Wednesday, October 7, 2015

At Home With Screamin' Jay Hawkins

It may have taken forever, but I finally got a 1950's review done :). Up until today I had one for every decade from the 1940's to 2010's, with the exception of the 1950's. I hoped In The Wee Small Hours would be the first, but that will be up soon enough, and I also want to do one for every year starting in at least 1950 maybe 1945 (album's as we know today weren't really released until about the 50's). I don't get why I always ramble, but anyway. Continuing the Halloween theme of my reviews we continue with this the debut album by Screamin' Jay Hawkins and features the original recording of I Put A Spell On You. The thing is there are albums that are titled I Put A Spell On You but those were reissues of the album. This is the original. I'm super glad they finally added to to Spotify after forever and love that they finally did. Also something I want to note, for those who don't know, he was a boxer.
  1. Orange-Coloured Sky: This is a cover of the 1950 Nat King Cole track. And this is a pretty great track. I mean it's exciting, up beat and infectious. I mean I kinda wanna get up and dance to this track. Great presence, get vocals with energy. And damn he on this track alone earns the title Screamin' Jay. I listened to the original and this is if Nat chain smoked and did a bunch of upper, and so did the band. Another quick note, when I first heard this I imagined it playing in the movie Elf. 
  2. Hong Kong: Only one of a few tracks that are originals. It is also musically similar to the progression of I Put A Spell On You. Except this features, what I assume, is him attempting to fake Chinese. Well at parts of the song, but it's so not even close. I mean I can barley kinda think of that as being even faux-Chinese. Most of it sounds like gibberish. I kinda think this may take another listen or two, but I isn't nearly as good as IPASOY.
  3. Temptation: This is a cover of the 1937 Bing Crosby track from the film Going Hollywood. Love the eastern feeling. And his voice adds to it, and makes it more musical. Like I doubt he hits the notes Bing hit, but I feel like this is how a normal person in his vocal range would sing it. I seriously can't find anything wrong with this track. I also love the bass in this track, it really reminds me of something I could hear John Zorn doing in one of his more conventional Book of Angels composition. Actually this could be one of those. I also love the set up this give, it's kinda of a prelude (eastern part) for what is to come in the next review.
  4. I Love Paris: This is a Cole Porter track, my favorite of his being Let's Do It. I dig the classic feeling of the track, but I also like the accordion in the beginning. Or at least the accordion-esque instrument. This has a guitar that I could imagine Django playing, but not in his solos. Like in the vamps parts maybe. It's got a swing to it. Also he does the faux Chinese, which I now know isn't because he does it in the Paris song. Again, surprisingly, another solid track.
  5. I Put A Spell On You: One of my favorite songs, and the best version of the song. The only other rendition I fancy is the Nina Simone version. But regardless, how the fuck could you not love this track. It's so creepy, and just.... not that this makes sense, but when I hear this original recordings horn and everything verses, I just think of the word Macabre (thought the correct term may be cabaret). Also a fucking great saxophone solo, thought maybe a tad to short. But I mean it's so laid back, it isn't horrifying. I feel like if this was played straight, and made today you'd be shitting your pants. I can't believe I have so little to say about this, but it's also so well known I doubt everything hasn't been said about it.
  6. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot: A traditional song that is pretty great. I really haven't heard a bad verison of this song I can think of. And taking me completely by surprise, he decided (or the arranger or producer) to go the full out Gospel A Capella route. Though there is an pipe organ in the background. I kinda feel like crying when I listen to this. The only bad part is there are some parts where it's completely silent in between Jay's vocals and the choirs. Or at least you have to really listen (headphones) to hear that it's all together, vs parts just cutting out. And by the way I did cry, well just a bit. This also reminded me of a gospel album I listened to not to long ago. From 1967 The Edwin Hawkin Singers track it's Pray For Peace.
  7. Yellow Coat: An original song by Hawkins and Irving Nahan. This is straight up Rhythm and Blues. Like this sounds like it could have been in the Blues Brothers. And I imagine The MG's playing the backing music. Or at least the basis of the MG's. The major difference between the two is, I'll return to this track. Where as for the BBs I don't think I'll listen to them play more than the initial time. 
  8. Ol' Man River: This is a cover of the Hammerstein & Kern track from 1927's Showboat. This goes down the sole, piano vocal route. Well mostly, there are bursts of other instrumentation, which are as uppity as Orange-Coloured Sky. Also once the song ends, it goes for a jazz reprise. Like a big band vocal jazz rendition that I could imagine Cab Calloway maybe doing. Althought Cab would sing higher.
  9. If You Are But a Dream: This is a track that dates back to 1913 and was originally used as a part of the revival of The Honeymoon Express. Anther track that I kinda am not feeling as much as the earlier track. I think the thing that keeps this track from not working for me is the whole 50's rhythm and blues, doo-wop, I-vi-VI-V style progression. Now I may be wrong in the exact progression [used in the song], but I was talking more about the feeling I get.
  10. Give Me My Boots and Saddle: This track is from the 1937 film Boots & Saddles and is originally sung by Gene Autry. And the second this song starts I figured it was a Gene Autry track. It's very country, cowboy, western vibe. Though the guitar is borderline surf feeling, esp during the chorus. I also like that guitar solo. And another solid sax solo. The surf aspect makes me like this, more so than if it wasn't here. 
  11. Deep Purple: This is a cover of the standard by Peter DeRose. This is a cover of the song where the British hard rock pioneers of the same name, got their band name. Before that they were named Roundabout. I kinda feel like this would be a good closer to the album. It's got a very sleepy feeling, and the same kinda of nite time feeling that I think of When You Wish Upon A Star. It also has a music box (?) or a harp twinkling. I can't say I love it, but it's still pretty solid.
  12. You Made Me Love You: This has a very drive in feeling. The kind I think would be better fit as maybe not the closer. It also has the doo-wop piano. So technically be default I can't hate this song. I can not like it, but I can't hate it. While I don't like this, or think it's anything special first time though I have this feeling. The feeling is I'll be listening to this multiple times after this.
Overall I have to give this album a 8/10. Taking me by surprise, this is fucking great. Easily one of the best albums I've heard from the 50's. The album seems to kinda slow down in it's quality after what I am figuring is the first side. But regardless of it's downsides, check this bitch out it worth the listen. I could see this possibly being, at some point a 7 or 7.5 but I also can see it growing on me too. So only time will tell. Something I've learned over the years is if an artist is good, and you love a song on an album, usually there's another (at the very least) good song on that album. And while I have proof that isn't necessarily true, read some of my reviews, I still believe it. This album is a perfect example if that. Another strong point is the LP doesn't really repeat itself, outside of Hong Kong. All the tracks are different enough to get thumbs up, and it certainly is in no way a boring album. 

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