Paule displays a crisp delivery and imaginative playing on San Francisco which closes this disc out. It should be noted that I have attempted to select highlights, but the performances by Frank Bey & Anthony Paule Band on Soul For Your Blues are first-rate throughout. This is a terrific recording.

I received my copy from a publicist. Here are the two in performance doing Ray Charles' Hard Times.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Catherine Russell Brings it Back

The emergence of Catherine Russell on the music stage in the past few years has provided lenity of magical listening. Daughter of legendary band leader Luis Russell and bassist-guitarist-singer Carline Ray, Catherine Russell delights with her revival of classic and less-known swing and blues tunes. Her latest album, Bring It Back on Jazz Village, continues in this vein with her superb singing backed by a little big band rooted in swing with some gypsy jazz accents. 

The new album brings her back with the creative team from her last album Simply Romancin’, that earned the Grand Prix du Hot Club de France. Among those supporting Ms. Russell are guitarist Matt Munisteri, pianist Mark Shane, bassist Lee Hudson, drummer Mark MacLean, tenor saxophonist and arranger Andy Farber, trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso, saxophonist Dan Block, trombonist John Allred and baritone saxophonist Mark Lopeman. And what a terrific team on a wonderful collection of songs ranging from the title track, a Peppermint Harris composition recorded by Wyonnie Harris, Duke Ellington’s I Let a Song Out Of My Heart, Johnny Otis and Preston Love’s Aged and Mellow, that Esther Phillips waxed, Public Melody One, which Louis Armstrong recorded for Decca with a big band led by Russell's late dad. There is also a previously unrecorded song by her father, Lucille, that was written for Louis Armstrong’s wife.

And the music is simply top-rate with Russell’s horn-like phrasing, her warmth, joy and intonation superb throughout whether strutting on The Darktown Strutters’ Ball, reflective on Aged and Mellow (which is how she wants her men, just like she wants her whisky). She can be sassy on the title track, moody on After The Lights Go Down Low, and getting the jitterbuggers out on the floor singing Ida Cox’s You Got to Swing and Sway. She sings with the exuberance of Helen Humes and the nuance of Lavern Baker. Then there are booting sax solos, growling trumpets, marvelous piano from boogie to deep swing, guitarist Munisteri jazzy electric blues playing on the title track as well as his deft acoustic chording elsewhere. One also notes the wonderful arrangements with touches of Ellington and other classic big bands. 

The only reason I would be hesitant in describing this as her best recording because her other recordings have also been so marvelous, but Bring It Back is one of the finest vocal recordings I have heard in the past few months. Its an outstanding recording that retains its pleasures with repeated hearings. Catherine Russell not simply brings back, but reinvigorates, some familiar classics and lesser known gems from the blues and swing worlds. 

I received my copy from a publicist. Here is Public Melody One.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sojourners Sing And Never Get Tired

Fans of gospel music with a bluesy twist may find a new album by the Canadian gospel trio, The Sojourners, Sing And Never Get Tired (Little Pig Records) to their liking. Comprised of Marcus Mosely, Will Sanders and Khari McClelland, The Sojourners are backed by a small group that includes producer Paul Pigat on guitar and Steve b on harmonica for the Vancouver recording. 

Sing and Never Get Tired explores the roots of the connection between gospel and social action by dipping into the deep well of American roots music to revisit classic songs associated with The Staples Singers, The Dixie Hummingbirds, Rosetta Tharpe and Nina Simone, along with songs from Stephen Stills and Bob Dylan. The songs speak of faith, struggle and the promise of redemption. Of this Mosely commented, "This album is grittier and has more of an edge than anything we've done before. These new songs have a groove to them. We're doing dance music, and if you come to see us, you should come ready to have a good time.”

Pigat’s trebly guitar evokes Pops Staples perhaps on the opening Don’t Knock the first of the truth and gospel songs that the trio deliver the message that one does not knock heaven’s door, simply walk right in. Its the first of an album full of wonderful singer and tight rootsy backing that enhances their fervent vocals. Marriner adds some strong harmonica for the driving parable, Christian’s Automobile where faith is one’s steering wheel. Like the Staples might adapt a Bob Dylan song, the three provide a fresh setting and take of Stephen Stills’ mid-sixties message song For What It's Worth. Ezekial is a jubilant telling of the Jewish Scriptures story while Milky White Way, with piano, recalls some of the classic gospel recordings of the fifties. 

Other selections include a terrific rendition of The Staples Why Am I Treated So Bad, a rocking rendition of This Train, with some fine harmonica in a backing that has some rockabilly tinges and Dylan’s “ Shall Be Released, with Pigat being very effective in his guitar backing. The unaccompanied I Ain’t Got No Home, another number with a social message, ends this recording with more strong, committed vocals that make Sing And Never Get Tired such a fine recording. Fans of Mavis Staples most recent recordings along with those who loved The Staple Singers will have plenty to enjoy.

I believe I got this from Little Pig Records.  Here is their rendition of For What It's Worth.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Early Years of Fred Astaire

Sony Masterworks, in conjunction with Turner Classic Movies, has issued a double CD by the legendary Fred Astaire The Early Years At RKO. Astaire is the star of the month on Turner Classic Movies for December 2013 and is known for the classic movies he starred in along with Ginger Rogers for RKO including “Top Hat,” “Swing Time” and “Shall We Dance.” 

Backed by orchestras led by the esteemed conductors Leo Reisman, Ray Noble, and Astaire’s friend Johnny Green, Astaire introduced the world to many of the cornerstones of what we call today “The American Songbook.” Among the songs heard here, written some of American’s greatest songwriters and composers including Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern and George and Ira Gershwin, are Night And Day, Cheek To Cheek, The Way You Look Tonight, They All Laughed, They Can't Take That Away From Me and Nice Work If You Can Get It.

In his liner notes, Michael Feinstein observes that Astaire is “considered by many to be the most sublime popular singer and dancer of any generation.” These were recorded around the time of the films these appeared in and Astaire’s vocals seem as effortless as his stunning dancing, coveting a fair amount of his sophisticated charm. The orchestrations are sublime with very skillful use of strings along with some muted trumpet obligatos, some doses of stride piano and some showcase his dancing (for example Let Yourself Go).

As Michael Feinstein notes, Fred Astaire was a favorite singer for songwriters such as Berlin and Gershwin, although he hated his voice. Yet listening to the controlled exuberance as he sings about going out on the town in Top Hat, White Tie and Tails, as well as the humor of sailors who looked to see the world, but instead sings that We Saw the Sea. Fred Astaire’s performances on The Early Years At RKO still enchant over 75 years when they first were recorded, and help us realize that even apart from his movies, he was a superb interpreter of songs. 

I received this recording as a digital download from Sony. This review has been published in the January - February 2014 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 352) which can be downloaded at  Here is Fred Astaire performing Top Hat, White Tie and Tails from the movie Top Hat.