Koko Mojo Records digs up the past and throws it in your face

Get ready all you hep-cats ‘cause there’s reason to celebrate. The good folks at England’s Koko Mojo Records have assembled the kind of compilation that is almost too delicious for words. All 28 tracks of Move On: Vernacular Dances Off The Dance Track are killer-diller no-filler and come complete with the kind of rockin’ balls-to-the-wall craziness that got parents and preachers of the 1950s all freaked out as if their beloved children were going to turn into Zulu savages. And they were right! One listen and you’ll be doing each and every one of these long-ago and far-away dances even if you have to make up your own steps. You might wanna rip your clothes off too and go running down Main Street. That’s what real rock’n’roll is supposed to make you want to do. I myself turned into a total savage upon hearing June Bug Bailey and her “Louisiana Twist.” Then, when Celestine told me to “Shake Baby Shake,” every fiber of my being started quivering like Jello on a plate. Mabel Franklin has a new dance too. Her “Let’s Do The Wiggle” shimmers with static electricity. Little Luther does “The Twirl.” Hank Ballard (the man who invented the twist) does “The Coffee Grind.” Ever do the grind at a school dance? You can bet your bippy that the teachers would try to stop it. Brice Coefield does the “Cha Cha Twist.” Bill Doggett & His Combo do the “Pony Walk.” Charles Sims says you better “Take A Bath” while The Ideals get down with “Go Go Gorilla.” Get the picture? Now take your top off to “Topless” by Rolls Royce & The Wheels. This stuff is so good, I may never listen to anything else ever again.

For those who shy away from the dance floor and are more inclined to love and be loved, Koko Mojo is not forgetting you. May I then humbly suggest Love Shock: About Those Beats From The Heart. Here, Sax Kari’s “Chocolate Fizz” is just the tip of a 28-track libidinous and oftentimes hilarious lovefest. From the pen of the great Chicago blues man Willie Dixon comes “29 Ways” by John Little John. That after-sex glow was never more evident than when Crown Prince Waterford does “Get Your Clothes & Let’s Go.” Ray Johnson just wants the object of his lust to “Shake A Little Bit” while Harold Burrage admits “You K.O.’d Me.” Joe McCoy has a “Dizzy Little Girl.” Elmar Parker & The Light Lighters do “I Like The Way You Walk.” The legendary Junior Wells chips in with “Lovey Dovey Lovey One.” That “Kansas City” guy, Wilbert Harrison, wants his love to “Say It Again.” As with most compilations, there’s a few clinkers, but almost all of Love Shock is to dance and romance to.

The 28 songs on Don’t Mess With Me, Baby, ‘Cause The Trouble With Me Is You just might be Koko Mojo’s greatest compilation of them all for it here where Bull Moose Jackson gets the party started with “Watch My Signals,” Little Willie John (he of “Fever” fame) warns “Leave My Kitten Alone” and Champion Jack Dupree lets loose with “”Stumbling Block.” These are songs about when love goes bad and half the time it’s because, as Big Red McHouston sings, “I’m Tired.” It all ends with Baker Knight telling his ex to “Bring My Cadillac Back.” A finer mess of ‘50s and early ‘60s rarities couldn’t be found!

Koko Mojo’s final entry in this month’s blog—Burning Frets: The Rhythm, The Blues, The Hot Guitar—is pure unadulterated blues with the accent on burning guitar that seers its way into your brain. This is the stuff that galvanized a generation of young ‘60s future British rock stars like Eric Clapton, Brian Jones, Peter Green and so many others. Lazy Lester, Guitar Shorty, Alton Joseph & The Jokers, The Fabulous Silver Tones, Pee Wee & His All Stars, Chuck Harrod & The Ant Eaters, John Fred & The Playboys, Little Luther, TV Slim, Jackie Brenston (of “Rocket 88” fame), Blue Charlie, The Sharps and The Valiants all play that stinging guitar brand of blues and the fact that you’ve never heard of most of them is all the better like discovering a treasure trove of brilliant gem stones. Highlight: Bolivar Shag Nasty’s “Tapping That Thing.” Bravo!

I’ll never forget seeing Marcia Ball pound her piano in the brilliant sunshine of the 2015 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Holding a drink made it difficult to dance without getting sloppy but when Ball started singing and wildly pummeling her piano like the true Louisiana hero that she is, all bets were off. I might’ve bumped into a few folks in my abandon but I knew I might never get to see her again. She’s a woman in a man’s world of hardcore blues’n’boogie piano stylists who can sing up a storm and rouse a crowd. Shine Bright (Alligator), is yet another reason why 2018 is a fem-centric tsunami on so many levels. She has the balls to cover “What Would I Do Without You” by Ray Charles and make it sound just as good. Jesse Winchester’s “Take A Little Louisiana” is the perfect closer. She wrote some damn fine songs here and has some grade-A backing, kitchen sink-style, but nothing gets in the way of this unflappable unsinkable larger-than-life cultural superstar who should, in a perfect world, be a household name.

First Things First (Outside In Music) by saxophonist/composer Andrew Gould is a such a startling debut that one has to wonder why he didn’t do one sooner. After all, he’s played with the best and the brightest including James Moody, Benny Golson, Wallace Roney, Jon Faddis and a host of other like-minded New York City jazz luminaries. But it is here where he unveils his consummate mastery of not only alto and soprano but the kind of FX pedals that will have even the prog-rock listeners excited.
With the help of piano, Fender Rhodes, acoustic and electric bass, drums and a panoply of percussion, Gould wrote—after keyboardist Steven Feifke’s opening tribute “The Goulden Ratio”—nine originals that smack of creativity and take from his Manhattan adventures in the form of quartet, quintet and even one vocal track featuring Ioana Vintu (“On A Darker Moon”). From funk to electronica, this jazz is awash with vibrating solos, unerring ensemble play and, of course, a little blues. Inspired by John Coltrane and Joe Henderson, Gould goes round and round with a flurry of cascading notes offset by his own stop-on-a-dime syncopation and surprise swoops of long, drawn-out gorgeous lines of beauty. His sax sings like a human voice and that, I’ve been told, is the ultimate compliment.

About Mike Greenblatt

A longtime music journalist, Mike Greenblatt is a contributing editor with Goldmine magazine.

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