The Early Years: 1930-34
Audio CD | Remastered, Box Set
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Who was hip enough to headline at the Cotton Club in the 1930s and star in 'The Blues Brothers' movie in the 1980s'The list isn't long.As far as we know, it contains just one name: Bandleader/Singer/Entertainer Cab Calloway.How did he do it'The usual 'secrets' - personality, talent, style...perpetual hard work.And an insistence on fine musicians, schooled to perfection.And great big band jazz.This collection shows his early rise to fame. 'Explosive' is the word.The remastering is what you'd expect from JSP...near perfect.A new generation of Cab Calloway fans'
As a young singer Cab Calloway was at his most exuberant, and The Early Years: 1930-1934 has plenty of that exuberance on offer. In 1930, just before his recording debut, he took over a powerful band called the Missourians, and their best soloists (R.Q. Dickerson on trumpet and Thornton Blue on clarinet) can be heard on the first of these four CDs, which includes a startling "St. Louis Blues" as well as the original version of the famous "Minnie the Moocher." Calloway, in spite of a rather nasal tone, was a technically gifted singer who approached songs with the improvising skills of a jazz musician. No doubt because of this he ensured that his bands always swung and contained soloists of character. His repertoire here mixes well-known songs such as "Somebody Stole My Gal" and "I've Got the World on a String" with obscure delights like "Black Rhythm" and "Eadie Was a Lady," but Calloway imparted a unique flavor to whatever he sang. The value of this bargain package is enhanced by the audio restoration work of the expert John R.T. Davies, who has extracted more sonic detail from these old recordings than one would have thought possible. --Graham Colombé
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Top Customer Reviews
This set encompasses the earliest recordings in Cab's incredible career, starting with his first session with the musicians who had once been the Missourians (they changed to the Cab Calloway orchestra when he became their singer) through his years as the top act at the Cotton Club. Before Benny Goodman made swing a commercial smash, Cab and his orchestra were swingin' hard, and you can hear in these first four years of recordings. His band leaps from hot jazz to hard swing to Cab's bizarre slow blues that became his trademark (exemplified in "Minnie the Moocher," heard in two different versions in this set). Cab Calloway was a remarkable showman, a born entertainer, a funny guy, and a unique singer. He was also an exceptional bandleader, and this extensive collection of songs lets you savor the musicianship of the boys in the band in a way that wasn't previously possible.
The first CD shows the band and Cab finding their identity. Cab seems a bit hesitant on the first track, his first recording as a leader, "Gotta Darn Good Reason (For Bein' Good)," but with the second track, a recording of the already old "St. Louis Blues," he finds his groove and starts having fun. And the fun never stops after this.
Here are some of the classic and un-earthed gems and other delightful treasures you'll find here:
Two recordings of "Minnie the Moocher," the first of which is extremely different from what people usually think of the song. (The most famous version wasn't recording until 1942). You'll also hear two of the sequels to "Minnie the Moocher": "Kickin' the Gong Around" (two versions) and "Minnie the Moocher's Wedding Day." Cab does some great nonsense scatting with "Zaz Zuh Zaz," "Hotcha Razz-Ma-Tazz," "The Scat Song," and "Wah-Dee-Dah." Some of the songs have strong racial overtones that reflect the kind of shows the Cotton Club put on for the white patrons: "Yaller," "Black Rhythm," and "Strictly Cullud Affair." These are somewhat unpleasant songs if you focus on the lyrics, but extremely interesting from the historical perspective. (The excellent liner notes discuss Cab's opinion about having to sing songs like this.) And then there's the extremely naughty, but red-hot song about marijuana, "Reefer Man." Cab also croons quite well on some very pretty, slow blues numbers, even though ballad singing wasn't his strength: "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues," "Stardust," and "Six or Seven Times" are among the best tracks on these CDs. Some other personal favorites of mine: "Aw You Dog," instrumentals like "Moon Glow" and "Mood Indigo" that show how great a band was backing up Cab, and the defiant "I Gotta Go Places and Do Things," and...
Oh, there's just too much that's good on these CDs! And how can you turn it down at this price? You also get four informative booklets (actually, it's one continuous set of liner notes spread over four booklets) that detail the history of band, it's many exceptional players, and background on the racial situation of the times, which ties very closely into Cab Calloway's music. This information will help you appreciate the genius of Cab Calloway and His Orchestra even more.
And if you like this, make sure to get JSP's Volume 2 set of Cab Calloway, covering 1935-1940.
A great buy for Cab fans, music fans, and history fans alike!
Why not 5-stars? The sound quality is as good as might be expected, but not truly top drawer. Also, the massing of such a quantity of material, without ciritical editing or selectivity points up the redundancy and limitations of the artist.
It is a super set to have, and to savor in subsections. And the box is certainly well worth the price.