There was never another blues shouter who could match Big Joe Turner for sheer volume (it was as though the guy was equipped with an internal echo chamber) or for the ability to bawl out verse after verse of real and righteous blues. His vast repertoire was acquired during a remarkably long career which stretched back to the bars and clubs of 1920s Kansas City and forward to the dawn of rock and roll in the studios of Atlantic Records in the 1950s and onward ever onward, yea even unto the 1980s, that accursed decade of synth pop and big hair.
This 1985 Pathe Marconi LP brings together tracks from two stages of Big Joe Turner’s long career. The first nine tracks were recorded for Aladdin in 1947 while the remainder are from a 1950 Imperial session at Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Studio in New Orleans.
In truth these years were not a happy time for Joe. His records were selling poorly and the glory days of his partnership with boogie woogie pianist Pete Johnson were a fading memory. Back in 1938 they had travelled from KC to take part in John Hammond’s “From Spirituals To Swing” concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall and had taken The Big Apple by storm. There were successful records such as “Roll ‘Em Pete” and “Cherry Red” on Vocalion, Okeh and Decca. Their music was a precursor to post war rockin’ R&B and yet as swing gave way to rhythm and blues Big Joe found himself being elbowed aside (at least as far as record sales were concerned) by newer younger talents.
He recorded some terrific sides for National (1945 – 1947) and Swing Time (1949) but as the track list below shows, little of his Aladdin material was thought worthy of release at the time. This is a pity, because the reworking of “Roll ‘Em Pete”, “Ice Man Blues” and especially “Nobody In Mind” are all rousing blues. The released “Low Down Dog” and “Back Breaking Blues” are good rockers. The sides recorded with Wynonie are probably best regarded as curiosities, live versions of cutting contests, rather than potential chart breaking recordings.
With his Aladdin recordings failing to sell, Big Joe took to the road, playing clubs around the South and frequently stopping over in New Orleans where he recorded a session for Imperial with Dave Bartholomew’s band in 1950. The band line up included Herb Hardesty on sax, Fats Domino on piano and Earl Palmer on drums. Yet even with such sterling backing and Joe himself on fine form, the Imperial recordings stiffed.
A year later, however, with Joe signed on at Atlantic, his career would take a very different turn. And that, my rocking friends, was our previous post!
Ripped from vinyl at 320 kbps. Password = greaseyspoon
Download from here:
1. Battle Of The Blues (Part 1) * (unreleased until 1968)
2. Battle Of The Blues (Part 2) * (Aladdin 3036)
3. Going Home * #
4. Blues * #
5. Roll 'Em Pete #
6. Ice-Man Blues #
7. Nobody In Mind #
8. Low Down Dog (Aladdin 3013)
9. Back Breaking Blues (Aladdin 3070)
10. Story To Tell (Imperial 5090)
11. Jumpin' Tonight (Midnight Rockin’) (Imperial 5090)
12. Lucille (Imperial 5093)
13. Love My Baby (Little Bitty Baby) (Imperial 5093)
14. Blues Jump The Rabbit (Bayou 015)
* with Wynonie Harris
# = previously unreleased
tracks 1 – 4 recorded for Aladdin in New York, July 1947
tracks 5 – 9 recorded for Aladdin in San Francisco, November 1947
tracks 10 – 14 recorded for Imperial in New Orleans, April 1950
The complete Aladdin and Imperial recordings are on this EMI America CD, "Jumpin' With Joe" which is now quite hard to find. The set is also available as an Amazon mp3 download at an amazingly cheap price. Go git it.