Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from everyone at Fantastic Voyage.

March 2016

The release of Soul For Dancers 2: Out On The Floor Firecrackers has been met with acclaim from the likes of MOJO, who hailed it’s range of “Smoochers as well as stompers” and concluded that the set includes “a good flow of sounds; your party will be jumpin”.

Soul specialists Soul & Jazz & Funk also remarked that the compilation resembled “another wonderful early soul and R&B collection”, whilst BBC Radio 6 Music‘s Lauren Laverne made it her Compilation of The Week, praising Lois Wilson’s selections: “An assortment of stone cold classics and lesser-known gems from the dawn of northern soul. This compilation sees Lois Wilson digging into the crates and coming up trumps with choice cuts from the 60s club scene, encompassing everything from Etta James and a very young Marvin Gaye to sometimes-overlooked figures like Gino Parks and Lula Reed. Each one of these songs contributes to a portrait of one of the most vibrant and fondly remembered scenes in musical history.”

The first edition of Soul For Dancers is also still available. Two collections of early soul & proto-soul rhythm & blues venerated by club soul diehards and guranteed to get you out on the floor.

February 2016

Coming up this month we return to the depths of Lois Wilson’s (MOJO, Record Collector) DJ crates for Soul For Dancers 2: Out On The Floor Firecrackers, a compilation of early soul and proto-soul rhythm & blues primed for packed dancefloors and venerated by club soul diehards.

 

January 2016

Happy New Year from Fantastic Voyage!

Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming releases…

December 2015

From the heyday of heartfelt pop confessionals spotlighted on Great Songs of The Heart through the fundamental sound system classics of It’s Jamaica Jump Blues Time to the soundtrack spoils of our recent John Barry collections, it’s been a year that has seen us exploring every genre and period imaginable. With four lavishly produced gatefold editions, our Sugar series was finally brought to vinyl. This year’s odyssey encapsulated the essences of R&B and rock & roll in New Orleans, Nashville, New York, Memphis and the West Coast; musically thriving metropolitan locales that have proved immeasurably influential. The imposing significance of Elvis Presley’s legacy was also acknowledged in the shape of All About Elvis, a tribute which coincided with the King’s 80th birthday. Curating a comprehensive collection of associated songs and artists, Dave Penny’s efforts were celebrated by BBC 6 Music’s Lauren Laverne who gave it the prize of Compilation of the Week in February. Further Compilation of the Week titles were given to Lois Wilson’s much revered R&B diva digest Ain’t Gonna Hush as well as More Lipstick Powder & Paint, another all female blast which ploughed 50s & 60s pop for unforgettable vocal performances.

As well as It’s Jamaica Jump Blues Time’s forays into early sound system culture our other Jamaican excursions also took in Mento stylings on Jamaica Is The Place To Go and an international, cross-genre medley of reggae rudiments on Out of Many, One Music! Both of them represented revisions of what is accepted as shaping the development of Jamaican music, and the latter was recognized in The Wire magazine’s monthly Office Ambience playlist upon release. Our limited vinyl only release Feel So Fine continued the chronology outlined on these compilations, lifting the lid on the genesis of ska, a genre nurtured by the music featured on our Sound System, Mento and Out of Many collections.

Another vinyl only release Look What The Cramps Dredged Up explored the unfettered rock & roll juvenilia as enshrined on the jukebox of The Cramps. Our rock & roll vaults were then further vitalized by Stranger Than Fiction, an equally revelatory collection which featured rockabilly rarities as revived in the 70s, and Gold Star Rockers a 3CD omnibus celebrating the auteurship of Eddie Cochran through the many tracks associated with his tragically short story. As for the soul stakes, a dual delectation of sumptuous vocal group sounds were profiled on Please Mr Disc Jockey and Motor City, the former concerned with the majestic exploits of the Atlantic record label and the latter focusing on the enduring early sides that emerged out of Berry Gordy’s world dominating dynasty. Soul For Dancers meanwhile turned it’s attention to the proto-Northern Soul floorfillers that provoked dancefloor abandon in Manchester’s The Twisted Wheel and London’s The Scene Club, both precursors of the Wigan Casino, Blackpool Mecca, and The Golden Torch in Stoke. We even found time for a homespun affair in the shape of Liverpool Sounds, a set which assembled the Singing City’s finest for a feature length commemoration of Liverpudlian classics, from Arthur Askey to Cavern Club beat recordings.

Obligatory seasonal supplements were also put together with aplomb. Summer Songs, Summer Love, Summer Fun made for an ideal Summer accompaniment and the comprehensive Merry Christmas Box of Music is likely to encourage festive anticipation before the end of year celebrations.

With that in mind, all that’s left to say is Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and thanks for your support this year!

Fantastic Voyage will be back with more in 2016.

November 2015

Our final output of the year sees Fantastic Voyage saluting two auteurs. In our first brace of releases, John Barry – one of the most distinguished composers of film music in the world – receives worthy acknowledgement in the form of Soundtracks & Singles 1963 – 1966, a 3CD retrospective which highlights a particularly fertile period. An appropriate accompaniment, November also sees the release of a long out of print 180 gram vinyl edition of the original Zulu soundtrack.

One of Barry’s most iconic works, the 1964 Zulu soundtrack is a momentous early achievement that sits comfortably with his famed contributions to the James Bond series. Mastered from original stereo tapes and featuring bit part narration by Richard Burton, the original music of the BAFTA-nominated film is here fleshed out with Southern African-influenced beat instrumentals performed by the John Barry Seven. As well as a vinyl edition housed in original artwork and label design, Zulu also forms the first disc of Soundtracks & Singles. Succeeding Zulu a year after and compiled on the second disc of the Soundtracks & Singles 1963 – 1966 collection is the original soundtrack to 1965’s Four In The Morning, a critically acclaimed film which won plaudits for a young Judi Dench. Presented in mono format, as well as stereo, it’s soundtrack is a more subdued, haunting entry in Barry’s oeuvre. On this edition, the atmosphere of the film is further ingrained through dialogue excerpts featuring Dench, Ann Lynn, Norman Rodway, Brian Phelan and Joe Melia. Both Zulu and Four In The Morning were originally released on British independent label Ember, where John Barry was associate producer and head of A&R in the early sixties. Compiled on the final part of the set are Barry’s other Ember recordings, productions which include an alternative organ-accompanied version of the From Russia With Love theme – a major UK hit single in its time – and a curio centred around the Profumo scandal, mysteriously credited to a certain ‘Miss X’. The 60s masterworks of a true British maestro lovingly restored.

Another artist of unparalleled significance, Eddie Cochran’s influential, myriad involvement in rock & roll is lionized by many. As both a solo artist in his own right,  intent on spreading rockabilly’s raw and gutsy sound, and as a session musician working amidst the now enshrined contributions of LA’s Wrecking Crew, Cochran has enjoyed enduring renown. Although counted amongst an unfortunate group of young artists who had their lives tragically cut short – deaths which always threaten to turn legacies into myths – Cochran’s singular solo work and collaborations remain indispensable to the forceful golden age strides of early rock & roll. In this instance, Gold Star Rockers: Eddie Cochran & Friends, revolves around his favoured production haunt, the eponymous breeding ground for many wall-of-sound marvels, and a glut of timeless pop from other similarly statured leading names. Taking that as a central cue, Dave Penny seeks to compile a fuller picture of Cochran’s life; his own productions, his extensive guitar work, his many associations and the other rock & roll releases which would’ve soundtracked his ascent, and which also add narrative colour to his story. A 3CD set of over 100 tracks, the set has already been hailed in Now Dig This as “Hugely enjoyable, entertaining and in many ways historically important…a wonderfully varied collection which includes a wealth of fine music”.

October 2015

Taking us into the final quarter of the year our October releases distil the spirit of a scene and a season, anticipating end-of-year festivities and encapsulating a potted subcultural pre-history. Staunchly carrying out it’s titular premise,  Soul For Dancers: Out On The Floor Firecrackers That Ignited The Northern Soul Boom, surveys the early stomping grounds of the Northern Soul sect, hallowed haunts like Manchester’s The Twisted Wheel and London’s The Scene Club, where  rare soul rudiments were blasted out to an urgent and fitfully hedonistic response. Originally supposed as inauspicious places for such dancefloor abandon, they incubated and nurtured the faith’s first steps, preluding the famed gatherings held at the Wigan Casino, the Blackpool Mecca, and The Golden Torch in Stoke. Lois Wilson – who’s previous work for the label includes the widely revered soul and R&B outings Get On The Right Track, Right On and Ain’t Gonna Hush – curates the set, with a canny eye for crowd favourites and precious obscurities. James Brown, Etta James, Jackie Wilson, The Isley Brothers, Don Covay, Irma Thomas, and Sam & Dave knock up alongside connoisseur concerns like Bruce Cloud, Eloise Carter, Bunker Hill, Willie Cobbs and Mary Johnson. As a historical document it provides essential insight, as far as dancefloor fare goes – like the Northern Soul scene these sides helped foster – it’s irrepressible. The set has already attained widespread coverage, with previews in the likes of Soultracks and Modculture. An extensive 2CD, 61 track edition will be released along with a 2LP set of 32 highlights including an illustrated, annotated insert.

With Merry Christmas Box of Music! The Hits, The Rarities, The Novelties and More we offer our own slant on the obligatory Christmas compilation, departing from the accepted formula with a 3CD, 82 track set which acknowledges a wide spectrum of merriment, from cherished hits, to undersung curios, to playful kitsch. Entries in Christmas hit lore from the likes of Elvis, Johnny Mathis, Lonnie Donegan, Bing Crosby, Bobby Darin and Bobby receive their due whilst less expected inclusions from interesting past hopefuls like Jim Eanes, Tricia Marks, The Del-Vets, Barry Richards and others enliven the selection with rarer efforts. Both definitive and discriminating, it’s an indispensable proposition for those who truly like to get into the spirit.


 

 

September 2015

After a brace of releases last month, September sees less quantity but no less quality. Motor City: The Motown Vocal Group Sound kicks off proceedings, a musical and aesthetic accompaniment of sorts to Please Mr Disc Jockey. Again an immaculately retro artwork design decorates a compilation which focuses on the flourishing male vocal group sound of the 50s and early 60s. But this time instead of Atlantic’s New York heartland the source is Detroit, at a time of considerable industrial activity and cultural significance. Vigour in the city’s famous car plants was mirrored in the early triumphs of Berry Gordy’s Tamla, Motown, Miracle, Gordy and Mel-O-Dy labels, outlets which would form a dynasty that would surpass even the likes of Atlantic, eventually generating more hits than any other independently owned record company in the world. The 3CD set, compiled by doo wop supremo Laurence Cane-Honeysett (compiler of Doo Wop, Doo Wop Revival and Doo Wop: The Rock & Roll Vocal Group Sound) is a fascinating and rewarding premise, both as a document of Motown’s beginnings and as a highly lustrous listen, featuring an all star coterie of doo wop’s finest, from The Miracles, The Temptations, The Contours and The Spinners to an abundant cast of unsung luminaries. The compilation has already been declared by Shindig! as “one of the most voluminous selections to date”, a set featuring “microscopic documents [which] are essential in this transient age”

Completing the month’s releases is a more direct sequel to a well loved instalment of key (and often underappreciated) recordings made by women from 1953 – 1962, an important period in the evolution of pop. More Lipstick, Powder & Paint: A Decade of Girls 1953 – 1962 is a diverse continuation of the first edition, with everything from country to R&B to easy listening accomodated among Austin Powell’s discerning selections. The 3CD set – featuring the likes of Aretha Franklin, Connie Francis, Helen Shapiro, Jackie De Shannon, Dionne Warwick, and Freda Payne and stellar groups like The Chordettes, The Andrews Sisters, The Shirelles, The Crystals, and Martha & The Vandellas – is another cause for revelatory revision, as the often male-dominated grand narrative of pop is reconsidered in light of these female vocal heroics. A compilation which, according to Record Collector, “will please many”.

 

August 2015

Whilst July focused on dazzling, unapologetic pop and root sounds from one of reggae’s most important forebears – releases synonymous with, and perfect for, Summer – August eschews a seasonal theme for an exploration of the places and institutions which bred a remarkable store of homegrown pop, influential doo-wop, and boisterous rock’n’roll. Please Mr Disc Jockey: The Atlantic Vocal Group Sound returns to the early days of Ahmet Ertegun’s now world renowned major label powerhouse for a fascinating trawl through the silken harmonizing of an array of admired and neglected vocal groups, outfits who would lay the foundation for the soul, rock’n’roll and rhythm & blues Atlantic would later champion. From The Clovers, The Drifters and The Coasters to a host of more obscure concerns, these performances demonstrate a set of key players and worthy fringe acts who were at the peak of their powers. Compiled by Clive Richardson (who curated our well loved, long running Soul City series) and conceived as an ideal companion to our earlier club-centric 3CD set Right Now: Atlantic Club Soul And Deep Cuts, Please Mr Disc Jockey is a must for the fanatical and the casual, a chronicle of one of the most important record labels of all time.

Staying in America but relocating from Atlantic’s New York base to the equally iconic environs of Memphis, Tennessee, our second August release sees the next instalment of Stuart Colman’s Sugar series receive the vinyl treatment. Raunchy Sugar: The Pure Essence Of Memphis Rock & Roll cherrypicks the finer cuts from the first CD edition, a compilation praised in Rockabilly Hall of Fame as “the ‘bees knees’ of great rockin’ music.” With a city possessing such a unique lure for rural Tennessee’s many intrepid luminaries (including but not limited to Carl Perkins and Carl Mann from Jackson, Billy Riley from Arkansas and Elvis Presley from Mississippi) it’s easy to speculate that Memphis was the quintessential benchmark that other rock’n’roll hubs aspired to emulate. The city’s record labels were just as profuse and impressive – Sam Phillips’ legendary Sun Records, Hi, Cover, Fernwood, Meteor, Vaden and Satellite (the initial incarnation of the fabled Stax label) – implying that there must have been something in the water at the time. A set which mixes the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Rich, Sonny Burgess and many discoveries-in-waiting, Raunchy Sugar accords quite convincingly with the reputation of Memphis as the celebrated birthplace of rock’n’roll.

We return to somewhere closer to home for our final August release, a compilation which gathers significant moments in the history of the ‘Singing City’. Liverpool Sounds: 75 Classics From The Singing City is a pop portrait of the city, a 3CD set with a broad purview extending to many periods and styles. Vocal turns from Arthur Askey and Ken Dodd, jazz performed by the Merseysippi Jazz Band and George Melly, folk courtesy of Stan Kelly and The Spinners, and iconic 1965 beat recordings made at the Cavern club’s Cavern Sound recording studio, and of course Liverpool’s favourite sons The Beatles feature too, but as Spencer Leigh’s curation work attests, the sound of the city transcended their eminence. The riches of Liverpool’s enormous contribution to modern pop music; 75 choice selections, all of them classics in their own way.

July 2015

The midway point in a year already vibrantly marked by formidable R&B Queens (Ain’t Gonna Hush), rarefied rockabilly (Stranger Than Fiction), exuberant sound system classics (It’s Jamaica Jump Blues Time!) and a whole host of other discovery-rich explorations, sees Summer truly delivered. Returning once more to Jamaica for a scoop of reggae’s origin sounds, Jamaica Is The Place To Go: An Invitation to Jamaican Mento, continues in the same vein as 2013’s first foray into Mento, Mento, Not Calypso! The Original Sound Of Jamaica. As indicated by the spirit and quality on display, the compilation affirms the voluminous and neglected spoils that defined a scene associated with, but distinct from, Calypso. Along with a smattering of Lords and Counts conducting enjoyably monikered bands and outfits (Cats, Seasiders and Mentones) The Godfather of Ska Laurel Aitken makes an appearance or two in league with a few earlier incarnations (The Boogie Cats and His Calypso Band) Tantalizingly mysterious too is the unidentified cut ‘Love, Love Alone’, an anonymous gem amongst many. Not so much ‘an invitation’ as an irresistable Carnival-flavoured insistence.

Accompanying Jamaica Is The Place To Go is a release which encapsulates Summer moods through the more familarly famed. Summer Songs, Summer Love, Summer Fun is about as directly reflective of its title as compilations of this nature can get. As pop of a certain vintage is entwined with teenagedom and the freedoms and memories synonymous with Summer and the holidays, Summer songs are in abundance yet the impeccable ones are rarer treasures. Compiled by Austin Powell (our go-to pop aficianado who masterminded It Takes Two, He’s My Girl! He’s My Boy! and the popular Forgotten 45s and American Music Library series) this 3CD set rounds them all up in one place, the ecstatic songs and the sorrowful laments, from big names including Ricky Nelson, Gary US Bonds, Bobby Vee, Frankie Avalon and Adam Faith and more obscure ones, conveying a complete portrayal of Summer through Songs of Love & Fun.

 

 

 

 

June 2015

Ideal soundtracks for Summer, our first two June releases are evocative of street parties, carnivals, sound systems and sun. After our extensive explorations of the American Jump/Shuffle Blues that inundanted the Jamaican sound system scene in its formative years –  culminating in the March release of It’s Jamaica Jump Blues Time! Jamaican Sound System Classics 1941 -1962 – we continue our excavations of the sounds that defined the vim and exuberance of Jamaica at a time when sound system impresarios like Arthur ‘Duke’ Reid and Clement Seymour ‘Coxson’ Dodd were beginning their own forays into home-grown productions. With a newfound, local independence encouraged by the creation of Jamaica’s first commercial recording studios, the island’s own slant on Shuffle Blues and Boogie began its ascendance, filling airwaves which were once dominated by choice American imports. This shift represented a watershed moment. Soon ska was born and internationally appreciated, a style which was rechristened as blue beat in Britain and a music that would eventually shape rocksteady, reggae and its many subsequent stylistic variants. As well as a host of other revered ska standards, novel discoveries and relative obscurities, Feel So Fine: The Birth of Jamaican Ska plays host to arguably the first and most definitive divergence from the American influences that had initially vitalized the scene; the Coxson Dodd-produced ‘Easy Snapping’. Significant too is the first commercially available disc to feature a rasta drumming ensemble, namely ‘Oh Carolina’. Although these highlights are historic, Feel So Fine is replete with the first vital steps of ska, Jamaican music’s first key blueprint; one that sounds best in the sunshine, blasted out of colossal speakers.

Adding to the sense of ebullience is Out of Many, One Music! Songs That Shaped Jamaica. This time the purview is broader, taking in the sum of sounds that made an impact in Jamaica over the course of the 20th century. The range of styles which exerted an influence attests to why Jamaica has proven so innovative in the years since; gospel, blues, jazz, vocal groups, country, pop, film music and exotica all make an apperance, affirming that the pool of inspiration Jamaican artists eventually drew from was a deep and diverse one. Here the length and breadth of those influences are collected on a 3CD set and a 2LP vinyl edition, demonstrating that Jamaica’s infatuations transcended American R&B and Blues and distilled a legion of different influences in their own later conceptions.

Breaking with the thematic focus on Jamaica but maintaining the sense of an idiosyncratic place birthing extraordinary music, Classy Sugar: The Pure Essence of New York Rock’n’Roll is the latest instalment in the Sugar series to be brought to vinyl, an ongoing project helmed by Stuart Colman charting the definitive spirit of America’s most iconic and revered hubs of R&B and Rock’n’Roll. This year has so far seen Heavy Sugar, Savvy Sugar, and Sassy Sugar each exploring the output of New Orleans, the West Coast, and Nashville respectively. In this latest edition, the focus is the thriving recording studios of New York in the 50s and early 60s. As well as masterful session players (saxman ‘King’ Curtis, guitarist George Barnes, drummer Panama Francis, and piano wizard Bert Keyes) these exciting confines provided the initial platform for a host of future successes, including Neil Sedaka, Jeff Barry and Bobby Darin. There were also other forgotten voices amongst the glitz, and these are collected here too, forming a complete essence which hits with all of New York’s signature grit and buzz.

May 2015

Beginning this month’s releases is an exception to an all too common rule. Contrary to the male dominated, guitar-led character of a great deal of R&B retrospectives Ain’t Gonna Hush The Queens of Rhythm & Blues focuses exclusively on the achievements of its finest women vocalists. Considering the quality of those who make an appearance – Etta James, Aretha Franklin, LaVern Baker – its extrordinary that much of this material slipped through the cracks. Made up of rawly charged outpourings and infectious zest, they’re as vital as the records that were fated for greater luck in the charts. R&B authority Lois Wilson (Mojo, Record Collector) negotiates a selection which nods to lesser known personalities without neglecting the more recognizable voices. Despite the contrasting fortunes of those who feature, its clear these recordings are deserving of sovereignty; pure R&B divinity from its ruling queens. The release comes in a comprehensive 3CD set as well as a special, limited 2LP collection.

Following the success of last month’s forays into rockabilly revivalism and Cramps mythology, our other releases this month remain rooted in similarly fractious sounds. The 2LP edition of Stranger Than Fiction Rockabilly Rules Again sees four sides of vinyl dotted with thirty six individual slices of obscure rockabilly history. Curated by Dave Penny, the set sees the prized dancefloor burners of 70s UK rock’n’roll clubs given posterity. Highly sought after and highly collectable but only intermittently available on limited runs at the time, these sides – from the likes of The Champs, Dwight Pullen and many more – are now given the distinction they deserve, on a collection which highlights the work of three cultishly adored labels (Rollin’ Rock, Record Mart, Injun/Spade) as well as a section devoted to the best of the rest.

There’s little let-up with Sassy Sugar The Pure Essence of Nashville Rock & Roll, another acclaimed title which finally receives its vinyl issue. Unsuprisingly the eligible material for a compilation collecting the essential sounds of Music City USA is made up of prodigious riches. With the RCA Studio on Hawkins Street and Owen Bradley’s Quonset Hut on 16th Avenue South attracting beloved idols like Elvis Presley and Gene Vincent, the pedigree of Nashville Rock & Roll is as historic and momentous as any other pop metropolis. Matching those heights of distinction was a cluster of session musicians who provided an uncommon magic in the studio and these rarer instances of Nashville noise are brimming with their artistry, not to mention the singular leading man stature of those they accompanied. Some are celebrated names – Bob Luman, Don Gibson, Johnny Preston – some will be new discoveries for many, though all of them form a concise and vivid snapshot of the defining spirit and sound of Nashville Rock & Roll. Stuart Colman has whittled down the voluminous 3CD set to a 32 track 2LP, abundant with unmissable standouts.

 

 

April 2015

After March’s far flung ventures, April sees Fantastic Voyage uncover a more concentrated set of explorations. Both physical releases convey resurrection, and both are driven by the fervid and fatally obsessed. Stranger Than Fiction: Rockabilly Rules Again amasses the efforts of a number of daring and dedicated labelheads who, in the midst of post-hippie languor and subcultural fragmentation, resuscitated the rougher stomp and clamour of rockabilly during the ’70s. The origins of some of those concerned are unlikely, considering the Americanised imagery commonly associated with the scene. RM/Record Mart, spotlighted on CD2, originated from Southend-on-Sea while Injun/Spade, our focus on the final disc, came out of Hassocks, Sussex. Although the remainder of the labels profiled come from the places perhaps more synonymous with rockabilly’s identity – Rollin’ Rock and Boogie-Boy in California, Rockin’ Stars in Virginia and Olympic in Michigan – the discoveries of each outlet constitute a united and cohesive run of Obscure ’50s Gems Revived in the ’70s. Decades elapse but the best records retain their spirit and energy and regardless of time and location, the figureheads of this revival remained committed to bringing them back for new audiences who more than matched their enthusiasm. Compiled by Dave Penny, the writer of a series of accompanying articles for Now Dig This, Stranger Than Fiction goes some way to proving that rockabilly, and its rule, never really went away.

Similarly engaged in an unwavering belief in primordial rock’n’roll and its more forbidden and neglected fruits, The Cramps retroactively plundered the past for their own ends but attained an originality and mythology all of their own. Look What The Cramps Dredged Up: Rock’n’Roll Pearls From The Big Beat Deep brings together the records that Lux Interior and Poison Ivy held dear, those which they themselves often manipulated into new, wildly contorted sounds. These originals go some way to chronicling the band’s deviant-teen philosophy as informed by the deeper cuts that rested within their extensive jukebox. Four sides of vinyl, compiled by Lucky Parker, it illustrates the roots of The Cramps’ sound in the work of luminaries like Cark Perkins, Ricky Nelson, Link Wray, Roy Orbison and Wanda Jackson. Rock’n’Roll Pearls, from jukebox to vinyl, no longer submerged.

In addition to our physical releases this month, we’re also offering a definitive gateway into rockabilly and uptempo R&B through our two volume, digital only compilation, Ultimate Rock’n’Roll. Including a who’s who of rock’n’roll hall of famers, the collection spans over a decade and brings together over 150 tracks into one convenient but extensive library.

Continuing in that vein of exhaustive collation, Ultimate Rhythm & Blues Hits Collection 1942-1945 – our other digital release for April – chronologically collects the hits from Billboards’ R&B chart, concentrating on the impact black artists had on the Rhythm & Blues styles of the period. The first chart was published in October 1942 and the timescale of this compilation coincides with the 1942-1944 American Federation Of Musicians strike, which affected the major US record companies, who either settled with the union (Decca and Capitol) or stockpiled new recordings ahead of the ban (later resorting to reissuing old recordings) or circumvented the terms of the strike by backing featured singers with vocal groups. A collection that’s historic in every sense. Watch out for further instalments in this fascinating series.

March 2015

March finds Fantastic Voyage journeying far and wide, collecting a wide gamut of influential sounds from historic scenes, ranging from the idyllic glitz of the American West Coast to the vibrant heart of early modern Jamaica. Last month heralded the first vinyl edition of Stuart Colman’s acclaimed ‘Sugar’ series, and this month sees a worthy successor in the form of Savvy Sugar: The Pure Essence of West Coast Rock’n’Roll. A limited edition 2LP set, the material reveals how central Los Angeles was to the development of the West Coast’s own stylistic permutation of the epochal sound sweeping the rest of the country. Driven by the inception of a host of recording studios established in the midst of increasing productiveness, LA – despite its predominant associations being rooted in fame, glamour and Hollywood – displayed seams of rock’n’roll that were both grand and suited to this backdrop but also as raggedly spirited as any rougher style. The important contributions of adept session musicians, many of them gathered from Hollywood sound stages, assured the majesty of these recordings, along with the more focal talents and personalities (including Ricky Nelson, Tommy Sands and Lee Hazlewood protege Sanford Clark) orbiting around an exciting time of unparalleled achievement in foundational Rock’n’Roll.

Our next release this month takes us from the environs of LA to Jamaica, at a vital time of inventive enterprise. The latest in our series charting Jamiacan Sound System Classics documents a newly compiled batch of recordings made famous at early dances compered by Duke Reid and Coxsone Dodd. Some of these recordings were enshrined to such an extent that many DJs of the day scratched out the titles of the record and even invented alternative titles to throw ardent fans and rival DJs off the scent, thus maintaining their exclusiveness to one sound system troupe. The collation of this material is a prospect to covet considering that bygone obscurity and listening to them attests to the reasons why they were held in such precious regard by prominent tastemakers. Both Reid and Dodd favoured the American R & B of the day in their earliest sound system incarnations and this is what compiler and annotator Phil Etgart favours here. However these sides, whilst providing ample gratification for both R & B and Jamaican music fans, also give great insight into the basis for Jamaica’s later homegrown explorations in sound. It’s Jamaica Jump Blues Time! Jamaican Sound System Classics 1941-1962 comes in a 28-track 2LP collector’s edition as well as a 3CD box set.

February 2015

With Great Songs of The Heart From The Fifties and Sixties making a timely arrival for Valentine’s Day, February sees an additional string of new releases, putting 2015 firmly in full swing. Along with matters of the heart, there are further forays of infatuation. All About Elvis: A Tribute To The King stays rooted in the same period yet remains fanatically focused on the unmistakeable titanic pop phenemonon of Elvis Presley, as reflected in the imitative dedications of his contemporaries. Compiled across a 3CD set are songs delivered in his style, songs defined by an association with him, and finally, those more obscure homages. Documeting his magnetism and influence, the set features those who have themselves attained a similar regard within the rock’n’roll hall of fame (Roy Orbison, Wanda Jackson, and Jerry Lee Lewis to name a few.) Yet despite the notable calibre of some inclusions, only when the full extent of the compilation is considered does it become clear just how monumental his life and work was, to both the artists of his time and the fans who’ve appreciated his work since. 2015 marks 60 years since he signed his first major recording contract in November 1955, the same year in which he would have been 80 years old. All About Elvis, a collection of recordings which span the novelty pop, country, rhythm & blues and rock & roll fields, shows why he still remains such an indisputably adored figure.

Our next February release continues in a similiar vein to our acclaimed American Music Library series, with a thorough curation of outlying sounds from Billboard Magazine’s Bubbling Under Chart. But whereas the AML series prized the winners, Bubbling Under The American Charts champions the less distinguished but equally compelling fringe hits made between 1959 and 1963. Judged by the discoveries brought together by Austin Powell, the fact these records were excluded from a greater standing in the charts was owed more to arbitrary ill-fortune than any notion of diminished excellence, as also demonstrated by those who feature, with Ray Charles, Ike & Tina Turner, and Johnny Cash rubbing shoulders with interesting curios from the less familiar. A collection which will certainly delight record collectors but will also make for stellar listening for those in search of the finest near misses of American Chart Hits.

This month’s final output comes in the form of a long awaited vinyl release, the first in an ongoing series. One of our most lauded compilations, Heavy Sugar: The Pure Essence of New Orleans R&B, sees the first in Stuart Colman’s Sugar series reaching a format which will no doubt augment the exceptional character of these recordings. Stuart has overcome the difficult task of whittling down the original 75 track CD set to a concise 32 cuts, those which best represent all the sounds emanating from the city, at a time when Cosimo Matassa’s studio in the French Quarter was a vibrant nuclaus of the scene and the city’s numerous clubs were the fertile testing grounds for the many talents originating there. The resultant set condenses the quintessential essence of New Orleans R&B into a very special, limited edition 2LP set.

 

 


 

January 2015

Representing a convincing antidote to the proverbial January Blues, our first release of 2015 dives headlong into the heartfelt and lovelorn odes of the fifties and sixties. Great Songs Of The Heart comprises 90 cuts which all reference the heart as the traditionally symbolic core of affection. Traversing a time when heartthrobs were in the ascendancy and the industrious Brill Building was exacting a significant impact on the charts, the collection represents an anthology of the most enduring expressions of adoration produced in the period.

As to be expected with manners of the heart the moods range, with a cast that includes Johnny Cash, LaVern Baker, Petula Clark, Buddy Holly, and Sam Cooke providing ample awe and warmth as much as they do ruefulness and dejection. As well as individual declarations, groups including Gladys Knight & The Pips, The Isley Brothers, and The Shadows add even more prestige to the devout doting. Although the fame of those present is clearly significant, there are plenty of lesser known discoveries to be appreciated, indicating both the rich depths of the period and the extent of Austin Powell’s trawl through the vaults. Powell,  who’s previous form includes It Takes Two: Dynamic Duos Of The Rock ‘n’ Roll Era and The Forgotten 45s series, compiles a set which anticipates Valentine’s Day and distils the bygone innocence of the era and the special intimacy of its requited – and unrequited – outpourings.

 

 

Digital Only Releases 2014 | Part Two

In the course of researching our Ember jazz compilation The Flamingo Connection (FVDD025), we unearthed several sets of tapes for Vic Lewis & His Allstars’ At The Beaulieu Festival album (first released on CJS 807 in June 1964, repackaged on SE 8018 in 1974). It was apparent that, for whatever reason, the applause had been dubbed in after the event, so we can now present the entire album both with and without that applause, all mastered from the original tapes. With Vic Lewis conducting, the Allstars comprised Dick McPherson, Jimmy Deuchar, Les Condon, Gordon Turnbull, Keith Christie, Roy East, Vic Ash, Art Ellefson, Ronnie Ross, Terry Shannon, Arthur Watts and Allan Ganley. The Beaulieu Suite was composed by Tony Crombie; The Springbok and American Suites (side two of the original vinyl) by Vic Lewis.

Recorded in London in 1969, and released on Ember CJS 823 in 1970, Adam’s Rib Suite is a conceptual jazz suite of compositions named after, and reflecting, the character of eleven women drawn from history, mythology and fiction, it was composer Ken Moule’s second suite, following on from 1958’s Jazz At Toad Hall. Credited to The London Jazz Chamber Group, Ken Moule (piano) is joined on Adam’s Rib Suite by Kenny Wheeler, Roy Willox, Lennie Bush, Ronnie Stevenson and Louis Stewart, plus the Pat Halling String Quartet. Previously available on CD, this new digital release has been remastered from original tapes. As well as being of interest to jazz aficionados, there is much of interest on here for lounge fans.

From 1971, the film You Can’t Have Everything was written and directed by Martin Zweibach, and also saw release as Cactus In The Snow. The comedy stars Richard Thomas as an American soldier hoping to lose his virginity before the Vietnam draft, who encounters a young woman played by Mary Layne. The soundtrack album was released on Ember (NR 5055), written by Joe Parnello and Rudy Durand, and performed by The Joe Parnello Orchestra. Four tracks graced Big Sound: Ember Soundtracks & Themes (FVCD048), but now we have made the entire soundtrack album available digitally, and added on the single version of The World Started Without Us.

Peter Collinson’s X-certified film The Penthouse was adapted from Scott Forbes’ play The Meter Man. The 1967 film depicts an adulterous couple (Terence Morgan and Suzy Kendall) shaken out of their complacency by a trio of thuggish intruders (Tom Beckley, Norman Rodway and Martine Beswick). The Ember soundtrack album (NR 5040) featured original music composed and arranged by John(-ny) Hawksworth, whose TV credits in the ’70s would include George And Mildred, Man About The House and the animated series Roobarb. Lisa Shane sings The World Is Full Of Lonely Men, and the album is rounded out by dialogue from the film, plus two tracks by Mark Wirtz, previously released on an Ember Mood Music Library album.

Starring Richard Wyler as Interpol agent Anthony Smith, Man From Interpol ran for 39 episodes, broadcast by Associated-Rediffusion from 1959, and by NBC in the States from January 1960. An album were released on Top Rank (35/043) in 1959, credited to Tony Crombie arranging and conducting the Studio Orchestra. In 1960, Kruger’s new label Ember released its own Man From Interpol album (EMB 3300). Featuring 17 tracks, the album  credits Crombie as composer and arranger, and the artists as Parliament Brass And Orchestra directed by Buddy Kaye, an American better known as a songwriter. The Ember album shares some titles with the Top Rank release, but the title theme for one is a distinctly different recording and other titles are unique to the album. For this digital-only reissue, all tracks have been mastered from tape sources, including five previously unreleased bonus tracks.

Directed by A Edward Sutherland, International Detective ran between December 1959 and June 1961. It followed the investigations of Ken Franklin (US actor Art Fleming) for the William J. Burns International Detective Agency. The soundtrack album was released on Ember in 1960 (EMB 3304), credited to the TV All Stars directed by Edwin Astley.  All compositions bar the Leroy Holmes/Sid Shaw-penned title theme are composed by Edwin Astley. Best known for his work on The Saint theme, in the early ’50s Astley had arranged for the popular band leader Geraldo, led his own Ted Astley Orchestra and composed for other performers. Work for British TV series in the ’50s and ’60s included Danger Man, The Adventures Of Robin Hood, Department S, Randall And Hopkirk (Deceased), The Baron, Gideon’s Way and Civilisation. The album also surfaced in the Ember Mood Music Library series (ERL 3306), albeit with all tracks bar the title theme renamed. We have used the titles as listed on EMB 3304 and tacked on a longer version of the title theme.

Galway-born singer Lee Lynch moved to England in 1956 and was discovered by Vince Hill. He cut a single for Decca in 1966 and signed to Ember in February 1969. In March he recorded his first session for the label, produced by Jimmy Duncan and engineered by Eddie Offord (who later worked with Yes and ELP). The orchestra was arranged by Johnny Arthey. This yielded the Les Reed/Geoff Stephens-penned Stay Awhile (the GB entry in an international song competition hosted by Belgium) and follow-up Don’t Hold On To Yesterday. Further singles and a (Belgium-only) album followed over the next couple of years, and Lee Lynch next surfaced on the Columbia label. Our digital-only selection, Stay Awhile, rounds up twelve sides issued by Ember and/or licensed from them for release on the Continent, including a cover of The Beatles’ Here, There And Everywhere.

Recorded 12 October 1963, Live Folk From The Mayfair Theatre London offers a snap shot of the sort of music which might have been billed billed under the umbrella description of “folk” in clubs at the time, although the actual performances range from the bluegrass of The Malcom Price Trio, to the Woody Guthrie-style “talking blues” of Talking John Berry and the rather polite folk-pop of Jill Freedman. This album was released in November 1965 on the Ember label (FA 2014), but the tracks by the aforementioned artists had all previously appeared spread across two EPs released by Ember in March 1964 (Hullabaloo Volumes One & Two, EMBEP 4532 & 4533). So the main attraction of the album would have been the previously unissued performances by Chad & Jeremy, who by this time were at least six months into their post-Ember contract with US Columbia. It’s fascinating to hear what the duo sounded like live at the start of their career, performing their soon-to-be hit Yesterday’s Gone alongside folk and humorous material, including a beat group send-up on (Ain’t That) Just Like Me and a rewrite of Frankie And Johnny as Stanley And Dora.

Back then it was rare for Carmen McRae to record outside New York, let alone the USA, but in May 1961 the legendary jazz vocalist did just that, at the legendary Flamingo Club in London, and Ember captured this rare event on tape for the album Carmen McRae In London, released June 1962 (NR 5000). With a trio comprising Los Angeles-born pianist Don Abney (who had accompanied McRae on sessions since 1958) and two Brits: bassist Kenny Napper and celebrated drummer Phil Seaman, Carmen interprets eleven standards in her distinctive style, and these performances are highly rated among cognoscenti. However, this was no one-take concert performance, as has sometimes been stated. With characteristic perfectionism, McRae performed several takes of many of the numbers, to the delight of the audience, and in the course of revisiting the original tapes for this digital-only reissue, we have mastered eight alternate takes. In some cases the differences are small, but in others distinctive, like I Could Write A Book and the version of A Foggy Day (In London Town) with no solo from Seaman. A fascinating insight into one of the most influential of jazz vocalists.

In March 1967, UK label Ember released The Soul Of Etta James (EMB 3390), a compilation of her 1954-1958 recordings for the Modern label. For this digital-only release, we have retained the original artwork but expanded the selection by six tracks from the same era, so that as well as her 1955 R&B #6 hit Good Rockin’ Daddy, you now also get the R&B chart-topper The Wallflower, the record that kicked off the great R&B and soul singer’s three decades-spanning chart history.

Digital Only Releases 2014 | Part One

Did you know that as well as releasing albums on both CD and digital, Fantastic Voyage also has a catalogue of digital-only albums?

In fact, our current digital best-seller is the digital-only Chad & Jeremy compilation A Summer Song, a 22-track selection of their early Ember/World Artists recordings, featuring UK hit Yesterday’s Gone and five further US hits, including the title track.

We have recently added the following digital-only releases to our catalogue, sourced in the most part from the vaults of the ’60s/’70s British indie label Ember, taking in beat, pop, mod, jazz and soundtracks.

60s Mod Sounds is a new digital-only selection which draws on the various Ember beat and soul compilations we put out on CD several years ago, plus further tracks new to Fantastic Voyage. Highlights include both sides of the rare-as-hen’s-teeth Couriers single from May 1965, Bobby Johnson & The Atoms take on Tramp, The Fadin’ Clours cover of (Just Like) Romeo And Juliet, three tracks by beat groups associated with Belfast’s Maritime Club (famous for its association with Van Morrison’s Them) and soulful sides courtesy of The Brothers Grimm, Maynell Wilson and Hoagy Benson.

Beat group The Washington DC’s have never had an album entirely devoted to them until now, although Ember came close when they packaged eight of their recordings with both sides of the label’s one Dave Clark Five single, in the wake of the DC5’s subsequent success on another label. Dave Clark Five And The Washington DC’s (FA 2003, 1965) included seven previously unreleased tracks by The Washington DCs, plus Where Did You Go?, the flipside of their sole Ember single, from March 1964. Our compilation takes its title from that missing A-side, Kisses Sweeter Than Wine, and also includes an alternative version of Have You Seen My Baby? and a recording of Return to Me, both of which first surfaced on the Fantastic Voyage compilation Done Me Wrong (FVCD023) in 2009.

Did you know that Twiggy released two singles on Ember? As well as a phenomenally successful international career as a model – she was The Face Of 1966 – Twiggy also starred in Ken Russell’s 1971 musical comedy film The Boyfriend. Back in 1967, she cut four sides for Ember under the supervision of musical director John Hawksworth and producer Tommy Scott. We have repackaged these as the When I Think Of You EP, and our image is based on an original Ember picture sleeve.

Remember Linda Thorson? She succeeded Diana Rigg as female foil to Patrick Macnee in the popular ’60s TV series The Avengers, playing Tara King. In 1968 and 1970 she recorded for Ember, which yielded two singles including the Kenny Lynch-produced Here I Am, which gives our digital EP its title. Two of the four 1968 session tracks originally languished on a demo single, while a third 1970 cut went unreleased until 2005.

Not to be confused with the Missouri-born blues guitarist, singer and songwriter of the same name (or indeed the 1960 film starring James Garner and Natalie Wood), the Cash McCall we’re concerned with here was born Selwyn Cox, who was residing in Corby, Northants, when he signed to Ember in July 1962. The country singer and guitarist recorded two albums and a brace of singles for the label, who also licensed recordings (some sung in Italian) to Regal in Italy. We have rounded up a baker’s dozen of his (English) recordings on Across The Wide Missouri.

Essex-born singer Marcus Tro was signed to Ember for a single, produced and arranged by Mark Wirtz, who succeeded John Barry as Ember in-house producer. Released in December 1964, the single coupled early Jagger & Richards composition Tell Me with a Wirtz original. No further singles emerged, but a twelve-track album, Introducing Marcus Tro (EMB 3365) surfaced in 1966, featuring a second Wirtz composition, plus songs by Goffin & King, Felice & Boudleaux Bryant, and Johnny Tillotson, as well as two originals credited under his real name, Graham Reynolds.

Teenbeat (EMB 3352) was a July 1963 compilation of recordings by singer Grant Tracy and instrumental combo The Sunsets, who backed Tracy on two of his five Ember singles as well as recording in their own right. All bar four of the fourteen tracks on Teenbeat had been released previously as singles in 1961 or 1962. This line-up of The Sunsets included Peter Blumson (better known as Pete Dello), later a founding member of Honeybus. For this digital release we have added four bonus tracks by Grant Tracy, including both sides of a Mark Wirtz-produced single from 1965.

From 1966, the Ray Singer album Ray Sings For Those In Love (EMB 3364) packaged five singles sides with 9 new tracks (including the Mark Wirtz-penned Ah Oop) by the Hove-based vocalist, who went on to have an interesting career, including a stint with pop-psych group Nirvana. Bonus tracks are a B-side and EP tracks, all from 1964, both sides of a 1966 single (one co-written with future Nirvana main man Alex Spiropoulos), plus the gorgeous A Dreamer Of The Past, originally featured on a French EP.

Come the ’70s and Ember was trying to muscle in on both the all-woman group and glam rock markets with Mother Trucker. If the press release is to be believed, the women were variously involved in the road haulage industry before getting together and being spotted at a London club gig and signed to Ember in 1973. At this time, industry veteran John Madara was heading up the US wing of Ember, and sessions for Mother Trucker (NR 5082, 1975) took place in Hollywood. Highlights include Tonight and Propeller Love, coupled for single release ahead of the album’s appearance, and covers of Gamble & Huff’s Explosion In My Soul (also a single) and Hayes & Porter’s Wrap It Up.

Julie Rogers’ professional career as a vocalist began in 1963 with the Teddy Foster Orchestra.  Later that decade she signed to Ember, releasing the album Once More With Feeling (NR 5050) in 1970. Produced by Foster, whom she had married in 1968, the tracks were variously arranged and conducted by either Johnny Arthey or Charles Blackwell, and included compositions by Gary Osborne, Sonny Bono, Clarence Paul and Jimmy Webb. Nine of its fourteen tracks also emerged as Ember singles between 1969 and 1971.

Tommy Whittle’s album was recorded in May 1959, at which time Jeffrey Kruger had interests in publishing, films and the Flamingo jazz club, but had yet to set up the Ember label. The album first appeared as New Horizons on Tempo (TAP 27). Tenor saxophonist Tommy Whittle was joined in his quintet by Harry Klein (baritone), Eddie Thompson (piano), Ken Sprang (bass) and Jackie Dougan (drums). A year later the album was brought in house and reissued as Easy Listening With Tommy Whittle And His Friends (Ember EMB 3305). Mastered from tape, two alternative takes first saw light of day on our expanded reissue of the Various Artists set Jazz At The Flamingo: Tenth Anniversary Tribute (Fantastic Voyage FVCD125) and reappear here as bonus tracks.

Our Eddie Thompson Trio album also first surfaced on Tempo (TAP 24), having been recorded in May 1958. Eddie Thompson is joined by Arthur Watts (bass) and Andy White (drums). Again it reappeared on Ember in 1960 (EMB 3303) with its name changed from His Master’s Jazz to Piano Moods. Mastered from original tapes, our expanded digital reissue adds two further May 1958 recordings, which were first released on the aforementioned Jazz At The Flamingo set in 1961 (EMB 3321).

In 1960 the Ember label released the Teenage Dance Party project, credited to the Little John Anthony Band (EMB 3302). Presumably a rather late-in-the-day attempt to exploit the rock & roll market, the album was composed – and featured a band led – by Tony Crombie (born Anthony John Crombie, hence the alias). Primarily a jazz drummer and composer, Crombie had led a rock & roll band, The Rockets, from 1956, before reverting to jazz in 1958. Teenage Dance Party is essentially an album of jazz tunes, albeit with a rhythmic and titular nod to rock & roll. There has been much conjecture about the other musicians featured, but there now seems to be consensus that the highly regarded tenor saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist Tubby Hayes was in their number.

Recorded 16 February 1958, at the Dominion Theatre, London, The Jazz CouriersIn Concert first appeared on the Tempo label (TAP 22). With a line-up of Ronnie Scott (tenor saxophone), Tubby Hayes (tenor saxophone, vibes), Terry Shannon (piano), Phil Bates (bass) and Bill Eyden (drums), The Jazz Couriers are in cracking form on a programme that includes Hayes’ original The Serpent, Scott’s Some Of My Best Friends Are Blues, and standards including Guys And Dolls. These downloads use the same masters prepared for our Tubby Hayes compilation Jazz Genius: The Flamingo Era (FVTD050), which was the first CD reissue to restore all original spoken introductions, working from original tapes.

Ronnie Scott (tenor saxophone), Tubby Hayes (tenor saxophone, vibes), Terry Shannon (piano), Phil Bates (bass) and Bill Eyden (drums), augmented by Jimmy Deuchar (trumpet) on two tracks, recorded a studio set in August 1957 and it first emerged on Tempo (TAP 15). Our download of Tubby Hayes And The Jazz Couriers Featuring Ronnie Scott uses the same masters (derived from tape sources) as used on Jazz Genius: The Flamingo Era (FVTD050). Tubby Hayes is to the fore on this selection, which includes three Hayes originals, and his vibraphone-playing skills are showcased on Tadd Dameron’s On A Misty Night.

The British Jazz Trio recorded an eponymous four-track EP for Ember, which was released in September 1962 (EMB EP 4517). Comprising Kenny Harris (drums), Derek Smith (piano) and John Drew (bass), the trio laid down versions of White Cliffs Of Dover, two traditional tunes including Ilkley Moor Baht ‘At, and Noel Coward’s London Pride. How much more eclectic can you get? These are now available digitally in their original EP artwork.

November 2014

Closing out the year in fine style, November is shaped by an iconic starlet, often decorated as the first ‘Queen of Soul’. Classed as a presiding influence over the legacy of early vocal soul, Dinah Washington still enjoys an enduring resonance with contemporary audiences and artists, over fifty years since her death. The new collection, Dinah Washington: Original Queen of Soul, serves as both a commemoration – as the anniversary of her death nears – and as a celebration of the talent she exuded in her recordings. Three Decades of Artistry features her most unforgettable performances, over the course of a definitive 80 track selection, one expertly collated by Soul music writer and broadcaster Clive Richardson. Rare and highly coveted recordings of her early years on Southside Chicago’s club circuit in the 1940s are included, as are her vibrant displays in the 1950s, when she incorporated a range of styles and moods into her sound. The compilation follows a considered chronology of her career, also documenting her later work with producer Henry Glover; work notably invigorated by blues traditionalism and a progressive stance towards the emergent soul market. Met by unprecedented recognition at the outset of the 1960s, with a Grammy nomination and 40 hit singles within the Billboard R & B charts already under her name, Washington’s life was cut short on December 14th 1963. Despite such a tragically premature end, her work remains impeccable and timeless, as this retrospective testifies. An essential capsule of her inimitable talent.

Accompanying Dinah Washington is a special expanded edition of our American Music Library series. American Music Library: The Hits of 1962 departs from the format of previous instalments, with an increased length of 120 tracks. Such ample room is given over to the dance crazes that dominated the charts at the time, courtesy of Philadelphia’s Cameo & Parkway labels. The first emphatic steps of Berry Gordy and his Tamla-Motown-Gordy stable of labels in Detroit are another commanding sound within the set. But between these more imposing presences, there are plenty of early pop, country and R & B favourites which reveal the extensive diversity of the American pop landscape at the time. With such a significant number of hits the collection conveys that the American charts were in rude health, defined by a glut of familiar triumphs and cultish curios. Pop savant, Austin Powell, curates and annotates a set which maintains the high level of documentarian clarity and fan enthusiasm seen in previous editions of the series.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

October 2014

October heralds a new and exciting string of releases, largely rooted in romance, innocence and unadulterated pop. They begin with memorable scenes from an early golden age of British pop films, twenty one of which receive retrospective remembrance in the form of Quiffs At The Flicks: Big Screen British Rock’n’Roll. A decidedly homegrown affair realised by pop expert Lucky Parker, the collection gathers the best of the exuberant, youthful preoccupations of the late fifties and early sixties, as imagined by a host of nascent British directors. Far from being blockbuster greats or the work of cult auteurs, these works were mostly based in exploitation, yet they offered an uninhibited overload of cameos and performances, from some of pops early greats. The sounds gathered from these films originate mostly from British artists (The Shadows, John Barry, Helen Shapiro, Tommy Steele) but the reach is broadened and further vitalized by a select, iconic few from across the pond (Gene Vincent, Chubby Checker, Del Shannon) Whatever the origin of the talent or the stature of the film, the compilation shows that between May 1957 and September 1962 there was an unapologetic crescendo of British pop on film, one that was transient but evocative, and one that was characterised by teenage tastes and only the most brazen pop vibrancy.

Covering a similar timeframe but leaving cinematic territory, She’s My Girl! He’s My Boy! The Boys Sing About The Girls, The Girls Sing About The Boys, compiles the extensive adorations of the stars and forgotten heroes of the rock’n’roll era. In a neatly comprehensive set, the compilation consists of sixty tracks divided into an interestingly sequenced billing; one side of affectionate dedication on behalf of the boys (including Eddie Cochran, Ricky Nelson, Roy Orbison) and one side which acts as an equally passionate series of tributes from the girls (featuring The Shirelles, LaVern Baker, Nina Simone) With all these proclamations in one place, Austin Powell’s selections accommodate an insight into how the Cindy’s, Peggy Sue’s, Jimmy’s, and Johnny’s were addressed and represented. The quintessential sound of devotional romance.

Completing the month’s releases is a collection which departs from the striking pop hues and flavours of the other collections. Instead the focus falls on the last sparkling embers of the Blues Shouters. The Last Shout! Twilight of The Blues Shouters 1954-1962 assembles the final, effervescent throws of vocal virtuosity given by the likes of Big Joe Turner, Wynonie Harris, Jimmy Witherspoon, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and many more of the finest purveyors of the style. The ninety seven track selection comes disentombed from a neglected period, in the midst of a blues boom which left little room for the Shouters. In spite of the wane of demand for their work, they had shown progressive prowess in mixing their distinctive tones with the ascendant rattle of rock’n’roll. Curated by Dave Penny in a 3CD and 2LP edition, this compilation will appeal to fans of vocal R & B who’ve previously delved into our acclaimed Voodoo Voodoo set, which explored similiar heights of vocal flair and flourish. However this final clamour remains an altogether different prospect; an ear-piercing, chest-rattling, defiant ‘Last Shout’, which has already been named by Now Dig This as the ‘best release of 2014 for rock’n’roll fans’.

 

September 2014

September sees Fantastic Voyage sustain momentum in the wake of a busy Summer schedule. In many respects we continue where we left off, in a month of continued chronicling of revelatory roots music. Quick on the heels of the Soul City Philadelphia set comes Soul City New Orleans: Big Easy Gems From The Dawn of Soul Music, a collection which sheds light on one of America’s most vibrant and significant hives of early modern soul. Soul music savant Clive Richardson lifts the lid on a flourishing scene, assembling a compelling selection drawn from imprints large and small. Familiar names include Lee Dorsey, Aaron Neville and Irma Thomas, though as always the neglected take their place amongst the renowned. Coming in both a 2CD and 2LP edition, the collection has already received praise from Record Collector who described it as an “impeccably chosen profile”. Like the flamboyance associated with the city’s famed Mardi Gras carnival, Soul City New Orleans brings together the finest precedents for a spirited, unmissable display.
From the deep south we then head north, to the more inconspicuous but no less rich hub of Indiana, for Hoosier Daddy: Mar-Vel’ And The Birth of Indiana Rockabilly. A mammoth 105 track 3CD set – which also comes in a 2LP edition – Hoosier Daddy documents the story of the pioneering and industrious Indiana record man, Harry Glenn, and his Mar-Vel’ and Glenn labels. Curated by rock and roll specialist Dave Penny the collection accomodates the cultish and the rare, with Bobby Sisco, Herbie Duncan, Chuck Dallis and Harry Carter featuring alongside the first recordings of Jackie De Shannon. The remit is not restricted to the work of Harry Glenn either, as the compilation traverses the length and breadth of the Hoosier State, charting the output of other important rockabilly labels, from Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Marion, Columbus and many other areas. Vintage Rock have already voiced their approval concluding that “there’s more to Dave Penny’s latest mix than the clever title…a playlist of over 100 incredible tunes…rarely-spun treasures that will excite any true rockabilly fan”. An ample collection which stories an exciting emergence, it makes a case for Indiana’s status as a vital centre in the development of American rockabilly.
Rounding out September is a release which diverges from the focus on a specific setting to one which trades exclusively in material gathered from an illustrious catalogue. Right Now: Atlantic Club Soul and Deep Cuts follows Lois Wilson’s highly successful explorations of the Chess and Motown staples with an assemblage of three decades worth of rare Atlantic gold. Available in CD and LP versions, the collection eschews familiar hits and popular favourites in favour of a diverse and comprehensive store of cuts derived from the vaults of the hallowed label. As well as a pre-Motown Isley Brothers, Louisiana rock ’n’ roller Dale Hawkins, and an incarnation of The Falcons (which then included Wilson Pickett and Mack Rice in their ranks) the set features lesser known, deep catalogue gems from Jean DuShon, Jimmy Ricks, King Coleman, Richie Barrett, the Top Notes, The Tarantulas and many more. Defined as equivalent to a “fine feast” by Blues In Britain, Right Now represents a deep delve into the rich depths of one of America’s greatest ever labels.

August 2014

August looks set to be defined by American splendour as our acclaimed American Music Library series is reprised. Our third instalment, American Music Library: The Hits Of 1961, comprehensively documents 90 hits fit for nostalgic adoration, a treasure trove of golden age Americana. Following on from previous instalments concentrating on 1959 and 1960, our purview of the hits of 1961 extends from productions which were exclusively successful in US charts and those which made a far reaching and lasting impact in the US and beyond. There are pop triumphs from those who would continue to add to their success as well as those who had only a brief presence in the spotlight. Austin Powell curates and annotates the set, providing a historical insight into what was shaping the pop landscape at the time and offering an essential, hit-filled document for every collection.

Another welcome reappearance comes in the form of the latest vinyl addition to our Girls Gone Rockin’ compilations; Let’s Have A Party Girls Gone Rockin’ Vol. 2. Compiled and annotated by rock & roll authority Lucky Parker, this is a vibrant, celebratory set which compiles the wildest, rawest femme rockers and features only their most exuberant moments. The personalities gathered on the double LP conjure an incessant, infectious party mood but come from across a diverse spectrum. 32 hits and rarities of fiery R&B, boogie woogie country, demure pop, and rockabilly heat. High spirited revelry fit for any dancefloor.

As well as reappearances from these familiar series’, Fantastic Voyage also presents a newly conceived, imaginitive slant on pop music from the rock’n’roll era. It Takes Two: Dynamic Duos Of The Rock & Roll Era explores the essential duos of the mid fifties and the early sixties with a broad focus accomodating R&B, early soul, rock & roll, country, pure pop and easy listening. Both vocal and instrumental cuts feature, from inseperable, winning partnerships, to fleeting, all-too-brief meetings.  Over the course of a 3CD set packed with 75 duos, Austin Powell draws on his extensive pop knowledge to salute the standout duets of the period, whilst giving an insight into the rich depths of the era’s wondrous pop colloborations.

 

 

July 2014

As we reach the peak of Summer, Fantastic Voyage continues to unearth and definitively collect little heard obscurities, forgotten gems, and well loved masterpieces. Our July releases concentrate on the musical hubs of Memphis and Philadelphia but not in conventional or expected ways. In The Shadow Of Sun represents a companion of sorts to our After Sun compilation, treading in the titanic success of Sun Records. This time however its not the customarily acclaimed stars of Sun which get thorough attention. Instead the independent enterprise of the Memphis labels which followed Sun’s glory is the focus. Its already been heralded as a “secret library of suprises” by Vintage Rock and Now Dig This have defined it as an “essential purchase for lovers of 1950s Memphis music”. R&B and rock & roll authority Dave Penny gathers 101 tracks for Memphis obsessives and Rock’n’Roll enthusiasts alike.
Soul City Philadelphia is another new release which covers a time and music which is often dwarfed by a more venerated period and institution. Although the Gamble & Huff productions on Philadelphia International are frequently classed as the epitome and acme of the Philly sound, our latest chapter in the Soul City series makes a great case for the fledgling soul scene of late 1950s and early 1960s Philadelphia. An oft-neglected essence in the formation of the Philly sound, the work of the Cameo & Parkway labels as well as those of smaller independent ventures is compiled and annotated by soul scholar Clive Richardson. Record Collector has recently given its seal of approval characterizing what features as “some of the hardest dancefloor R & B ever recorded”. Vinyl lovers are also catered for in a 28 track collection which lifts some of the more highly coveted cuts from the 60 track 2CD set. The City of Brotherly Love and the roots of its later hit factories are finally given due recognition.
Our comprehensive curation of Blues guitar heroics also reaches its next instalment following Screaming & Crying. In 2012’s acclaimed collection Neil Slaven pooled the awe-inspiring instances of blues guitar playing that galvanised and fuelled 60s British beat, Jimi Hendrix and beyond. Now on Deep Feeling he traverses three decades worth of the most enduringly enthralling post war blues. His finds form a diverse wellspring of emotion and virtuosity, a 3CD collection with 75 masterpieces which continue to shape the cult and legacy of blues.

June 2014

June sees Fantastic Voyage return to Chicago for Breezy Sugar, a different take on the city’s rich musical heritage to that offered by Chicago Bound last month; we also push into the Sixties with the latest instalment of our ambitious American Music Library series, and provide a vinyl edition of our much-loved Girls Gone Rockin’ compilation.

Magazines have been quick to review Breezy Sugar, welcoming the return of Stuart Colman’s long-running series which captures the essence of rock & roll on a region-by-region basis. Breezy Sugar turns its sites on the Windy City, Chicago, and was afforded the lead review slot in Now Dig This, which opined “something for all tastes scattered around this fine compilation which…comes as a real bargain”. Record Collector decided it was “impeccably chosen, successfully capturing the architects of Chicago’s R&B scene with big names…and cult heroes…receiving equal coverage.” Inevitably Chess gets a look-in, but Stuart’s selection draws on many other labels as well, and there is no track overlap with Chicago Bound.

American Music Library: The Hits Of 1960 rounds up 90 US hit singles which evaded the UK charts, including all 30 Pop Top 10 Hits, all eight additional Country and R&B #1s, and 52 further Hot 100 hits selected by compiler Austin Powell, who also provided the fascinating notes in the 20pp colour illustrated booklet. The American Music Library concept has been welcomed by collectors of hit singles who want a series devoted to US hits, which doesn’t duplicate tracks found on the likes of our British Hit Parade series.

Finally, way back in 2010 we issued Girls Gone Rockin’a 75-track 3CD set of fabulous femme rockers, which has proved immensely popular. Hailed by Record Collector as “a grandly definitive statement”, it spawned the sister volume Let’s Have A Party. Now compiler Lucky Parker has selected 32 favourite tracks for a limited 2LP vinyl edition of Girls Gone Rockin’, complete with annotated insert.

May 2014

May releases from Fantastic Voyage visit  iconic Chicago label Chess and take two very different looks at female vocalists.

Compiled by Lois Wilson (Record Collector, Mojo), Chicago Bound is an 86-track selection of prime blues, R&B and rock & roll, drawn from Chess, associated labels Checker and Argo, and predecessor Aristocrat. Its three CDs “take in all corners of the iconic label’s output”, according to Vintage Rock, while the Now Dig This reviewer observed that some of its tracks “will be unfamiliar to all but the most fanatical Chess aficionado and I can do nothing less than wholeheartedly recommend it to all fans of houserocking R&B and blues.” Nuff said, except that Lois has also selected 32 tracks for a dancefloor-friendly limited 2LP vinyl edition.

Lipstick, Powder & Paint is Austin Powell’s celebration of A Decade Of Girls 1953-1962. Packaged with a delicious 20pp illustrated booklet, the 90 tracks offer a broad survey of female vocal pop, to offer “some good-sized hits along with many decent obscurities” according to Record Collector, concluding “there’s something for everyone here”. “Here come the girls, with 90 pop nuggets”, announced Vintage Rock,  describing the 3CD set as “a rounded listen that takes in all the big names”, drawing attention to “a welcome handful of R&B and country” sides.

Remaining with female vocalists, Voodoo Voodoo has been compiled by pop historian Dave Penny, and turns the spotlight on predominantly R&B vocalists, mostly performing with big bands in the rhythm & rock era 1949-1959. With 90 tracks and names such as Ella Johnson, LaVern Baker, Ella Mae Morse, Dinah Washington, Little Esther and Chubby Newsom, this is real roots of rock & roll stuff. “Blazing R&B from the powerhouses that shook the planet. Can’t get enough!” was Vintage Rock’s verdict, with which we heartily concur. With vinyl aficionados and the club scene in mind, Dave has also selected 32 cuts for a limited 2LP edition.

April 2014

We have a month packed with releases which have already made their way to our bestsellers list!

When we released Doo Wop: The R&B Vocal Group Sound 1956-1960 back in 2011, it was always our intention to carry the story further into the Sixties, and, having taken a detour into “white” doo wop for Doo Wop: The Rock & Roll Vocal Group Sound 1957-1961, series compiler Laurence Can-Honeysett now does just that on Doo Wop Revival: The R&B Vocal Group Sound 1961-1962. With genre expert Marv Goldberg again on board to provide the biographical notes, our new release covers the years that saw the development of an “oldies scene” in New York, which majored on R&B vocal groups. Taking pride of place as lead review in the April issue of Now Dig This magazine, Doo Wop Revival receives fulsome praise. The reviewer felt that CD1 is the most rock & roll, CD2 leans towards the dance crazes of the time, while CD3 gets closer to soul, concluding that the 90-track set is “a great, and great value, collection.”

If you liked Boogie Children: Early Mods’ First-Choice Vinyl, then you’ll love Get On The Right Track: Mod R&B, Jazz & Ska, a new 90-track 3CD set compiled for us by Record Collector & Mojo writer Lois Wilson. The original mods favoured anything that had a good dance rhythm or groove, as the wide-ranging Boogie Chillen amply displayed. Get On The Right Track is more tightly focussed on R&B sounds that found favour on the (predominantly London) club scene of the early Sixties, seasoned with a few jazz grooves and ska sides. With a nod to the current mod scene, CD3 contains some vintage tracks that have gained in popularity more recently. To maximise the sense of nostalgia, the digipack and booklet are stuffed with picture sleeves and label shots of the UK releases on much-loved imprints like Stateside, London, Sue and Pye International. The 2LP vinyl limited edition cherry-picks 32 of the most club-friendly tracks.

Clive Richardson’s popular Soul City series reaches the West Coast this month. Soul City Los Angeles: West Coast Gems From The Dawn Of Soul Music is a 60-track 2CD survey of the R&B emerging in LA and neighbouring areas as the Fifties turned into the Sixties. Soul City Los Angeles mixes chart hits on labels including Arvee, Aladdin, Liberty, Imperial, Ebb and Sam Cooke’s SAR Records, with more obscure collector’s items. The Valentinos (featuring the Womack Brothers), Johnnie Taylor, Don & Dewey, The Viscaynes (featuring Sly Stone) and Johnny “Guitar” Watson are among the showcased artists. As is customary for this series, Clive has selected 28 favourites for the 2LP vinyl limited edition.

March 2014

With the flood waters subsiding and spring threatening to bust out all over, the 2014 Fantastic Voyage release schedule blossoms forth with three exciting new CD compilations and a vinyl collector’s edition.

We have already waxed lyrical about Austin Powell’s new American Music Library series, and many of you have already pre-ordered the first instalment, The Hits Of 1959, which packs in 90 US hits from 1959, none of which made a showing in the British charts. Work is well under way on the next instalment, The Hits Of 1960.

Our latest volume in the Jamaican Sound System Classics series, Jump Blues Jamaica Way, gets a rave review in the latest issue of Now Dig This, which concludes “the whole collection left me with a big grin on my face, having listened to over 3 hours of fun, shuffle, dance, unknowns, classics and, above all, rock n roll.” And who could ask for anything more? Well, how about a 2LP vinyl collector’s edition, cherry-picking 28 of the most in-demand tracks?

From its classy cover photo of the coffee shop at the Safari Motel, Maryland, to the 60 tracks contained within, a great deal of TLC has gone into Teen Dreams, Lucky Parker’s celebration of the teen pop which ruled the charts in the years between the rock & roll era and the advent of the British Invasion. Johnny Burnette, Annette, Paul Anka, Shelley Fabares, Bobby Vee, Frankie Avalon, Connie Francis, Jimmy Clanton and Fabian are all present and correct in this celebration of halcyon days, when summer seemed to be never-ending.

February 2014

Volumes 1 and 2 of The Road To Rock & Roll have been lavished with praise by the music press, and now music historian and producer Stuart Colman concludes his fascinating series with Vol. 3: No Stopping Us Now, which Now Dig This deems “very highly recommended”, observing “the entertainment quota is very high, as is the historical worth”, which is exactly what Stuart was hoping to achieve when he came up with the concept. Volume 3 reaches the years 1954 and 1955, when British labels like Parlophone, London, HMV and Brunswick were releasing a potent mix of American country, rhythm & blues and doo wop, which with the benefit of hindsight can be judged as proto-rock & roll.

Last month saw the release of journalist and BBC Merseyside presenter Spencer Leigh’s second selection of the diverse popular music of France on Echoes Of France Vol. 2, and now he follows up with Fantastic Voyage’s first survey of German pop. Echoes Of Germany concentrates on the 1950s and 1960s, but makes occasional forays into the 1930s and 1940s to offer a full array of swing, easy listening, musical theatre, schlager and rock & roll. Curious about German popular music? Then this is the perfect introduction. Featured artists include Marlene Dietrich, Peter Alexander, Bert Kaempfert and Peter Kraus. As with previous volumes in the series, Spencer has included German-language recordings by a number of non-German performers who made an impact in the country.

February also sees the release of vinyl formats of two of our most popular compilations, Jumping The Shuffle Blues and Jamaica Selects Jump Blues Strictly For You, which each offer a 2LP 28-track selection of the vintage US rhythm & blues which dominated Jamaica’s sound system dances from the dawn of the 1950s.

January 2014

Our first two releases of 2014 couldn’t be more different, but both are equally fascinating.

Thoughtfully scheduled to be in stores ahead of Valentine’s Day, Starry-Eyed Serenaders is packed full of dreamy doo wop, romantic R&B and passionate pop. But it doesn’t require a special date on the calendar to justify acquiring Stuart Colman’s terrific 50-track 2CD selection. In a 4-star review, Record Collector describes this as “a genuine collector’s delight” and observes that “the whole is programmed excellently, and it’s highly likely that even the most hardened vocal-group collector will find gems here”, which is pretty much the verdict of the equally enthusiastic review in Now Dig This. Rarities by The Lions, The Turks, and The Lavenders sit alongside nuggets from better-known artists like The Harptones, The Velours and The Duprees, while even the selections for The Flamingos, Neil Sedaka, The Drifters and Bo Diddley are far from obvious.

One of the most gratifying successes in the Fantastic Voyage catalogue is the Echoes series, in which BBC Merseyside presenter and pop historian Spencer Leigh celebrates the popular music of European countries. The first two in the series explored France and Italy, and Spencer now brings you Echoes Of France Vol. 2, in which some of the artists from the first volume (Juliette Gréco, Django Reinhardt, Jacques Brel, Edith Piaf, Petula Clark, Serge Gainsbourg) reappear, alongside new names including Françoise Hardy, Johnny Hallyday, Claude François and Les Chausettes Noires. Again the recipient of a 4-star review in Record Collector, this is a deeply satisfying and wide-ranging survey  of French popular music from the 1930s to the early 1960s, which as you will have spotted already, is not afraid to include a few French-language performances by non-natives. Watch out for Echoes Of Germany next month!

November News

As November creeps in it’s time for some winter warmers. Sure to generate some heat is It’s A Scandal! Songs For Soho Blondes. Coinciding with the new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Stephen Ward and the West End premiere of new play Keeler, both of which are based on the Profumo Affair, It’s A Scandal! recreates the heady world of Soho clubland, which was the milieu for many of the characters caught up in that story which went very public in 1963. Two of the 25 featured tracks are specifically Profumo-related: at the time of the scandal, independent record label Ember released the opportune satirical single “Christine”, credited to Miss X (actually Joyce Blair with producer John Barry), and the same label also released an EP of songs by Mandy Rice-Davies, an associate of Christine Keeler caught up in the unfolding story. The majority of tracks featured on It’s A Scandal! date from the late fifties/early sixties and are by female singers tackling often risqué material, including “Sex” by Shirley Bassey, “Roller Coaster Blues” by Diana Dors and “Be Not ‘Notty’” by Elke Sommer. Most of this material is hard to find on CD and it will be of considerable appeal to aficionados of burlesque repertoire. With cool jazz vocals, laidback piano and leering brass, this is strip club music, from the camp to the carnivorous! Sleeve notes come courtesy of Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne, who incidentally has just published a terrific book entitled  Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story Of Modern Pop.

If that hasn’t warmed you sufficiently, then how about the second instalment of The Forgotten 45s? The first rounded up 25 tracks apiece from the years 1957, 1958 and 1959, all judged by compiler Austin Powell to be contenders for the British Top 30, but in the eventuality failed to chart. Naturally, this has proved to be irresistible to those record collectors who have already scooped up the British Hit Parade series, and they will now welcome Austin’s return with another 3CD set The Forgotten 45s 1960-1962.  “The tracklisting is spot-on,” enthused Vintage Rock about the 1957-1959 set, and HiFi World deemed it “fascinating stuff”. Well, both sets are now available, so judge for yourself.

Our third November release is also a sequel and continues Stuart Colman’s fascinating Road To Rock & Roll series, which highlights the wealth of trailblazing American recordings that surfaced in the UK ahead of the rock & roll explosion? The 2CD Road To Rock & Roll Vol. 2: Dangerous Liaisons takes the story up to 1953-1954, and has bagged the lead review slot in Now Dig This. According to their reviewer, Stuart’s compilation “serves to remind us that the road to rock n roll was well and truly open to traffic during 1953. The compilation closes with a trio of under-reissued gems that may well still be as obscure today as they were when first released here in 1954. A fascinating collection that’ll have you scratching your head in disbelief one moment, then itching to cut a rug the next.” Hot stuff indeed. And watch out for the third and final instalment No Stopping Us Now in February.

October News

With Halloween at the end of October, there is no better time to release Dead Good: Eternal Classics From The Grim Reaper’s Jukebox. Compiled by Lucky Parker, the 30-track selection is devoted to teen tragedy, graveyard grooves and crypt-kickin’ classics from the rock ’n’ roll era, all wrapped up in a suitably trashy horror sleeve. “A Halloween treat” says Vintage Rock, “a perfect soundtrack for a bit of apple bobbing”, while Record Collector reckons there’s “camp and kitsch appeal aplenty”.

Back in June we released Youths Boogie: Jamaican R&B And The Birth Of Ska to an enthusiastic reception, so we asked Mike Atherton to delve deeper into his record collection for further nuggets, and he has come up trumps with Mash It! More Jamaican R&B And The Birth Of Ska. Many of the titles are making their CD debut on this set, which spotlights the productions of WIRL Records (Eddie Seaga) and Beverley’s (Leslie Kong) as well as their rivals on the nascent ska scene. With five Higgs & Wilson recordings and four Rico instrumentals among the 50 tracks, there is plenty to be excited about. As with its predecessor, there is a limited edition 32-track 2LP vinyl format.

Not only a top-notch electric guitarist, but also an accomplished singer and songwriter, Lowell Fulson ticks all the boxes for blues aficionados. Trouble, Trouble: The Definitive Early Years Collection  has been compiled and annotated by Neil Slaven. The 3CD set  packs in 75 tracks, from Fulson’s 1946 debut for Big Town to his 50s and 60s sessions for Checker, via half a dozen other labels and no less than nine R&B hits including Three O’Clock Blues, Everyday I Have The Blues and Reconsider Baby. And the 20pp booklet has lots of lovely label shots. Emphatically the definitive survey of an influential figure, only rivalled by T-Bone Walker on the West Coast blues scene.

Compiled by Lois Wilson (Mojo, Record Collector) For This I Thank You: Motown R&B, Popcorn And Rock ‘n’ Roll constitutes a thorough survey of the first few years of the Motown family of labels, when they released some of the most raucous R&B, rollicking rock & roll, heart-wrenching early soul and delicious popcorn sides you’ll ever hear. In a 4-star review, Record Collector declared “what this set does really well is guide us through the embryonic Motown Sound…an intelligent mix of known hits and real obscurities.” In other words, this whopping 89-track 3CD set is a must for disciples of R&B, soul and mod.

 

September News

In August we released a limited edition vinyl format of our best-selling rockabilly compilation Good Rockin’ Tonight, which first saw the light of day as a 3CD set back in 2009. This month we finally get around to the sequel, another 3CD set, titled Rockin’ Bones: Red Hot Rockabilly. Again compiled by Lucky Parker, the selection has already elicited praise from Vintage Rock. “Few rockabilly compilations mix classics, obscurities and everything in between as well as this 75-track goldmine.” After reeling off some of the classic tracks included, they conclude “there’s still a healthy chunk of disc space populated by arcane nuggets that should make this a steal for hardcore fans and toe dippers alike.” We rest our case. Oh, and there’s also a 32-track 2LP equivalent for vinyl lovers.

Clive Richardson’s Soul City series reaches the Windy City. Described by Vive Le Rock! magazine as “essential listening”, Soul City Chicago: Chicago Labels And The Dawn Of Soul Music draws on repertoire from the Chess and Vee Jay families of labels, as well as OKeh and One-Derful, to chronicle the emergence of “uptown soul” in the city. In amongst the soul singers featured on CD1 are a number of bluesmen adapting to the times, while there is a preponderance of vocal groups on CD2. Again, there is a limited edition 28-track 2LP vinyl format, which handily alternates up-tempo “shake” and down-tempo “shuffle” sides.

Finally, NYC-based producer, radio presenter and all-round music historian Stuart Colman has been poring over his gazetteer and road maps to identify a multitude of stop-offs around the USA and south of the border into Mexico. What, you may wonder, has this got to do with any of us? Well, Stuart hasn’t been planning his latest holiday, but instead devising a virtual road trip for your delectation. Every destination on The Promised Land: A Rock & Roll Road Map has been celebrated in song by a fascinating diversity of rock & roll, R&B and country artists. Vintage Rock has been waxing lyrical about this compilation too, opining that as well as its obvious appeal to armchair travelers, “it’s perfect for car journeys…and it’ll be invaluable to your mental health when stuck in rush-hour traffic.” So it sounds like you need to buy this 50-track 2CD set for your own good!

August 2013

One of Fantastic Voyage’s best selling compilations has been It’s Saturday Night!, three CDs or glorious, mostly rare rockabilly drawn from the Starday and Dixie labels. Compiler Dave Penny hinted that he might return to the source, and now he has done so in fine style with the 3CD Teenage Blues. Sifting through the mass of custom pressings emanating from Starday between 1955 and 1962, he delivers 101 nuggets of primitive rockabilly and hillbilly bop. These are some of the most sought-after and expensive singles of all time, so track for track Teenage Blues is probably the most valuable set of recordings you will ever own.

Talking of rarities, it must have taken Mike Murphy considerable time and expense to accumulate the original Jamaican 78s from which we have sourced most of Mento, Not Calypso! Before the locals embraced shuffle blues and pioneered ska, mento was Jamaica’s most popular indigenous pop music and it  had a profound influence on the development of reggae. With 51 carefully-chosen tracks and accompanying notes by Phil Etgart, the 2CD Mento, Not Calypso! is unquestionably the best collection of mento yet to see issue, not to mention the perfect soundtrack to Carnival or a barbeque!

August also brings The Forgotten 45s 1957-1959, showcasing 90 singles that could reasonably have been expected to make the UK charts, but didn’t. Packed with singles by hit-makers of the calibre of Gene Vincent, Alma Cogan, Frankie Lymon, Lonnie Donegan, Brenda Lee and Dion, each disc in this 3CD set spotlights 30 misses from a particular year from 1957 to 1959. With a sequel due this autumn, covering the years 1960-1962, The Forgotten 45s offers a fascinating parallel narrative to the British Hit Parade series, as well as being a pleasurable and diverse listening experience in its own right.

Finally, it’s back to rockabilly for our vinyl release, Good Rockin’ Tonight. Cherry-picking 32 titles from our immensely popular 3CD set of the same name, and featuring Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Wanda Jackson, Jack Scott, Janis Martin, Johnny Burnette, and Brenda Lee among its performers, this limited edition 2LP vinyl pressing offers an embarrassment of rockin’ riches.

May 2013

There’s something for everyone this month, as we present three superb new titles, along with another limited edition double LP.

Kris Needs gives us a history lesson on the pioneering and futuristic sounds of experimental electronic music with his compilation ‘High Voltage: Giant Steps & Flashpoints In 20th-Century Experimental & Electronic Sound’

We also present the first in a new series highlighting the twists and turns that led to the birth of Soul, pinpointing the key American cities along the way and their influence on this much loved genre. First stop Detroit!

Ever wondered what happened to the stars that made their name on the legendary Sun Records label? Look no further… Over 3 CDs and 97 tracks, rock & roll authority Dave Penny reveals what these veterans of Sun did next, in the process coming up with a thoroughly satisfying selection of good rockin’ music.

And for all the vinyl lovers, we’ve cut and trimmed Soul City Detroit to fit on an exclusive double LP to keep your turntables turning to the very best selection of Soul that money can buy.

April 2013

April is pack jammed with 3 great CD titles and another Limited Edition 2LP which is the final instalment of our regional rock n roll sets.

First up is our  She’s So Fine: The Rise Of The Girl Groups, a 3CD set  bringing together 95 girl group gems from the golden age of the sound!!!  Rave reviews have been pouring in, with Shindig saying “The broadest analysis yet of this much loved genre from rock’s early days”, and Record Collector saying “This collection is one of the best, intelligently following the development of girl groups”. 

Next up, for all music lovers and avid Mad Men followers, we couldn’t resist the challenge to come up with the ultimate collection for fans of the series. Charting the show’s first five seasons, The Many Moods of Mad Men is the most thorough compilation of the period music. The 2CD set presents a richly diverse four-decades-spanning selection of pop, jazz, lounge, folk, country and easy listening, all in the original versions included in the series, along with a 20 page booklet.

And last but not least is our Twistin USA compiled and annotated by none other than former BBC Radio 1 rock n roll DJ Stuart Colman who is also the man behind our flagship British Hit Parade series. Stuart has dug deep into the vaults to round up 50 US Twist-centric tracks from the golden years of the dance craze that swept the world.

Go on get your hands on  your favourite titles this month!

March 2013

Another busy month here for us with 2 great CD releases and another 3 Limited Edition 2LPs.

First up is Boogie Chillen, released both on triple CD and 2 LP, compiled and annotated by first generation Mod Rob Collins, Boogie Chillen is the most enlightening and informative mod collection yet to see issue, not only provides a fascinating history lesson, but also delivers a compelling 3 ½ hours of great music.  Despite its enduring popularity, the music that inspired the original mod stylists has remained largely undocumented. The 3 CD set to put the record straight, collecting 75 of the most popular and influential tracks on the burgeoning mod scene of the early sixties. The set takes a musical journey, highlighting an array of classic R&B, jazz and rock & roll classics that found favour among those considered Britain’s coolest youths.

The 2LP limited edition of Boogie Chillen selects 24 dancefloor-friendly highlights from the 3CD format.

Next up is Just Wailing, with 50 Masterpieces By 26 Blues Harmonica Heroes!  There’s nothing to compare to the sound of an amplified Hohner Marine Band harmonica in the hands (and mouth) of a master like Little Walter, Walter Horton, Snooky Pryor or Sonny Boy Williamson.  Like Fantastic Voyage’s best selling guitar-centric companion compilation Screaming And Crying, the tracks assembled by blues authority Neil Slaven for Just Wailing were selected for their musical value. Some are obscure but no less forceful for that.

If you’re coming fresh to this aspect of the blues, we can only echo the catchphrase of wartime comedian Tommy Trinder, “You lucky people”.

Make sure you get your hands on our Limited Edition 2LPs which are flying out of the door. Please see the new release sections on the homepage for more info on them.

February 2013

We’ve got a great line up of new releases for you this month! Two 3 CD sets as well as two double vinyl releases!

First off is the 3CD Sun Ra set “A Space Odyssey” selected and annotated by music journalist and long-term Sun Ra fan Kris Needs.  Kris has compiled an often startling array of seminal recordings from Sun Ra’s pre-Arkestra musical apprenticeship and feet finding, working with R&B names of the day, some known but several obscure, even devotees may not have previously known about.  This painstakingly-compiled labour-of-love tribute is intended to reflect Sun Ra’s journey from leaving the Jim Crow oppression of his Birmingham, Alabama birth-place, through his first Chicago recordings then on to New York City, where his unique musical visions could flourish and take off.  The set is ideal for those looking for a way into this previously overlooked giant of the 20th century music’s vast catalogue & self created universe, while a fan-generated work of art for the many Sun Ra collectors.

Our second release is ‘Get Your Soul Right’, compiled and annotated by soul/gospel authority Clive Richardson outlining the roots of Soul Music.  The 3CD set features many of the finest exponents of the Gospel Quartet style, highlighting their massive influence on the development of soul music.  Get Your Soul Right presents a selection of the best-known performers from the golden age of gospel on recordings selected to display their influence on the soul giants of the following decades, both in vocal delivery and musical styles and tempos, be it the hand-clapping revivalists or the tortuous simmering soulful burners.

We’ve then got 2 hot Limited Edition double vinyl + insert releases!

Jazz Noire features 28 of the most sought after tracks from the popular 2 CD 50-track edition.

Three Months To Kill features 32 of the most sought after tracks from the  2CD, 60-track set  highlighting California rock n roll, one of 4 highly acclaimed titles in Fantastic Voyage’s regional Rock n Roll series.

Get your copy quick as we’re already low on these pressings!

Happy New Year!

A very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year to everyone!  Fantastic Voyage has become a huge extended family of music lovers and collectors, so thank you all for this!  We have some hot releases lined up for you in 2013!

November News

So here we are onto our final two releases of 2012 and what a year its been with 24 great releases and our brand new website.  We kickstarted 2012 with our 1961 British Hit Parade series and followed with sets of great Rock n Roll, Rockabilly, Blues, Rhythm & Blues and Pop mighty releases…

First up in our double header for November is ‘Coolsville!’ the companion to our 2010’s much-lauded  Instroville! and our latest vibrant showcase of strains which make up the very backbone of rock ’n’ roll. Coolsville! packs in 50 tracks, including 42 hits, making it another must-have for instro-mentalists.

The art of the instrumental as a sometimes overlooked part of pop music history forms the subject of Coolsville!.  Before surf music took hold in the early ’60s, instrumentals had already been turned into an art form, which reached its peak in the 1957-61 period dealt with here. Sultry twangs, ringing themes and avalanches of tom-tom volleys gripped dancers in pre-disco clubs and were useful for anyone programming TV or radio shows.

Names immediately identifiable with the genre are included here, including Dick Dale, the Fireballs, Piltdown Men, Wailers, Bill Black’s Combo, Sandy Nelson, Floyd Cramer, Santo & Johnny, Ernie Freeman, Duane Eddy, the Shadows, the Ventures, the Frogmen, the Champs, and Johnny & The Hurricanes: a cavalcade of atmosphere-stoking aural escapades.

The set also nods at soul music’s funky instrumental offshoots, with names including the Mar-Keys, the Intruders and the classified Freddy King, while delving into the vaults for the obscurities now expected of any Fantastic Voyage compilation, including the frantic monster mash-up ‘Werewolf’, plus tracks by Jorgen Ingmann, the Atmospheres, the Viscounts and the Parkays. And, of course, no such set would be complete without the mighty Link Wray, here with his sinister cult classic ‘Jack the Ripper’.

All told an often hair-raising or spine-tingling reminder of a genre which has lurked behind rock ’n’ roll’s extravagant front-men, just busting to get out and ring out its place in musical history.

Next up in our double header is the 3CD 102-track deluxe celebration of the greatest rock ’n’ roll film of the 1950s ‘The Girl Can’t Help It”.  Compiled by swing doctor Dave Penny, this set features all the tracks from the film plus, for the first time, many more by its musical stars including singles and rare LP cuts that were promoted off the back of the film, recordings from other rock n roll movies, and other classic sides.

The Girl Can’t Help It brought rock ’n’ roll to groin-swivelling life in living colour, defining a new cultural revolution to focus a generation, providing a mutual relationship launch-pad for the likes of Lennon and McCartney, while setting a genre precedent which was never topped. Part of a deluge of musical exploitation films released for the Christmas 1956 market, in the wake of the success of Rock Around The Clock earlier that year, The Girl Can’t Help It was distinct from most of its hastily-conceived rivals by being shot in glorious colour, and having both a witty script and thoughtfully integrated musical performances.

Initially created by Looney Tunes/action movie veteran Frank Tashlin as a vehicle for new-blonde-on-the-block Jayne Mansfield, the film sparked worldwide teenage rampage when it first appeared in 1956, giving many their first taste of the uncaged phenomenon of rock ’n’ roll as the music’s hottest names strutted and wailed through what would become their signature songs, including Little Richard, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Fats Domino.

October News

October sees another fabulous triple-header bombardment from Fantastic Voyage, this time celebrating Jazz Noire excess anthems, the immortal allure of the automobile and blues giant Memphis Slim, all in the label’s inimitably thorough and evocative style.

 

Drink Up-Light Up! Jazz Noire Tales Of Dope, Booze & Sleaze sees compiler Dave Penny delving beyond the Central Avenue dives and bars first explored on 2011’s sublime Jazz Noire(FVDD121), conjuring up a vivid picture of highs-seeking low life between the 1930s and 1950s by further homing in on the dope, drink and characters like the Reefer Man and Snuff Dippin’ Mama. Springing out of the Depression, this sparkling collection also provides a fascinating glimpse of street life from that period through to the Korean War, from domestic scenarios to dope slang, gutter howls to slinky escapism.

 

Bars were smoky back then with music geared to either raising the temperature at the party or reflecting the mood when things had gone wrong; whether drowning sorrows or exploring the euphoric blanket of marijuana or the heroin making its presence felt around that time. There’s something about an orchestra swelling and ebbing in perfect syncopation, the rudest, cool saxophone uncurling from the blare or ejaculating out of a soft, brassy bed; a kind of lowdown sleaze perfectly suited to the nefarious goings on in the back-rooms and on the corner outside.

 

Subject matter aside, the set catches the rapid evolution of jazz between the 1930s and 1950s, from big band swing to smaller ensembles and early R&B at its most primal, garnished with stellar vocalists. Dave Penny also repeats Jazz Noire’s scene-setting movie themes and finales with ‘Wild Weed’, ‘Reefer Madness’, ‘D.O.A.’ and ‘The Man With The Golden Arm’. Names enjoying a lock-in include Sarah Vaughan, Cab Calloway, Stuff Smith, Dinah Washington, Cee Pee Johnson, Billy Valentine, Hot Lips Page, Jay McShann, Cootie Williams, Wardell Gray, Bull Moose Jackson, Pee Wee Crayton, Doc Pomus, Eddie Cleanhead Vinson, Jimmy McCracklin, Joe Liggins, Earl Bostic and Wynonie Harris, plus many more taking their shots from all angles.

 

From drinking to driving. Candy Apple Cuties & Hot Rod Heroes dips into rock ’n’ roll’s hotwired legacy of automobile anthems and highway love serenades for a tarmac-scorching compilation of that rare kind whose theme is simple but elevated by being beautifully executed.

 

Since the birth of rock ’n’ roll, the car has occupied a special place in teenage rampage and backseat romance, rock ’n’ roll music essential as both soundtrack pumping out of the radio or celebration of heaven on wheels. Over two discs, revving-up engines and screeching brakes introduce 50 road-worthy classics, including lesser-heard gems rarely encountered on CD (if at all) by names such as the Story Sisters, Don Pearly, Burt Keyes, Eddie Ringo, Dave ‘Diddle’ Day, Rocky Davis plus a fleet of over-the-limit roadrunners such as Slick Slavin’s ‘Speed Crazy’, Chuck Higgins’ ‘Motor Head Baby’ and Mike Fern’s ‘Brake Jake’ (not forgetting Johnny Tyler’s immortal ‘Devil’s Hot Rod’).

 

This tyre-shredding set also shows how automobile association brought out the beast in well-known protagonists such as Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Carl Perkins, Roy Brown, Eddie Cochran, Howlin’ Wolf, Merrill Moore, the Del-Vikings, Vince Taylor (in his ‘Brand New Cadillac’), plus a brace of revved-up instrumentals like the Duals’ ‘Stick Shift’, while Gene Vincent warns about the perils of ‘people driving like crazy’ on ‘Why Don’t People Learn How To Drive’, after starting this top gear cruising soundtrack in his ‘Pink Thunderbird’.

 

Thirdly this month, dazzling R&B piano pioneer Memphis Slim is the subject of the latest release in Fantastic Voyage’s highly-popular Definitive Collection series of blues sets. Compiled and annotated by blues authority Neil Slaven, the two discs of Rockin’ The House: The Best of The R&B Years straddle Slim’s post-war years up until he became one of the foremost figures in the early ’60s folk-blues revival, spotlighting his top-notch R&B band. The 50 tracks comprise recordings he made for labels like Hy-Tone, Miracle, Premium, Mercury, Peacock, United, Vee-Jay, United Artists and Strand, and include all seven of his R&B hits.

 

Born John L. Chatman in Memphis in 1915, Slim cut his musical teeth playing anywhere from levee camps to Arkansas roadhouses then Beale Street bars, mentored by Roosevelt Sykes. He arrived in Chicago in 1937, initially bootlegging whiskey, said to have been a pimp, playing piano to pay for his gambling until cutting several singles and hooking up with Big Bill Broonzy in 1940. After World War Two, Slim started leading his R&B band, which, at times, boasted the great bassist-songwriter Willie Dixon and future Blues Brother Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy.

 

The compilation starts in 1946 with ‘Mistake In Life’, Slim’s first release on the local Hy-Tone label, followed by further tracks for the label including the rollicking ‘Slim’s Boogie’ and trademark melancholic blues template ‘Cheatin’ Around’. He first encountered Willie Dixon recording for the Miracle label, the pair sparking their relationship on the blistering ‘Rockin’ The House’ and sublime ‘Lend Me Your Love’.

 

The highlights come thick and fast: hits for Miracle, including chart-topping ‘Messin’ Around’, ‘Blue And Lonesome’, ‘Help Me Some’, ‘Angel Child’‘, sonorous Premium release ‘Mother Earth‘, ‘The Come Back’ predating ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’’s stop-start groove, ‘Harlem Bound’’s autobiographical boogie, sax-enhanced outings such as ‘Train Is Comin’’, ‘Worried Life Blues’, lascivious Nick Cave fave ‘Grinder Man Blues’, the steaming vamp of ‘Steppin’ Out’ (later Eric Clapton’s showstopping showcase with John Mayall) and aching ‘Nobody Loves Me’ (original title by which he first recorded the classic ‘Every Day I Have The Blues’, as made famous by B.B. King). The early 1950s tracks with Murphy’s riveting guitar to the fore are also represented, through to later sessions for Vee-Jay and three tracks from the 1959 Carnegie Hall concert with Muddy Waters which marked the start of the blues’ burgeoning acceptance by white audiences.

 

Slim relocated to Paris in 1962 until his death in 1988, leaving a voluminous and captivating recorded legacy, one of the most fertile and fascinating stretches of which is explored on this sublime set.

September News

Fantastic Voyage’s fabulous September double-header continues the roll, which has seen the label raise the benchmark for knowledgeable, expertly annotated compilations, with Roots Of British Beat: 50 American Records That Shaped The British Invasion and Wail Man Wail!, chronicling the incendiary work of the tenor sax titan King Curtis.

 

It’s well-documented that a seminal array of epoch-making American R&B, blues and rock ’n’ roll songs provided the inspirational well-spring for the UK’s major 1960s musical movements; from the Mersey Beat boom led by the Beatles to West London’s blues revolution as spearheaded by the Rolling Stones. Roots Of British Beat ropes together 50 hugely-influential tunes reaped from the gold-mine of nuggets on which these artists built their early sets, also drawing inspiration as springboard to later triumphs and milestones.

 

With an introduction by BBC Radio Merseyside’s Spencer Leigh, the set uncorks a gamut of songs covered by British and Irish bands during the 1962-1966 Beat Boom years, most hits at the time, many going on to become staples of a wide variety of artists’ repertoires over the ensuing decades. The repercussions of these tracks were seismic. To encounter them under the same roof is both euphoric and fascinating. Here, well-known outings such as Little Richard’s ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’, John D. Louder milk’s ‘Tobacco Road’, Barrett Strong’s ‘Money (That What I Want)’ and Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘The Red Rooster’ can rub shoulders with much-loved tracks which may raise an eyebrow in their original form; for example, the Drifters’ ‘Sweets For My Sweets’ as swept to chart-topping glory by the Searchers in 1963. Memories may also be reawakened with unashamed nostalgic joy, as the Crickets’ yearning ‘Someone, Someone’ looms as a former b-side along with the same year’s future Stones hit ‘Not Fade Away’. The set also boasts crucial blues boom missiles by the likes of Bo Diddley and Slim Harpo.

 

Other names looming large on this inestimably-enjoyable collection include Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Larry Williams, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Gary U.S. Bonds, Ben E. King, Arthur Alexander, Sam Cooke, Lee Dorsey, Mary Wells, Gene Vincent, Bobby Darin, Ray Charles, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, the Coasters, the Shirelles, the Drifters, the Clovers and the Isley Brothers, true to form joined by lesser-known figures including Chan Romero, Johnny Love and Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs.

 

Meanwhile, saxophone titan King Curtis gets the stellar showcase he deserves on Dave Penny’s latest career-defining Fantastic Voyage set in his Architects of Rock ’n’ Roll series. Over three discs and nearly 100 tracks, Wail Man Wail! The Best Of King Curtis 1952-1961 traverses the unmistakable tones of the late Curtis Ousley after he arrived from Texas in New York City in 1952, winning amateur night at Harlem’s Apollo before embarking on a recording career which took him to seminal independent labels and bands with the likes of Lester Young and Lionel Hampton. After settling in New York for 17 years, he declared himself King Curtis, quickly making a name for roaring instrumentals and enhancing countless sessions.

 

With the assistance of K.C. expert Roy Simmonds, Dave Penny has excelled himself in providing both beginner’s guide and record collector’s magnet, starting with Curtis’ rip-roaring role in the earliest days of rock ’n’ roll, collating outings under his own name for labels such as RPM, Gem, Apollo, DeLuxe, Atlantic/Atco, ABC-Paramount, Everest and Sue, also encompassing his time with Alan Freed’s rock ’n’ roll orchestra. Discs 2 and 3 chart some of his memorable recording sessions from between 1952 to 1957, then 1958 to 1961, respectively, names including Solomon Burke, the Willows, Roy Gaines, Neil Sedaka, Wilbert Harrison, the Ruth Brown, Coasters, Waylon Jennings, Lionel Hampton, Bobby Darin, Chuck Willis, the Avons, the Willows, Mickey & Sylvia, the Nitecaps and obscurities such as Washboard Bill.

 

King Curtis was yet another name to fall victim to an early demise, in his case stabbed to death in 1971 after challenging two junkies using drugs outside his Manhattan apartment. The groin-rasping solo on ‘Jest Smoochin’’ alone is enough to convince anyone with a heart and soul that they’re in the presence of greatness, but there are scores of similar moments on this exemplary tribute to one of the musical giants of the last century.

 

As nostalgia and seminal musicianship becomes increasingly more recycled in the 21st century, Fantastic Voyage continues its sublime mission to add quality, knowledge and passion to the presentation of these magical sounds from yesteryear.

August News

Fantastic Voyage let rip with a monumental double-header this month, once more reinforcing the diversity of the label’s ongoing quest to uncover and annotate rich seams of seminal music: Later Alligator heads deep into Louisiana for a rampant collection of rock ‘n’ roll gumbo, while Love Me Do charts the sounds which fed into the future Beatles’ adolescent creative influences.

 

Compiled with Wild Wax Show DJ “Jailhouse” John Alexander and annotated by Lucky Parker, Later Alligator: Louisiana Rock ‘N’ Roll presents a rare gumbo blend of Big Easy R&B, Cajun country, rampant blues-boogie and Bayou swing, served up over two discs brimming with lesser-heard originals and mouth-watering obscurities.

 

Bookending the collection with Jerry Lee Lewis, Louisiana’s most infamous son, is the first sign it means serious business, fellow rockers including ‘Suzie-Q’ titan Dale Hawkins, Bobby Charles, Rod Bernard, Clarence Garlow, Roy Brown, Frankie Ford, Bobby Marchan, Fats Domino, Chris Kenner, Tibby Edwards, Johnny Ray Harris, Roy Montrell, Mickey Gilley, Billy Blank, Ruckus Tyler, Lou Millet, Clarence “Bon Ton” Garlow and many more.

 

Several tracks are drawn from local independent labels including Goldband, Jin, Ace, Ram and Vin, introducing a fervently attractive streak for record collectors as some are on CD for the first time. As with all Fantastic Voyage expeditionary releases, the set’s allure is further hot-wired by oddities and curios, here including a 13-year-old Dolly Parton wailing ‘Puppy Love’ or the Cajun accordion swamp gas of Cleveland Crochet’s ‘Sugar Bee’. Strangest of all is Jay Chevalier, crooning about the Cuban missile crisis over guitar and bongos before a major explosion at the end.

 

There’s a tangible spirit and energy coursing through these tracks rarely found in today’s music which was even unique to the state of Louisiana back then; it’s own brand of spiced-up, cross-fertilising rock ‘n’ roll and country twang, all bathed in steamy swamp fever. To have so many towering examples gathered together on one set is cause for celebration.

 

Meanwhile, Love Me Do: 50 Songs That Shaped The Beatles celebrates half a century since the Beatles made their recorded debut by rounding up some of the wildly-diverse artists, songs and influences which invaded the childhood and teenage psyches of the individuals who turned into the biggest group the world has ever seen.

 

Apart from the expected rock ‘n’ roll and blues which provided life-changing epiphanies for any self-respecting artists coming up in the 1950s, the set also straddles the less likely outings which would manifest in Beatles songs after they had climbed to fame with their signature beat and ballad sound, including music hall, comedy, jazz, girl groups, country, musicals and novelty songs. Compiled by respected Beatlesologist Spencer Leigh (author of Tomorrow Never Knows and other tomes), the set also underlines the Fabs’ grounding in the classic Tin Pan Alley song writing craft.

 

Elvis, Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins have to be here but are restricted to one (less obvious) track apiece. Little Richard’s ‘Long Tall Sally’ is essential for the McCartney ‘Oooh’, but it’s the lesser-known rockers such as Vince Taylor who make the set a fascinating well-spring of insights into the Beatles’ early motivations and inspirations, stretching back to the Quarrymen with Lonnie Donegan’s ‘Rock Island Line’. History itself is represented by the mighty Merseysippi Jazz Band, who opened the Cavern in 1957, while the influence of McCartney’s bandleader dad Jim is evident in the presence of Fats Waller, Fats Domino and other artists whose songs he’s covered, including Fred Astaire and Peggy Lee. Ringo’s early immersion in orchestral faves such as Doris Day’s ‘Sentimental Journey’ showed up later in his solo career. The presence of Lita Roza, Liverpool’s first singing star, is another nice touch, as is Lennon and Harrison’s much-loved George Formby and Peter Sellers, another childhood hero who had been produced by George Martin.

 

Other names to be found on this multi-faceted collection include the Vipers Skiffle Group, Eddie Cochran, Dickie Bishop & His Sidekicks, the Crickets, the Dell-Vikings, Bill Justis, the Quintet Of the Hot Club of France, Slim Whitman, Joe Brown, Tony Sheridan (backed by the fledgling Beatles), Barrett Strong, Billy Fury, Roy Young, the Drifters, Anthony Newley, the Marvelettes, the Shirelles, Cozy Cole, Johnny Kidd & the Pirates, the Crew-Cuts, Nat “King” Cole, Dave Brubeck, Bruce Channel and the Everly Brothers.

 

As both insight into the Beatles’ influences and rollicking trip back into a lost world of musical fun, frolics and innocence, Love Me Do is a fine way to celebrate the Fab Four’s 50th in slightly more unusual fashion.

 

From Louisiana swamp to Liverpool cellar, the Fantastic Voyage continues…

July News

Epochal electric blues, transcendental vocal harmonies and one of R&B’s brightest but shortest-lived supernovas get  the inimitable Fantastic Voyage treatment in this month‘s monumental trio of releases.

Screaming And Crying boasts three CDs which expertly capture the primal excitement of the electric blues guitar, put together by renowned British blues buff Neil Slaven in homage to the music which shaped both his life and a whole generation. The 75 tracks straddle the spectrum of electrified blues which fuelled the British R&B boom of the 1960s and beyond, mixing much-feted names such as Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley with deliciously obscure outings by the likes of Doctor Ross and  Guitar Shorty.

Slaven’s liner notes crucially explain the story behind the roughshod classics which bust out of the set, whether screaming with the joy of musical release, or crying in a pool of despair, amplified through jacked-up guitar strings. Tracks are explained using a thread which shows how the trail-blazing T-Bone Walker influenced the likes of Pee Wee Crayton, Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown, Johnny Copeland and Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, whose aptly-named  ‘Space Guitar’ was obviously a big influence on Hendrix [as were many of the names here].

Noted guitar abusers are present and incorrect, including over-loading Pat Hare in James Cotton’s band, Johnny Otis’ Pete ‘Guitar’ Lewis, while the mighty John Lee Hooker and Elmore James display their inimitable axe attacks on several outings. The fearsome triumvirate of Kings – B.B., Albert and Freddie – get three tracks apiece, as do Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry, along with other axe behemoths from the fifties to the sixties, including Buddy Guy, Little Milton, Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, Tiny Grimes, Earl Hooker, Hop Wilson, Magic Sam, Lowell Fulson, Jimmy Reed’s Eddie Taylor, Mickey Baker, Guitar Slim, Goree Carter and Ike Turner. Slaven’s screaming dizzbuster of a collection exudes  the kind of glow and continuity which can only come from a special brand of knowledge and passion.

Ace’s Wild! The Complete Solo Sides And Sessions celebrates the late Johnny Ace on two discs roping together all his solo singles along with sublime piano sessions for the likes of B.B. King and Bobby ’Blue’ Bland. Compiled and annotated in intricate detail by Dave Penny, the set is high on the lower elements of the battered soul, running the gamut from yearning to regret, highlights including his inimitable grasp of the ’heart-ballad’ on hits including ‘My Song‘, ‘The Clock‘ and ‘Please Forgive Me‘, along with  jumping R&B outings such as ‘Never Let Me Go’.

Hailing from South Memphis, Ace carried all the credentials of a short-lived R&B legend, from lucky studio break leading to huge hit debut on the Duke label, ‘My Song’ spending nine weeks on top of the R&B charts in late 1952, followed by a string of hits, including Cross My Heart’, ‘The Clock’, ‘Saving My Love For You’, ‘Please Forgive Me’ and ‘Never Let Me Go’. But his success was accompanied by ruthless music business skulduggery at the hands of heavyweight music mogul Don Robey, who whisked him to L.A. to sing over the more sophisticated backdrops of the Johnny Otis and Johnny Board orchestras.

By 1954, the pressure was getting to him as recording sessions were fitted around gruelling touring [often supported by Big Mama Thornton, their rare duet on ’Yes, Baby’ also included on this compilation]. Increasingly cushioned by alcohol and prone to depression, Ace accidentally shot himself in the head while fooling with a gun in the dressing room at a Christmas day show in Houston. Robey swiftly cashed in with what became one of Ace’s biggest hits; the heavenly ‘Pledging My Love’, assuring posthumous immortality, further bolstered by tribute singles, featured here as bonus tracks, providing a poignant finale.

Johnny Ace was a monumental talent dealt the worst hand imaginable much too soon. At last, he‘s been given a worthy tribute and consolidation of his short but spectacular career.

The three CDs of Doo Wop: The Rock & Roll Vocal Groups 1957-1961 capture the innocent glory of the doo wop sound which swept the world in the late 1950s, combining with lavish annotation to form one of the most comprehensive documents of this music to date. Continuing the Fantastic Voyage ethos of encompassing well-known genre landmarks while looking deeper into the bottomless obscure independent label mines, compiler Laurence Cane-Honeysett has assembled 96 doo wop diamonds, from the groups which sprang up on the rooftops and street corners of America around 1956-57. Doo wop was initially derived from black vocal groups, their harmonies and style taken up by countless white teenage trios, quartets and quintets, some of which make up the bulk of this hefty compilation slanted towards the poppier end of the genre.

Disc one’s Oom Dooby Doom [1957 to 1959] includes  Toronto heavy hitters the Diamonds, the Mello-Kings, Techniques, Danny & the Juniors, Original Casuals, the Slades, Phil Spector’s Teddy Bears, Aquatones, Crests, Skyliners, Fleetwoods, Mystics and New York’s Dion and the Belmonts. Disc two’s Gee Whiz [1959 to 1960] includes the Eternals, Dion, the Tassels, Fireflies, Passions, Jan and Dean, Knockouts, [non-Motown] Temptations, Safaris, Statues, Kathy Young and the Innocents, Chimes, even Kim Fowley’s Hollywood Argyles with ‘Alley-Oop’. Disc three’s Back To The Hop [1960-61] slides dreamily through already-introduced names plus the Capris, Cathy Jean and the Roomates, Echoes, Donnie and the Dreamers, Timetones, Regents, Castells, Rick and the Keens, Ly-Dells, Nino and the Ebb Tides, Dovells, Lee Curtis, the Tokens’ and Barry Mann and the Halos’ ‘Who Put The Bomp.

This sparkling set serves as both introduction to the untainted rock ’n’ roll innocence of this music, while containing enough fascinating obscurities and rarities to attract the more serious collectors, enhanced by Paul Heller’s extensive liner notes and Chris Buccola’s photos, sheet music and record label scans, gorgeously illustrating this vibrant snapshot of a lost time and genre.

June News

Fantastic Voyage unleash a fearsome triple-headed offensive this month with a clutch of monumental releases, sumptuously illustrating the label’s genre-straddling diversity; from Texan roots of rock ‘n‘ roll to the R&B-fed birth-strains of ska, while also paying tribute to a genuine musical pioneer.

Snazzy Sugar: The Pure Essence Of Rock & Roll From West Texas And Beyond sees legendary British rock ‘n’ roll dynamo Stuart Colman revisit the Lone Star State  in another spectacular instalment of his Pure Essence series, following in the rocking shoes of It’s Saturday Night: Starday/Dixie Rockabilly and Texas Tornados.

With 75 incendiary tracks spread over three CDs, boosted by Stuart’s exhaustive annotation, Snazzy Sugar demonstrates how, when rock ’n’ roll was in its infancy across the US [with most attention focused on the explosive developments in Memphis, Cleveland and New York], West Texas was rearing up with the real call of the wild, beat kicking like a stable mule on heat, untamed singers howling with rebel yell energy, all shot with uniquely idiosyncratic personality and a dash of Southern romance. Names on show mix future stars with intriguing obscurities, including Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Trini Lopez, Waylon Jennings, Sonny Curtis, the Crickets, Lelan Rogers, the Fireballs, Five Bops, Click-Clacks, Leen Teens, Chuck Tharp, Sid King, Ray Campi, Link Davis, Mickey Gilley, Buddy Knox, the Tu-Tones, Champs, Jimmy Dee & the Offbeats, Joe Clay, Sleepy La Beef, Hal Goodson & the Raiders, Teen Kings, Alvis Wayne, Tooter Boatman & The Chaparalls, String-a-Lings, Fireballs, Earl Henry and Kenny Rogers.

If Snazzy Sugar takes a wild, eye-opening ride into the deepest roots of rock ‘n’ roll’s primal gestation, Jamaica Selects Jump Blues Strictly For You: Jamaican Sound System Classics 1944-1960 unveils the mother lode input which spawned ska [and thus rock steady, reggae, etc] on the island of Jamaica. A superlative selection which – and this applies to each of these sets –  provides several hours of the most sublimely entertaining listening to be encountered in this autotuned, soul-diluted modern world. The set follows 2011’s highly-successful Jumping The Shuffle Blues, lashing together 85 sizzling biscuits from the formative 1940s-50s era of the Jamaican sound systems, when the US R&B bombarding the island’s radio waves after World War II was picked up by sound systems such as Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd and Prince Buster, germinating into ska after mating with the Caribbean’s own musical strains.

The tunes being produced in America’s Southern states and cities were loosely termed ‘shuffle blues‘; contagious, jumping and bulging with animated incitements to party, dance or get down and dirty, boasting some of the most volcanic saxophone solos known to man. Our set’s sizzling selection traverses its euphoric shuffle via something of a game plan; disc one‘s The Roots Of Shuffle Blues [1944-1951] is magnificent and seminal  showing, quite spectacularly, how US R&B laid the template for both reggae while creating the blueprint for rock ’n’ roll, riproaring cast including post-war godfather Louis Jordan, Joe Liggins and his Honeydrippers, Roy Milton, Sherman Williams, Dave Bartholemew, Lowell Fulson, Jimmy Liggins, Amos Millburn, Roy Brown and T-Bone Walker.
CD2’s The Golden Years Of Shuffle Blues [1951-1954] is fired up by the likes of Oscar McLollie, Chuck Higgins, Rosco Gordon, Fats Domino, Ruth Brown, Jack Dupree, Chuck Willis, Guitar Slim, the Charms, Marvin & Johnny, Tommy Ridgley, Earl Curry and Floyd Dixon, while CD3’s The Big Three Take Over [1955-1960] arrives at the ska-igniting rhythm firing on the upbeat over walking bass, cast including Nappy Brown, Pias Johnson, the Penguins, Mello-Harps, Big Joe Turner, Shirley & Lee, Vince Monroe, Smiley Lewis, Lloyd Price, Ivory Joe Hunter, Professor Longhair, Clyde McPhatter, Johnny Otis, Earl Hooker, Ernie Freeman and Hal Paige & The Wailers; leaping skank blueprints running amok.

‘Godfather of Rhythm & Blues’Johnny Otis passed away at home in Altadena, California on January 17, aged 90, by which time Dave Penny had already compiled our three-CD extravaganza That’s Your Last Boogie!. It now stands as an ultimate tribute to the singer, songwriter, bandleader, impresario, disc jockey and crucial founding father of rock ’n’ roll.Growing up in Berkeley’s black community, Johnny played a major part in creating a new sound for the growing audience of young urban blacks, starting as a drummer in swing orchestras at 18, forming a 16-piece big band in 1945, when he scored his first hit with Harlem Nocturne. When swing started giving way to R&B based on raw blues and gospel elements, he whittled his band down and started laying early templates for rock ‘n’ roll, discovering and recruiting singers such as Little Esther Phillips, Hank Ballard and [future Coasters] the Robins.     Dave’s latest set in his Architects Of Rock ‘N’ Roll series covers Johnny’s multi-faceted career between 1945-1960. CD1’s sublime smorgasbord of big band jazz and slinky blues. entitled Barrelhouse Stomp after the Watts club he opened in 1948, also features Otis orchestra titles such as ‘Court Room Blues‘, ‘Midnight In The Barrelhouse‘ and ‘The Turkey Hop‘, alongside outings with Wynonie Harris, Joe Turner, Lester Young, [future Coasters] the Robins and Little Esther Phillips. In 1949, Johnny started recording for the Newark, New Jersey-based Savoy label, scoring 15 Billboard R&B chart hits between 1950-52, including number ones with Little Esther & Mel Walker; ‘Double Crossing Blues‘, ‘Deceivin’ Blues’ and ‘Cupid Boogie‘ among the pair’s releases which dominate CD2‘s Rockin‘ Blues, while the Otis Orchestra are represented by gems including ‘Wedding Boogie‘ and ‘All Nite Long‘.

In 1952, Otis discovered Etta James and produced Big Mama Thornton’s original version of Leiber and Stoller’s ‘Hound Dog‘, while enjoying a growing career as a songwriter, already presenting the rock ‘n‘ roll form and attitude soon to sweep the world. While starting his lifelong vocation as a disc jockey in LA, he became a talent scout for King Records, discovering the likes of Jackie Wilson and Little Willie John, while scoring hits including 1958 US top tenner ‘Willie And The Hand Jive‘, included here on CD3’s Going Crazy [1952-1960] with ’Young Girl’, ’Crazy Country Hop’ and ’Mumblin’ Mosie’. Other names included on this most rocking of selections include Etta James, Little Richard, Pete ’Guitar’ Lewis, Johnny Ace, Sugar Pie, Faye Wilson and the great Mr Goggle Eyes August perfectly capturing the time with ‘Oh Ho Doodle Lu‘.

Johnny’s passion, warmth and uncanny musical clairvoyance shines through every track on this magnificent set, capturing many of his achievements at this most crucial time in musical history. Like its pair of bouncing catalogue bedfellows, it’s also one hell of a party album for the summer.