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Bill Elliott Review
Appeared in the Dance Forum, June 30, 1997

The Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra
Calling All Jitterbugs (1997) ***
Swing Fever (1994) **

The Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra is well known to those who have been to Catalina, as they are always the Saturday Night band. You may have also heard them doing "Struttin' with Kate" on the Can't Top the Lindy Hop video, with the performance by Erin Stevens and the Pasadena Ballroom Swing Society.

Their first album, Swing Fever, is has good instrumentals tunes, but the vocal tunes are Manhattan Transfer Society, that are kind of cheesy. It is not a bad record, with 4 or 5 Lindy songs, (1 slow, 2 fast, 1 very fast). However, it has the killer-diller (very fast) tune "Struttin' with Kate", which makes it worth owning. [** out of 4]

Their new album, Calling All Jitterbugs, is a much better album than Swing Fever. The vocals a better. It contains 7 good Lindy songs, (1 slow, 3 medium, 2 fast, 1 very fast). [*** out of 4]. You should be able to order it off of their web site.

Mitch Woods Review
Appeared in the Dance Forum July 7, 1997

Mitch Woods
Keeper of the Flame
(1996) L
Shakin the Shack (1993) LLL
Solid Gold Cadillac (1991) L
Mr Boogie's Back in Town (199?) LLLL
Steady Date (1989?) LLL

I love to dance to Mitch Woods. However, last year's album, Keeper of the Flame, presented me with a dilemma. Musically, it is Mitch Wood's best album -- but it is NOT a dance album. It is a blues album, and if you like blues, you should consider it. On each cut, he pairs himself with another bluesman, featuring John Lee Hooker, James Cotton, Earl King and Johnnie Johnson.

Shakin the Shack is a very good dance album. It contains 5 lindy songs (1 slow, 1 medium, 3 fast, 0 very fast), 1 west coast and 1 zydeco. "Honkin', Shoutin', Pumpin', Poundin'" and "Long, Lean and Lanky" are my favorite cuts.

Solid Gold Cadillac is an OK album. It contains more dance music than Flame, but is not as good musically.

Mr Boogie's Back in Town is an excellent Lindy album. It contains 8 lindy songs (0 slow, 1 medium, 7 fast, ) very fast), 0 west coast and 1 zydeco. It also contains the great slow song "Ive got news for you." My favorite Lindy cuts are Roy Milton's "What Can I do?, "Seven Nights to Rock," and Louis Jordan's "I Want you to be my Baby."

Steady Date! is a very good dance album. It is also the album I learned to Lindy to. It contains 8 lindy songs (2 slow, 1 medium, 5 fast, 0 very fast). My favorite cut is "Short, Sweet and Tender."

The Love Dogs Review
Appeared in the Dance Forum July 14, 1997

The Love Dogs
I'm Yo Dog
(1996) LLLL
on Tone Cool Records; distributed by Rounder Records It may be in your record store. If not, try 1-800-44DISCS

The Love Dogs are a killer dance band out of Boston. They are an R&B band, sometimes with a touch of New Orleans. When you see them live (and you should), they have a lot of energy. This energy comes through on the record I'm Yo Dog Buy this record---it is an excellent album, containing a mixture of finger snappin' tunes. I count 6 Lindy tunes (0 slow, 5 Medium, 1 Fast, 1 very fast), 1 West Coast or very slow Lindy, and some good slow songs. like most of the songs on the album, especially "Big & Hot" (west coast) and "Safronia B."

Steven Mitchell Review
Appeared in the Dance Forum July 21, 1997

Steven Mitchell
Just Wanna Swing

1996, LLL
Send a check for $18 payable to Steven Mitchell to:
Steven Mitchell
288 Bellefontaine St
Pasadena CA 91105
Questions -- call Michael Blade at (818) 889-2808.

Steven Mitchell, yes, the dancer, has produced a CD, Just Wanna Swing. In fact, he co-wrote the songs, set the tempos, sings and raps. The rest of the band is a jazz sextet, giving them a "thin" sound, instead of a fuller big band sound. Steven's singing, on about half of the cuts, is surprisingly good. The rest of the cuts are instrumentals.

As you would expect from a dancer, the album is almost all danceable. Almost all cuts are medium speed Lindy. Songs are jazz/swing, mostly upbeat, but a little "thin."Although I like the album, I find that the "thinness" and the similar tempos end up making the cuts seem long (8 of the songs have the same tempo). Most songs start out very catchy, but there aren't enough instruments or tempo variations to provide the type of variety that I like. Surprisingly, most songs do not have a lot of breaks.

I think this album is good to play at dances. Some song on the CD is likely to stick in your mind. For many people that song may be "Jitterbug Stroll," where Steven calls out the moves to his own tune, not Ryan's traditional "Woodchopper's Ball." This helps people like myself, who have never really practiced the Jitterbug Stroll.

This is a pretty good album, and Steven shows a lot of potential. Buy it if you like a jazzier, sextet kind of sound, or just to see what Steven likes.

Royal Crown Review
Appeared in the Review of Events July 28, 1997

This week, Bill has revamped the reviews a little bit, adding in '*' for musicality and adding a category for the type of music. Basically, '*' indicate how good the music is, while 'L' indicates if you can dance to it or not. The categories are basically Big Band Swing, Jump Blues, Rock-n-Roll, and Jazz Swing. Someday we will go into what these mean and their evolution, but for now Glen Miller is an example of Big Band (lots of instruments), Louis Jordan is Jump Blues, Bill Haley is Rock-n-Roll and Benny Goodman Sextet is Jazz Swing (fewer instruments, greater syncopations)

This month, reviews go to the movies. We start with "The Mask."

Royal Crown Revue
Kings of Gangster Bop
1991 L, ***
Big Daddy Records

Royal Crown Revue (RCR) is the band featured in the movie The Mask, doing the song "Hey Pachuco" that is danced (not Lindy) to in the movie. The other band's music in the movie is the Brian Setzer Orchestra.

RCR looks like a swing band, they think that they are a swing band, and they call themselves the "Kings of Gangster Bop." (Note, however, that Bop is what Jazz turned into after Swing). Although this album pre-dates the current trend, RCR is a "cigar and martini" band, not a dance band, at least not on this album. I like fast songs. But I have met my match. I cant dance to most of the songs on the album, because they are too fast. However, I like the album to listen to. It has a lot of nice songs that I wish were slower. But you wont fall asleep on the way home from a dance listening to this.

Although the L vs * issue has existed all along, this album forced it, because I gave it only one 'L'. Dont get me wrong -- I would much rather listen to this album than to Steven Mitchell's, but I would much rather dance to Steven's. Although I have not seen the group myself, I have heard that they are just as fast live.

Brian Setzer Review
Appeared in the Dance Forum August 4, 1997

This week we continue our look at the movies, completing The Mask with The Brian Setzer Orchestra. Brian is the former leader of The Stray Cats. An amazing guitarist, but a so so singer. I have a soft spot for Brian - I like the Stray Cats, and they put on the best live show I ever saw (Ontario Theater, 1982).

The Brian Setzer Orchestra
The Brian Setzer Orchestra

1994, LLL, **, +WC

On this CD, Brian moved from the 3-member Stray Cats to a full 17-piece orchestra. Even with 17-pieces, however, it does not sound like Glenn Miller -- they swing, they rock, they have a lot of energy. This is a popular album among the swing crowd, and for good reason. The album contains a number of songs to Lindy (at least 2 each of slow, medium and fast) to; as well as at least 2 very solid West Coast Tunes ("Lady Luck" was Diane Ramsey's demo tune for a year). The solid musicianship masks the weak vocals by Brian. The album contains a mixture of old and original tunes.

The Brian Setzer Orchestra
Guitar Slinger

1996, X, *

This CD is a big disappointment. Still with the 17-piece band, Brian tries to Croon. Frank Sinatra is not worried, and neither is Harry Connick. This CD is a mixture of ballads, 50's rock 'n' roll, punk tunes and just not very good songs. Tom Koerner and I think "Hey Louis Prima" is one album's few saving graces, but we may be in the minority.

Voo Doo Daddy Review
Appeared in the Review of Events August 11, 1997

This week we continue our look at the movies, looking at Swingers, the movie at least partially responsible for the Martini Nation. I liked the movie a lot, but I do think that it is probably more of a guy movie. The movie has about 2 min of dancing, and this week we feature the band. As it turns out, the people dancing also have a band, who we will review next week.

I would like to add a plug here for Hepcat Records. They offer very good selection, pretty good prices, and very good service. If you are having trouble finding CDs, check them out!

Voo Doo Daddy
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
1994, L **

I know that our California readers are going to be shocked by this week's review. I know that seeing Voodoo Daddy at the Derby is the height of fashion in LA. But whatever comes across in their live show does not come across in this record. It is NOT a Lindy album. Like their label-mates Royal Crown Review, BBVD's songs are too fast, too long, or both. Fine musicians, largely Guitar and sax based, mostly original tunes, in the same "Gangsta Swing" style as Royal Crown. OK to listen to, although I think that Royal Crown's album is stronger. Very polished. But not much here to dance to. Get next week's record by Flattop Tom instead to dance to.

Flattop Tom Review
Appeared in the Review of Events, August 18, 1997

This week, we finish our look at Swingers this week by looking at one of the dancers, who is also a band leader.

Flattop Tom and his Jump Cats
Rockin' and Jumpin' the Blues

1996 LLL, **

This record contrasts nicely with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (BBVD, reviewed last week.) While both have energy, BBVD's CD is smooth, polished and not danceable; while Flattop Top is rough and uneven, but very danceable. The album is in the blues, jump blues and R&B category. The 7 piece band is lead by Tom Hall, AKA Flattop, on harmonica and vocals. Typical songs are "Bloodshot Eyes," and the early rock 'n' roll song "Seventeen."

This CD has 21 cuts, most of which are medium speed Lindy. I personally would have left a couple of the songs off, but think that there are a number of good cuts on the album. Of special note is "Savoy Swing," a song that happens to mention Frankie and Norma (although my favorite is "Cats Meow"). There is a fair amount of variety in the tunes, but all in the same early 50's style, and all harmonica lead. Tom's vocals are better suited to some songs than others, but other band members take the lead on some songs. I would say that their original tunes are better than their covers, which bodes well for their next album.

In all, the album has a lot of cuts that you can dance to, and a couple that will stick in your head; but is rawer than you might want to put on for you friends who dont dance.

Swing Kids Sountrack Review
Appeared as a special e-mail August 25, 1997

This week, we finish up with movies for a while looking at Swing Kids. Not a very good movie, now was it? But how is the soundtrack?

Movie Soundtrack
Swing Kids

LL, ****, 1993

Although this album has 16 cuts, I dont know why they included the original soundtrack music. I certainly got the CD for the 8 swing cuts. The 8 cuts are mostly famous tunes, half of which are remakes, done well and faithfully to the original. The 4 originals are an obscure version of "It don't mean a thing (if it ain't got that swing)," and Benny Goodman doing "Flat Foot Floogee," "Swingtime in the Rockies," [at supersonic speed] and "Goodnight my Love." The remakes are an excellent but obscure Count Basie track "Shout and Feel It," which some people will recognize as the Simon and Louise demo tune from Cant Top the Lindy Hop, "Life Goes to a Party/Jumpin' at the Woodside," "Bei Mir Bist Du Schon," and, of course, "Sing, Sing, Sing".

The good songs are interspersed with the filler music from the soundtrack. This means that it is a good album to play cuts off of, but not a good album to sit down and listen to. The good tracks are fast (3 very fast and 1 too fast), with the lessor tracks being medium and slow. "Sing, Sing, Sing" is 5 min long, a shorter and tighter version than Carnegie Hall. The quality of the recordings is quite high, and if you are looking for fast tracks to demo to, you have come to the right place.

Duke Ellington Review
Written by: Frank
Appeared as a special Labor day e-mail, September 1, 1997

This week, we feature one of our favorite records, a compilation of works by Duke Ellington Cotton Club Band.

Duke Ellington
Braggin' In Brass


This album, actually a two CD set, has so much good stuff on it that a thorough review would be quite long. The two discs show the Cotton Club band at its finest. There are lots of good dance tunes and some spectacular feats of wizardry that make you sit down and quitely say "wow." There are 32 tracks, 16 per disc and all were cut during 1938 when the band was at the peak of perfection. You can't help but dance to "Love in Swingtime", "You Gave Me the Gate", "When My Sugar Walks Down the Street", "Hip Chic" and "Slap Happy". If you want to demo, there's "Steppin' Into Swing Society", the song that Gunther Schuller goes nuts for. The prize(s) of the lot are two cuts of "Rose of the Rio Grande" in which Ellington was trying to decide whether Lawrence Brown should play the lead on a Slide Trombone or a Valve Trombone--both are killer dillers and Ivy Anderson delivers a tremendous vocal performance on both. We like the slide version (cut #12 disc 1) best because it has a delightful slurring of the notes. Another good demo song is "The Gal from Joe's" which really shows off Johnny Hodges on sax.

Sonny Greer's percussion will thrill you on the "Black and Tan Fantasy" although it isn't a dance number. Trumpet players will get a kick out of Rex Stewart's cocked-valve e-natural on "Boy Meets Horn". Also, the title cut "Braggin in Brass" is just that--those who actually play musical instruments will be even more astounded at the technical pyrotechnics here, perhaps the best ever ensemble playing ever recorded. All of these songs were carefully tried out in the Ellington band's road tours, so the recording sessions have benefit of knowledge of what the dancers wanted.

This set is about $30 so it isn't cheap. It is somewhat hard to find, although I have seen it at Borders and Olssons. We keep this in the car and listen to it over and over again---you will, too.

The Big Six Review
Appeared in the Dance Forum September 8, 1997

The Big 6
Ready to Rock ...!

1995 LL ***

[Note: The Big 6 have a new album, name unknown, that will be reviewed next month].

As the title suggests, this album rocks. It also jumps, but it does not really swing. The Big 6 are a "super" group out of England, "super" meaning that they have pulled the best musicians from other bands. I bought this album because SwingTime magazine gave it 5 martinis. Although I like the album, I would not go that far.

This album contains 20 songs, many of them 50's remakes or originals that sound like 50's tunes. Although the Big 6 has many influences, it sounds to me like Bill Hailey was the largest. If you like to lindy to Bill Hailey, then you should like the album. If you are looking for swing music, you came to the wrong place.

Unlike the old 50's albums, however, this album has superior recording and producing. The band has a very big beat. If Steven Mitchell's 6 man band produced a "thin" album, then these 6 guys produced a "thick" album.

The drummer on almost every track beats his sticks on the metal part of the drum, which would give one song a distinct feeling, but gets kind of repetitive over the entire album. And although the other members show more variety, many of the songs have the same feel to them. A couple of the cuts I like are "Mama Weer All Crazee Now," "At Last" and "Tiger Feet."

If someone wanted to argue that this is really an East Coast album instead of a Lindy album, I would not disagree. But still, I like the album, and will purchase their next one.

Sugar Ray Review
Appeared in the Dance Forum September 15, 1997

For the next few weeks, we will be looking at albums that are either reissues from the 50s or have a 50s sound to them.

In the 50s, there was blues swing, "jump" blues, and Rock and Roll. We will look at some of each.

Sugar Ray's Flying Fortress
Bim Bam Baby

1996 L, *

This week we look at Sugar Ray's Flying Fortress. Sugar Ray is one of the members of the Big 6, who we looked at last week.

This record has a very 50s feel, was recorded using vintage technology to sound that way. Sugar Ray starts out on the first two cuts as Roy Milton, blues shouter. But then he turns into Dean Martin, lounge lizard. This is not a good thing.

I wanted to like the record, but I dont. Its like you took a swing band to Vegas. There are some cuts that I like, but not many. There are at best average versions of songs like "Bei Mir Bist Du Shon" and "Take the 'A' Train." The version of "Reelin and Rockin'" is an inferior copy of the Johnny Nocture version. This might be OK for a band to play live, but I would hope that you would have better arrangements on a CD.

I think that the musicians are very good, but that their is a poor choice of material, poorly arranged. Maybe I just dont get this 50s lounge thing, because SwingTime gave this record 5 martinis, it highest mark; the same as The Big 6. And I dont think that the CD's are in the same league at all.

Gene Krupa Review
Written by: Frank
Appeared in the Dance Forum September 21, 1998

While Bill is away, we are going to sneak in another reissue of music from the Swing era. Some have said that we are much too liberal with our praise when we do reviews, since Bill has established a reputation for conservatism. We feel, however, that we would be remiss if we gave the Gene Krupa "Atlantic City Band" anything less than four stars and four "L"s.

Gene Krupa
Wire Brush Stomp

1993,LLLL,****,Big Band

Gene Krupa was the "Drummer's Drummer". He had an inordinate sense of rhythm and studied his craft intensely. While part of the legendary Benny Goodman band, he became a cult figure with Louis Prima's "Sing Sing Sing", a Lindy anthem that he almost singlehandedly created when he refused to stop drumming and led the Goodman band to blend Chu Berry's "Christoher Columbus" (the next song on the playlist) into the potpourri. Krupa's work is relatively spare and but urgent - he makes "Sing Sing Sing" jump with an incessant beat on the floor Tom. Brooks Tegler tells us that this idea came from a study of African tribal drumming. Regardless, Krupa brought drums into their own as a solo instrument and set American popular music on an inexorable 60 year trend of rhythm slowly but surely displacing melody. In the process, he laid bare a fundamental truth: The kids and the dancers want rhythm.

Alas, this put him on a collision course with Benny Goodman who had other interests. Goodman even gave a famous 1937 interview to Life magazine in which he derided the "Jitterbugs" and their constant demands for "Killer-Dillers". [Did he know which side his bread was buttered on or what?] The break finally came in 1938 when Krupa left to form his own band which opened to smashing success in Atlantic City. Wire Brush Stomp represents the very best of this band, taken from recordings made during the period 1938-1941. This is music that was created JUST for the Jitterbugs. All the songs are hot, but we like "Jam on Toast" the best.

There is a wonderful version of "Nagasaki" with Leo Watson doing some memorable scatting around fantastic lyrics like "Back in Nagasaki where the women chew tobacky.." Irene Daye does the vocals on "Bolero at the Savoy", "Some Like it Hot" and "Meet the Beat of my Heart." Krupa also discovered the great Anita O'day who debuted with "Alreet" ; she also is featured on "Slow Down" and "Watch the Birdie". The hottest number on the disc is the "Symphony in Riffs" something that would tax the skills of the best Lindy Hoppers as a Demo.

The title song, "Wire Brush Stomp" is exceptionally rare and hard to get as a '78 mainly because the kids who bought it played it until the grooves wore out. Lindy Hoppers can't go wrong with this album.

We have had some questions from readers about purchasing this CD. The jewel box says "This album available for purchase through AeroSpace Records, 9288 Kinglet Drive, Los Angeles, California (310)-858-1992" The label is Aero Space, and the number is "RACD 7117". The barcode is: 2214-17117-2. I bought the disc at Tower Records, but you may have to call.

Lavay Smith Review
Appeared in the Dance Forum September 29, 1997


This week we continue our look at 50s and 50s sounding albums.

Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers
One Hour Mama
1996, ***, LLL

People in San Francisco rave about this group, and I can see why. Lavay Smith can do Dinah Washington. Lavay can do Bessie and Alberta. In fact, Lavay seems to be able to do almost any female vocalist.

This album contains 11 remakes of songs made popular by female blues vocalists between 1923 and 1959. On this album they are all "updated" for a 50's sound. The songs are split between 1 medium and 5 fast Lindy songs (my favorite is "Blue Skies") and 5 slow blues tunes, in fact, alternating Lindy and slow every other tune.

Lavay is backed by a group of 8 crack musicians. They are very polished, more like a nightclub act than raw dance band. There is a definite blues feeling, even on the fast songs. The band seems to be lead by the piano and horns; the drum, in contrast to the last couple of reviews, is really in the background. This adds a lot of subtlety to the album.

After Bill sent in his review, we got the following note from Eric Mittler, editor of JumpSite, the home of the Northern California Lindy Society.

Cynthia Parrish sent this in to me. Thought I would share this chuckle with you... The following item appears in Leah Garchik's Personals column on page E8 of 9/23 San Francisco Chronicle, under the headline Fit for the President's Ears.

"Ultra-careful Clinton handlers weren't going to risk associating their man with anything risque' in wild and crazy San Francisco... Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers, a band that performed at the Saxophone Club reception for Bill Clinton at the Fairmont on Saturday night, were informed by Democratic National Committee organizers that the "Lickers" in the band's name had to go. (Good thing the party wasn't at Bimbo's.) Press releases for the event called the group 'Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Band.'"

Jimmie Lunceford Review
Written by: Frank
Appeared as a separate e-mail October 6, 1997


While Bill is away, we are going to sneak in another reissue of music from the Swing era. This week, we feature the all-time best of the best, Jimmie Lunceford. This is the guy who started it all and who set such a high standard for musical excellence that even the most bigoted critics (and there were plenty of them back then) had to finally admit that Swing was a true art form.

Again, its four "L"s and Four Stars for:

Jimmie Lunceford and His Orchestra
The Complete 1935-1937 Recordings

1990, LLLL, ****, Big Band

This two disc set (Classics Jazz 510, #508245482) is not cheap because it was imprted from France. But, it has some of the most danceable tracks ever laid down and thanks to the meticulous effort of the French engineers, it is also one of the most listen-able.

Jimmie Lunceford was born in 1902 in Fulton, Missouri, but grew up in Denver, the child of middle class parents. He studied music at Fisk University and eventually taught music at a small conservatory in Memphis. He carried his academic training into the performance of jazz and the business of conducting an orchestra. Lunceford was the first to understand the subleties of arranging jazz music. He ran a tight ship and insisted on total dedication to excellence from his band. You will never hear music as tight as Lunceford's. The band performs as one until a crystal clear solo emerges, shines, and blends back in. Lunceford had musical geniuses in his band--Eddie Durham, Willie Smith, Joe Thomas, Paul Webster, James Crawford--but the star was always the Band whose motto and theme song was Rhythm is Our Business.

Lunceford also had the spectacular fortune of meeting and encouraging a young man by the name of Melvin Oliver. This well-educated young man had an incredible talent for arrangement, not only the musical subtleties, but also the blending of the personalities of the musicians who were to play the score. His works were so insightful about human nature, that his fellow band members nicknamed him "The Psychologist" or "Sy" for short. Perhaps you now recognize the famous "Sy" Oliver, who went on to arrange most of the Swing anthems of the late 1930s.

So, in this album, you have Crawford "doin' tricks with sticks", Joe Thomas "slidin up the scales" on sax, Moses Allen "Pickin the strings" on bass, and Tommy Stevenson on trumpet "Hittin' them high up in the sky" [All quotes are lines from Rhythm is Our Business]

What do we like on this album. Of course, the answer is "Everything." But, if we had to pick, the tops has to be Slummin' on Park Avenue, notable for its ironic content as well as its easy-to-dance-to sound. The Organ Grinder's Swing and the Merry Go Round Broke Down offer some insights into the band's ability to perform "musical origami" folding some rather nondescript pop tunes into butterflies. For sheer audacity, we suggest Ragging the Scale and I'm Nuts about Screwy Music.

We love the opportunity to review the classics, because there isn't any way to write anything negative about these guys. Buy and Listen to Lunceford!

Bill Johnson and His Orchestra
Appeared in Dance Reviews (part 2) October 22, 1997


This week we continue our look at 50s and 50s sounding albums.

Buddy Johnson and His Orchestra
Walk 'Em

1996, ***, L

I have looked for a Buddy & Ella Johnson record for a long time. Ace finally reissued this best of collection last year. It contains 24 songs that Buddy recorded for Decca between 1941 and 1951 (in 1952 he left Decca for Mercury).

Although the back of the album shows the Savoy ballroom, Buddy is not a good choice for Lindy Hoppers. Buddy felt sorry for people who couldn't dance, so he played most of his songs at a walking tempo, and that ended up being his trademark. Most of the songs swing, but slowly. It might be a good teaching album.

Although the band often has 18 members, make no mistake that it is a Big Blues Band, not a Big Band like Glenn Miller. The charts are blues oriented.

The album is very enjoyable to listen to, with a number of fine songs on it. My favorites are Fine Brown Frame and the very timely Did you see Jackie Robinson hit that Ball?

Buy this album if you like Buddy and Ella, but not if you are looking for a dance album.

Another Take on Bill Johnson
By: Aurelie Tye

This is my first ever "letter to the Editor" type response, but after reading Bill's recent record review of Buddy Johnson's Walk 'Em, I felt compelled to comment. I LOVE this CD! I also tend to like fast music, but over the last couple of years, I've also grown to appreciate slower music with a lot of rhythm and character.

Most avid Lindy Hoppers somewhere along the line have had the Steven Mitchell "dance every beat" experience. Like most people, I find Steven's classes to be challenging to say the least. (You want me to move my hips which way while doing what with my upper body while putting my feet where?) I'll never be able to move like Steven, but I do feel that largely due to his influence, I've completely changed the way I dance. I love the energy that I can feed off with fast, exciting music, but I've also come to love the chance to PLAY! with slower tempos.

When I want to play, my current absolute favorite CD is Walk 'Em. I would choose tracks 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 14, 17, 19, 21 and 24 as all good for Lindy Hop. That's almost half of the tracks. My particular favorites are the title track Walk 'Em, You Gotta Walk that Chalk Line, Til My Baby Comes Back, and the Jackie Robinson song. As Bill mentioned, this is a good CD for teaching.

Bill Lehman's record reviews are a great service to the dance community. In our experience, people are always asking for suggestions on what music to buy.

By the way, I passed along a printout of the review for I'm Yo Dog to the Love Dogs. We're friends with the band and thought they'd appreciate the very positive remarks! thanks,

The Big 18
Appeared in the Dance Forum, October 30, 1997

Bill Starts with a note:

The most common question that I get is, "why did you trash x?" After that, it is "where can I get these records?"

I put a plug in this week for CD Universe for carrying the Big 18. This is the only thing that I have ordered from these guys, but they seemed ok on price and very good on service.

A lot of the other records that I cant get locally I get from Hepcat Records.

This week we conclude our look at 50's and 50's sounding albums.

The Big 18

No, the Big 18 are not like 3 times the Big 6. The Big 18 are an 18 member big band, composed mainly of sidemen who finally got their chance to shine. And shine they do. I don't know how it came about, but they cut a bunch of really swinging tunes in New York in June and July 1958, which were put onto 2 albums. And then, nothing happened.

These obscure recordings resurfaced in Germany in 1993. Before the Web, they were difficult to obtain -- basically, you had to get Marcus to send them to you. But now you can order them from CD Universe.

The albums are similar, both big band swing. There are no vocals, and the band is primarily horn lead. The tracks range from well-known covers to not as well known songs.

Live Echoes of the Swinging Band
LLL, ****, 1958

In general, this CD is slower than its companion, More Live Echoes and the songs tend to be a little bit longer. There are good versions of Tuxedo Junction and Easy Does It, aka Shiny Stockings. The rest of the songs are very good, but not as well known. You can dance to most cuts.

More Live Echos of the Swinging Band
LLLL, ****, 1958

In general, this CD is faster than Live Echoes, so, of course, I have a slight preference to dance to it. It contains the best version of Swingtime in the Rockies that I know of (also available on Lindy Hop Jamboree Vol 4). I don't usually go for puns, but Celery Stalks at Midnight really swings, as does the entire album.

Cherry Poppin' Daddies
Appeared in the Dance Reviews, November 4, 1997

This week's review covers one of the more well known of the new generation of "retro-Swing" or "Punk Swing" bands that has emerged from the "Alternative" culture:

Cherry Poppin' Daddies
Zoot Suit Riot
L, **, 1997

I like this quirky little record, but I could understand if others did not. The Cherry Poppin Daddies (CPD) are primarily a punk group that sometimes uses swing as the basis for their tunes. This CD is a collection of the swing tunes off of their 4 other albums, plus 4 new songs. The music swings and has energy, as well as lyrics with social commentary; although not all commentary is positive.

Although the tunes swing, and you can Lindy to many of the songs, there is nothing that really commands you to dance. Most of the songs are fast, some are too fast to dance to. Although I like the album, I would say that its short coming is that it does not have a killer song that I would play as a DJ at a Lindy dance.

I would say that the CPD are similar to Royal Crown Review and Voo Doo Daddy, although CPD's tunes swing more. Note: if you go to see them live, expect fast songs, and only a quarter of them to be swinging.

Another take on Cherry Poppin' Daddies was found in our article on Las Vegas, from the Travel Guide

CHERRY POPPIN' DADDIES continue to beat and blow their way into the hearts of this nation's hip-swiveling young people. They are an eight-piece band that rule your world with music that merges the spirit of Swing with a Punk rock sensibility. . . In short, they're a crass, class act. These Iron Men of Leisure have become the toast of the town in Seattle, San Francisco, Portland Oregon, Boulder Colorado . . . and have begun spreading their music Eastward to a venue nearest you. The band has four CDs available: FEROCIOUSLY STONED, RAPID CITY MUSCLE CAR, KIDS ON THE STREET are available on Space Age Bachelor Pad Records. ZOOT SUIT RIOT: THE SWINGIN' HITS is a compilation of all your swing favorites from the previous three CDs plus four brand-new songs. Specially priced. Fully re-mastered. This CD will be released on MOJO records on July 1st . . . available nationally at a store near you.

Lionel Hampton
Appeared in the Dance Forum, November 11, 1997

Lionel Hampton
Tempo and Swing
X, *, 1992 (cuts from 39-40)

I review this album because I see a number of people purchase it, and I don't want to see them make a mistake. It is often featured in the Columbia House catalog, but it is not worth it.

I am not sure what is wrong with this album, but something is. Its highlight is the poor version of Flying Home. Much better to purchase Frankie's Favorites (reviewed next week) and get the good version of Flying Home, one of the best Lindy and Swing tunes ever recorded.

Frankie's Favorites
Appeared in the Dance Forum, November 29, 1997

Frankie Manning's Really Swinging Favorites
LLLL, ***

A problem with compilations is that they tend to overlap other CDs that you already own. Other than the ubiquitous In the Mood, many of these cuts you are not likely to own, or at least not to own this version. [Other cuts that may be redundant are Take the A Train, One O'clock Jump, and Begin the Beguine].

Frankie's favorite is clearly Count Basie, who has 5 of the 16 cuts. The other artists with 2 cuts apiece are Duke Ellington, Jimmie Lunceford, Erskine Hawkins and Lionel Hampton (including the good version of Flying Home).

My other favorite tracks are Shiny Stockings, (aka Easy Does It) and Let's Get Together.

In all, I think that most people who like Big Band Swing will find this album useful and not redundant.

Be aware of a couple of things. First, I don't think the the BPM quoted on the back are very accurate. Second, many DJ's put this album on at breaks and leave it on. If they start with cut #1, be aware that cut #2 is 8 min long - that is a long time to Lindy Hop. And if they do the Shim Sham with Tuxedo Junction, then the cut after that is also 8 min long.

Mighty Blue Kings
Appeared in the Dance Forum, December 10, 1997

For the next two weeks we look at two jump blues bands who contrast nicely, The Mighty Blue Kings and Indigo Swing.

The Mighty Blue Kings
Meet Me in Uptown
**, LLL, 1996

Mighty Blue Kings are a Jump Blues group very much in the Mitch Woods style -- raw, with energy. Although there are not many covers, typical of the sound of this CD is Cadillac Boogie, originally done by Jimmy Liggins but covered by many others. The album has mostly originals, but they will seem familiar, as the group borrows licks heavily from other songs, and may even seem a little cliched.

The songs are mostly medium and fast, and there are many good tunes to Lindy to. None, however, are truly killer.

We found out yesterday that the MBK have a new album out. We look forward to reviewing it next year.

Indigo Swing
Appeared in the Dance Forum, December 18, 1997

Indigo Swing
Indigo Swing
***, LLLL, 1996

Indigo Swing is one of the hot jump blues bands out of San Francisco. These guys swing, and are in the top tier of Lindy bands today. And, unusual for a jump blues band, these guys are really polished.

This CD contains mostly tracks that you can Lindy too. There are a lot of fast tracks (6), 2 medium tracks, but also a 3 slow to very slow tracks; so there is a lot of variety. The group's polish gives them a 90s feel instead of a 50s feel, but if you like jump blues, then you will probably like this album.

[Editor's Note: This is the band that we saw in San Francisco and in New York at Midsummer's Night Swing; also, you will recall Indigo Swing played the smash gig at Red Bank, New Jersey. From our point of view, these guys are hot stuff and their CD is a must-have!]

Swing Speak
Appeared in the Dance Reviews, January 19, 1998

Swing Speak
Steve Wolf and Swing Speak
**, L, 1997

The last time Swing Speak was at Avalon, Steve Wolf, leader of the group, invited dancers to come see them in a non-dance setting. He remarked that the kind of music that they play is different, but if you let them know that there are dancers in the group, then they will play at least a few songs that you can dance to.

That pretty accurately describes this CD. There are probably only 2 songs on this CD that they will play on Saturday. Therefore, this CD appeals more to Jazz fans and to people who want to support Swing Speak.

Glenn Miller - Lost Recordings
Appeared in the Dance Forum, January 26, 1998

For the next few weeks we will look at a 3 Glenn Miller recordings that have been discovered or (re)issued recently. These multi-CD sets were pushed in the Signals and Wireless catalogs before Christmas, but are also available from the BMG record club for much less.

Glenn Miller
The Lost Records (2 CDs)

As a generalization, there were two kinds of Big Bands in the 30s and 40s - Swing Big Bands and "Sweet," or Society, Big Bands.

As we all know, a Swing band, or Jazz Big Band, plays syncopated music, and encourages improvisation on the solos. Thus, the band sounds different depending on who is in it. Count Basie and Benny Goodman would be Swing bands. You can usually Lindy to this kind of music.

A "Sweet" band plays the music as it is written (which is not syncopated) and encourages uniformity, so the band tends to sound the same regardless of personnel. Lawrence Welk and Guy Lombardo would be Sweet bands. You can usually fox trot to this kind of music (if you can stand it).

I grew up thinking that Glenn Miller was the leader of a Swing band, because of the songs that I remember my mother playing. However, she only played half of his songs. Glenn Miller was divided between a Swing band and a Sweet band, which you can see quite clearly in these CDs.

There are 36 musical cuts on this two CD set, and only 19 of them swing. Most of these swing tunes are pretty common, and these versions sound pretty much like you would expect. The non-ubiquitous songs that I like are "Here We Go Again," "Everybody Loves My Baby," and a very fine version of "Jeep Jockey Jump." The other 17 cuts, the ones which don't swing, I believe are the reason many people think that they do not like big band music.

[Editor's Note: For a discussion of why something "Swings" and an unvarnished look at Glenn Miller, go to the 1997 in Review and check out the series of articles archived from 1997 under the title "Why Does It Swing?" . To get there, click on "Extras" on the bottom bar , then select "1997 in Review" and then scroll down and click on "Why Does It Swing?"]

Glenn Miller - Secret Broadcasts
Appeared in the Dance Forum, February 2, 1998

This week we continue our look at the second of three Glen Miller multi-CD sets.

Glen Miller
The Secret Broadcasts (3 CDs)
**,LL, 1996

As we discussed last week, Glen Miller was split between "sweet" (many of the cuts here feature Johnny Desmond, "the GI Sinatra") music and "swing" music. This cd has 70 musical cuts, and about 25 of them swing. On the one hand, this is a lot of swing tunes. On the other hand, you have to suffer through the 45 tunes that the Lindy tunes are interspersed with, plus the Army Air Force "I Sustain the Wings" passages..

The music on both of these CDs were initially recorded in 1944. Although "Lost Recordings" was released first, the tracks were recorded in England in November. This CD's tracks were cut in New York, prior to Miller going to England.

The band sounds very similar on the two sets, as the personnel is largely the same, and the arrangements are the same. This set contains about 40 tracks that are not on "Lost Recordings," but, with some exceptions, most of the "good cuts" are on both sets. If you listen to tracks back-to-back, some of the tracks on "Lost Recordings" are a bit snappier than on this set, but I cant swear that it is true for all songs. Also, many of the swing cuts on this CD are fast or very fast.

[Editor's Note: For a discussion of why something "Swings" and an unvarnished look at Glenn Miller, go to the 1997 in Review and check out the series of articles archived from 1997 under the title "Why Does It Swing?".]

Glenn Miller - The Essential Glenn Miller
Appeared in the Dance Forum, February 9, 1998

This week we conclude our look at Glen Miller records, for what will probably be a long-long time.

Glen Miller
The Essential Glen Miller (RCA, 2 CDs)
**,LL, 1995

This 2 CD set (47 songs, 16 swing) has some of the best liner notes that I have seen. Highlights include:

  • In a 1939 DownBeat poll (after "In the Mood" was released), Glen Miller finished 2nd in both the favorite Swing Band and in the favorite Sweet Band
  • As a result of the War, there was a ban on recorded music between 8/1/42 and 1945. Shellac, a binding agent in records, was a critical war supply.
  • Jukebox operators bought 60% of all records
  • "Chattanooga Choo Choo" became the first record to sell a million copies since 1928 (so, according to this, it was not "In The Mood" [Editor's Note: Our source for the claim for "In the Mood" was Gunther Shuller's book on Swing]).
  • Miller was turned down by the Navy because he was too old (despite a letter of recommendation by Bing Crosby). However, when he volunteered for the Army he pointed out "his seriousness by stating that he would be giving up an income of fifteen to twenty thousand dollars a week." The Army took him.

But what about the music? This CD contains most of the songs Miller recorded for RCA/Bluebird between 1939 and 1942, which are the recordings that people are most familiar with. For example, all of famous vocal songs are not on the wartime CDs -- cuts like "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree, "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and "(I've Got A Gal in) Kalamazoo". And RCA did a nice job of remastering the cuts for this release.

If you are looking for the cuts which are more familiar, then I would go with this CD-set over the other 2 sets. But if you know the Glen Miller cuts that you are looking for, then I would go for a single-CD. But if you really want "Jeep Jockey Jump" or "Everybody Loves My Baby," then you need to go with one of the other 2 sets.

[Editor's Note: For a discussion of why something "Swings" and an unvarnished look at Glenn Miller, go to the 1997 in Review and check out the series of articles archived from 1997 under the title "Why Does It Swing?". Also see our Interview with Fayard Nicholas for some interesting sidelights on "Chattanooga Choo Choo".]

Roomful of Blues
Appeared in the Dance Forum, March 12, 1998

This week we start an ongoing look at Roomful of Blues. Although one could argue that Roomful is more West Coast than Lindy, they are important band. For more than 20 years Roomful has turned out good albums, has provided an opportunity to see a certain style of music live (they are one of the bands that got me interested in Swing Dancing), and, through numerous personnel changes, has proved a way for a whole host of musicians to eat while they launched their careers. Although the last three albums are probably the best for dancing, we will begin at the beginning.

Roomful of Blues
The First Album

Who is in Roomful is very important. This is the 7-man version, with Duke Robillard on guitar and a 3-piece Sax section. It was a good album at the time, but they don't really swing yet. The better tracks are the Chuck Willis songs "That's my Life" and "Take it Like a Man."

Let's Have a Party
**,X (WC),79; appears to be out of print

This album has the same personal as the first album. The band has acquired more of a New Orleans feel. The album has a couple of good West Coast songs and a Zydeco cut. Big Joe Turner's "The Chill is On" is outstanding.

More Roomful of Blues
Appeared in the Dance Forum, March 23, 1998

This week we continue with our occasional look at Roomful of Blues. Although in general we go chronologically, this week we are skipping two albums, a 1982 release with Eddie Vision that I don't own, and a 1983 album with Big Joe Turner which is not for Lindy. Remember, the best Roomful albums for Lindy are the last 3 - Dance All Night, Turn it On and Under One Roof.

Roomful of Blues
Hot Little Mama

The personnel is nearly the same on these two albums. Duke Robillard has moved on, and has been replaced by Ronnie Earl. The band has expanded the horn section, especially Porkey Cohen on trombone. The musical direction has moved to Greg Piccolo, the tenor sax player. And, on this album, they start to swing, mainly doing covers instead of originals. But, for all of that, it is really more of a west coast album, or an album to listen to. But it is a very solid album.

Dressed Up to Get Messed Up

Working with Eddie Vinson and Big Joe Turner must have affected the group's direction, because this album is not really good for dancing, Lindy or west coast (but check out the "male fantasy" cover photo!). The songs this time, however, are mainly originals, which does represent a forward step in the band's evolution.

Pat Benetar
Appeared in the Dance Forum, March 30, 1998

A reader sent asked this week about groups featuring female vocalists. Specifically, she is looking for more groups like Lavay Smith (aren't we all?). I seem to be a little weak in this area, and am looking for recommendations. I recommended Maxine Sullivan, Natalie Cole and Pat Benetar.

Pat Benetar? Yes, the New Wave diva put out a swing album in 1991. Rumor has it that she married someone from Roomful of Blues, so this ties nicely to last week's review.

Pat Benetar
True Love
**, LL, 1991, Chrysalis

A few years ago Pat Benetar put out a fine album that, if you can find it, is usually inexpensive. Backed by her normal band plus the horn section of Roomful of Blues, the album jumps and swings. It contains a nice mixture of new tunes and covers, and of song tempos (the Lindy songs are mostly medium). I think that this CD will appeal to people who like female vocalists (although I would not put it in the same category as Lavay Smith), and to people looking for an album that is both strong to listen to and to Lindy to.

Yet More Roomful of Blues
Appeared in the Dance Forum, April 6, 1998

This week we continue with Roomful of Blues, who are at the Hollywood Ballroom on Saturday.

Roomful of Blues
Dance All Night
***,LL, 1994

I have been toting the last 3 Roomful albums. All three are similar, with the band pretty much the same. But someone asked me recently, if they could only buy which one, which one should it be? All are nice to listen to and contain a variety of rhythms, including some Lindy tunes and west coast tunes, as well as slow songs and Latin, and songs I cant dance to. Each makes their "LL" not on the number of Lindy tunes, but rather on the strength that each contains 2 killer tunes (on this CD, "Walkin' Slow Behind You" and "Mister Dollar," both are swinging medium speed jump blues tunes). Therefore, I would pick the CD with the tune you like best. If, however, you don't know what that tune is, then I think that I would get this album. This album has, in general, more syncopated rhythms than the other 2.

The J Street Jumpers
By: Frank
Appeared in the Dance Forum, April 13, 1998

This week, Bill is off and we are taking the opportunity to review the J Street Jumpers latest album, which was released just last night. As far as we know, only Cameron, Tom Cunningham and we have copies of it. You should definitely get one.

J Street Jumpers
Is You Is or Is You Aint My Baby?
LLLL, ****, 1998

The very best news is that you can have all your J Street Jumpers favorites to dance to anytime you want. Those of us who have been dancing in DC for some time have a very special place in our hearts for this band --- first because they used to play at the memorable Monday night sessions at Dancers and second because their standard of musicianship is always spectacularly high. Everyone who has attended a Jumpers' dance knows that it is a real treat to really kick it out to real faves like "Better Beware", "Night Life Boogie" and "Jump Jive and Wail". we like to dust off our six (or so) West Coast moves to "That's How I Feel About You" --- and we think that when this disc is played a even moderate volume, the sounds will filter up to Heaven and Dan Collins and Maxie Dorf will be ready to do some of those Hollywood slides to "Momma, He Treats Your Daughter Mean."

And, there is a real Killer-Diller -- the band offers us a version of "Topsy" sparked by Jeff Lodson's drums that evokes the insistent rhythms of Gene Krupa. The performances are pure J Street --- Charlie Hubel and Don Lerman playing tight ensemble work on sax, yet breaking into amazing solos that charge the air with electricity. Rusty Bogart's incredibly smooth work on guitar, Arthur Gerstein tinkling the ivories, and Adam Friedman on stand-up bass along with Lodson on drums provide an incredibly solid rhythmic foundation. In this album, Don Lerman shows us that he can play clarinet with the best of them. Vince McCool hits all the high C's on trumpet and ads some funky verve on flugelhorn. The recording also spotlights several red-hot solos by Steve Shaw on trombone; Steve, a really quiet guy offers some "rip it up" treatments that evoke the memory of Jack Teagarden. This is a class band that really reminds us of what Swing is supposed to be about --- we hope that some of the new "Retro" outfits listen to this and learn.

But, we save the best for last -- the stunning vocal stylings by Marianna Previti. Marianna is a dear in person, and her dynamic range has been very faithfully captured in this recording, particularly on "Sure Had a Wonderful Time Last Night".

The band has recorded all their dance favorites and has added the title song, "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby." There is a great photo of the band in vintage clothing, all supplied by our own Ellen Werther of Hearts Desire. Lindy Hoppers will want this album to carry with them when they travel -- it is a nice thing to slip into a briefcase to have music when you have to con a hotel DJ into playing swing music. Buy it! On sale from the J Street Jumpers at $15 and you can get a copy from Mapleshade Productions.

Beat Counts for the J Street Jumpers' album:

  • Better Beware (2:32) 193bpm
  • Ain't But One (3:52) 70bpm
  • Night Life Boogie (3:09) 175bpm
  • That's How I Feel About You (3:35) 120bpm
  • Topsy (4:39) 193bpm
  • Jump, Jive, and Wail (2:54) 215bpm
  • Gal With A Whole Lotta Loot (2:59) 168bpm
  • When I Get Low I Get High (3:15) 176bpm
  • Please Send Me Someone to Love (4:15) 64bpm
  • Momma, He treats Your Daughter Mean (3:32) 128bpm
  • Onion (2:41) 191bpm
  • Going Back to New Orleans (2:57) 172bpm
  • Sure Had A Wonderful Time Last Night (4:16) 128bpm
  • The Big Question (2:30) 153bpm
  • Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby (3:11) 126bpm
  • At Last (4:17) 63bpm

Baseline Songs:

  • Glen Miller's "In The Mood" 180bpm
  • Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing" 218bpm

We'd also like to take this time to let you know about another CD that is NOT Lindy, but worth having:

Various Artists
Finger Poppin Time, the Best of O.D.
L,***, 1993

This is a tribute to Ocean Drive in Myrtle Beach, and is a compendium of Shag classics. It contains one really good Lindy song ("Avalon" by the Rhythm Sheiks). This is a really good listening album, and besides, we are firmly of the belief that Lindy Hoppers should do Carolina Shag just because it is such an elegant dance. You can get the CD from Gator for $17, or order it through Ripete Records.

Even More Roomful of Blues
Appeared in the Combined Review and Forum, April 20, 1998

This week we conclude our look at Roomful of Blues.

Roomful of Blues
Turn it on! Turn it up!
***, L, 1995

Although I enjoy this album a lot, under careful inspection as a Lindy Hopper, I can really only give it one L. The killer cut on this album is the title track, but it is a west coast song. The other good Lindy cuts are "If you Know it" and "One Bayou Drive," an original tune with a Count Basie influence.

Under One Roof
***, LL, 1997

This CD has the excellent Lindy tunes "Smack Dab in the Middle" and "Switchin' in the Kitchen," and a couple of good west coast tunes. However, it also contains a larger number of cuts than their average (14 instead of 10), and some of the additional cuts are weak, probably a result of the last 3 albums being recorded so close together.

Maxine Sullivan
Appeared in the Dance Forum, May 4, 1998

Maxine Sullivan, and Her Jazz All-Stars
A Tribute to Andy Razaf

This 1956 album was released on CD in 1991. Although many of the tunes on this CD were written in the 20s and early 30s, most of them swing. The best cut is "Massachusetts", a very nice tune, and if you like it, then you will like this CD. The cuts are slow to medium tempo, all with lyrics, because this album is a tribute to Andy Razaf, a tin pan alley collaborator of Fats Waller. In answer to his statement that Fats Waller could have set the telephone book to music, one might add that Razaf could write lyrics for a drum solo. Which includes Christopher Columbus, a tune most of us know better for its incorporation into "Sing, Sing, Sing."

Even though Buddy Johnson is a different type of music (Big Band Blues) than this album (jazz/tin pan alley), there are similarites in the tempo and energy; if you like Buddy Johnson then you may like this album. Although this is a very good album, it has a thin sound, and may not appeal to people who want high energy music.

[Editor's Note: Maxine Sullivan is a Pittsburgh girl. There is a whole section devoted to her in the John H. Heinz Museum of Regional History in Pittsburgh. See the Travel Guide for more details. ]

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown
Appeared in the Dance Forum, May 11, 1998

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown
Gate Swings
**,L, 97

Gate is an older Texas Blues guitarist, who has always had something of a swing sound. The concept on this CD was to have a real swing sound, to record a mixture of blues tunes and traditional swing tunes, and to back Gate with a swinging horn section, up to 17 pieces. The result is a pretty nice album. Gate and the band really do swing, but, unfortunately, they do not Lindy Hop. Although there are a number of nice cuts, the tunes you should be able to Lindy to are either too fast or too long. But I would buy it to listen to.

Risque Rhythm
Appeared in the Dance Forum, May 18, 1998

Various Artists Risque Rhythm (Rhino) ***, LLLL, 50s/96

When Rhino put this collection together, I am sure that they had a frat party in mind. But after putting Frankie Manning on the cover (an old, unattributed, Life magazine shot), it is also possible that they had a Lindy party in mind. This is a collection of "risque" R&B tunes recorded between 1949 and 1954 - a period that saw the death of the Big Band and lead directly to the birth of Rock and Roll, and many of them swing. Horns are still prominent, but you can also see the growth of the electric guitar as a lead instrument.

These songs all have what were at the time considered suggestive lyrics. Some of these tunes made it on the radio, but some were a little to suggestive. A few of the artists, such as Dinah Washington ("Long John Blues" and "Big Long Slidin' Thing") and Wynonie Harris ("Wasn't That Good" and "Keep on Churnin'") are big names who made many other records, and you could find their tunes elsewhere. But many of the artists are obscure, and it would be difficult to find to find such excellent tunes as "The Walkin' Blues (Walk right In, Walk Right Out)" [I was almost embarrassed the first time I played this as a DJ, because it was at a Toys for Tots dance; but the woman I was dancing with knew all of the words], "Big Ten-Inch Record" (by local Bull Moose Jackson, not Aerosmith), "It ain't the Meat" and "Baby Let Me Bang Your Box" elsewhere.

If you like R&B, and want to dance to a bunch of slow to medium speed tunes, then here is your record.

Natalie Cole
Appeared in the Dance Forum, June 15, 1998

Before moving on to some hot new releases, I thought that I should finish up with female vocalists.

Natalie Cole Unforgettable ***,LLL,1991

Natalie Cole records 22 her father's tunes. Eight of them really swing, at a slow to medium tempo, with lyrics that you can sing along to. Natalie is backed by a fine big band. The Rhythm Hot Shots often use these songs to teach with. Because the album is a little bit older, it is often available at a discount. People who are looking for light, happy songs will like this album.

Big Time Operator
Appeared in the Dance Forum, June 22, 1998

This week we start looking at a whole slew of recent albums.

Big Time Operator High Altitude Swing **, LLL, 1997

BTO is a 10-piece "big" band (numerically, they are missing a few horns, but musically, they are all there) out of San Diego. There is a wide range of styles and tempos, ranging from a worthy version of "Leapfrog" (a fast, 30's instrumental) to "Fly Me to the Moon" (a slow, 50's croon). Most of the tunes are covers, with 4 songs by Cab Calloway, but done with enthusiasm and the band's own interpretation. Some are standards (although every big band probably needs to know how to play "Sing, Sing, Sing," and, more recently, "Jump, Jive and Wail", they don't need to put it on their album, unless they really break new ground with it), while others dig deeper into their songbooks. I look forward to an album with more of their own original tunes on them.

Note the "hidden" 78-ish remaster of "Big Time Operator" that comes on after "Sing, Sing, Sing" is over.

This album will appeal to people who like a big band with vocals, but more like Indigo Swing's first album than like Bill Elliot's albums.

The Big Six
Appeared in the Dance Forum, July 13, 1998

Continuing our look at newer albums (Indigo Swing next week).

The Big Six
We the Boys will Rock You

The Big Six's second album is pretty solid, showing a lot more variety in songs and instrumentation than their first album. They still have a very 50s sound, with this time many songs have more swing beat than a rock beat. They also show their ska roots, and have a number of tunes that don't swing. All of their songs are originals, and ironically the songs that I like the most are not the best Lindy tunes. In fact, this album, although containing many fine songs, lacks a true showcase Lindy Hop tune (like "Mama Weer All Crazee Now" from their first album).

This album has much less of a Bill Halley sound than did their first album. But if you liked their first album, or like that 50s jump/rock instrumental crossover sound, then you should like this album.

Indigo swing "All Aboard"
Appeared in the Dance Forum, July 20, 1998

This week, we look at "All Aboard", the new release by Indigo Swing

Indigo Swing All Aboard! (Timebomb) ***, LL,1998

Indigo Swing's new album, All Aboard, swings slower than their self-titled first album, but still swings well. The fast cover jump tunes like "I Can't Stop It" have been replaced by original slow swing tunes in the same vane as "My Baby Comes `Round at 8." But there are three songs that are nice to snap your fingers to but are just too fast to dance to.

The quality of the group's musicianship is still very high. Clearly the group has been listening to old swing tunes, as you can catch phrases of familiarity in their songs, without their songs being rip- offs of old tunes. In fact, other than by the overall tempo of the Lindy tunes, the group shows so many different influences (swing, jump, boogie, and even two-step) that I have a difficult time classifying this record as anything more specific than slow swing.

If you liked "My Baby Just Cares for Me" and "Swing Lover" from their first album, but were indifferent about "Pink Cadillac" and "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie," then you will probably like this album.

We have not one, but TWO photoessays on Indigo Swing:

Mighty Blue Kings "Come One, Come All"
Appeared in the Dance Forum, July 27, 1998

The Mighty Blue King's first album, has really grown on me. When I switch to the 5L instead of 4L system (which should have happened 6 months ago; there are some inconsistencies that need to be corrected), I will upgrade it to 4Ls. I am hoping that this album will grow on me as well.

Mighty Blue Kings
Come one, come all

The Mighty Blue Kings second album picks up right where their first album left off - with a strong jump blues sound, ala Lordan and Liggins. Although it has about the same mix of tunes as the first album (roughly two thirds swing), this album contains a little wider variety (perhaps that is what the title of the album alludes to) of music, which makes it enjoyable but less consistent to Lindy to.

But it is a worthwhile effort. The song writing is stronger (I particularly like the medium tempo original "Got the Sun Shining on Me"), and the band jumps. If you liked the first album, or jump blues in general, then you should enjoy this album.

Porkey Cohen "Rhythm & Bones"
Appeared in the Dance Forum, August 3, 1998

Porkey Cohen Rhythm & Bones **,LL,1996

I first saw Porkey Cohen with Roomful of Blues. However, his career as a trombonist goes back a bit further, all the way to 1942, when he was 18 years old. For an historian, this album is worth it if only for the liner notes, because Porkey had an interesting career.

On this album he is backed by most tunes by Roomful, and the album has a very similar feel. Although it swings and jumps, there are really only 4 strong Lindy tunes (and 2 west coast tunes, but they are not anything special), and I stretched to give it LL. But I do enjoy this album. Although Porkey was on Roomful's "Dressed Up to Get Messed Up" and "Hot Little Mama" albums, this album is more similar to their later albums. If you liked them, particularly the instrumentals, then you should like this as well.

Lucky Millinder "Ram-Bunk-Shush"
Appeared in the Dance Forum, August 17, 1998

I enjoyed Porkey Cohen's CD last week so much that I dug out my Lucky Millinder CD. We will go back to new music next week, looking at BBVD's second album.

Lucky M Ram-Bunk-Shush (Charley, import CD) ***,LL,1991 release of 1951-55 material

Lucky had a long and unusual career. The nickname reportedly comes Lucky's rolling dice for Al Capone in a speakeasy where Lucky was fronting the band. However, despite his luck and his ability to put together a band (we has actually not a great musician himself), his had trouble holding it together until the 50's. This CD, although not dubbed a `greatest hits,' is a collection to 45's from 1951 to 1955.

This album is on the cusp of big band and jump. The style has started to change, but there is still a 18-piece big band that really swings, with a great horn section. (Porkey Cohen, last week's review, is on the 1955 cuts). The vocals are also strong, including Wyonie Harris and Bullmoose Jackson, who went on to front their own jump bands, as well as Annisteen Allen. The cuts are consistently strong, and you can Lindy to about half of the tunes. The tempos are slow to medium, similar to the Buddy Johnson album reviewed earlier.

Some people best remember Lucky for the novelity tunes "The Grapevine" and "Chew Tobacco Rag." Although these medium temp tunes are among the faster cuts, if you like them then you are likely to enjoy the rest of this CD.

Big Bad Voodoo daddy "Americana deluxe"
Appeared in the Dance Forum, August 23, 1998

This week we start a look a more recent albums.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Americana Deluxe ***,LL,1998

I didn't really enjoy the first BBVD album, so I put off buying this album for a while. That was a mistake. The "gangsta" is gone -- this album really swings.

The group has a "big" sound for 8 guys. Lots of horns, and the arrangements have them playing all the time (in the up coming weeks we will contrast that with groups where the vocals dominate, and the instruments are only featured at the bridge). "You and Me and The Bottle Makes 3 Tonight (Baby)," (a remake of the Swingers version) is pretty representative of the tunes on the album - swinging, but very fast (most of the swing tunes are in the 210-225 bpm range). I really like the sound, although it can lead to driving too fast in the car.

I would definitely buy this album over either their first album (two of the better tunes, "King of Swing" and "Jumpin' Jack" are remade here, as better versions) or the Swingers soundtrack. However, the songs are still long and fast.

I really debated over how many "L"s to give this album, as it has only 4 truly Lindyable songs, all over 216+ and around 3:30, but let it slide through with the lowest LL score.

Blue Plate Special "A Night Out With"
Appeared in the Dance Forum, September 21, 1998

This week we start a look a more recent albums.

This week we continue looking at more recent albums.

Blue Plate Special
A Night Out With
**, L, 1998

Blue Plate Special (BPS) has a distinctive swing sound, based on their original tunes and their "cool jazz" arrangements. Their songs are more like stories, where you have to pay attention to the lyrics. Their arrangements are more like a post-swing jazz band than a swing band -- one instrument or vocalist is featured at a time, with the rhythm (usually a stand-up bass and a piano) in the background; this is true for the horns as well, so it contrasts dramatically with last week's BBVD album, where you can hear all of the saxes playing at the same time. I think of BPS as having more of a smoke- filled nightclub sound than a dance band sound.

I find a lot of songs on the album that I wish I could dance to, but they are either too fast, too long or both. Even the excellent song "Work that Skirt," which is written about dancers, is too fast (250 bpm+). Their best Lindy tunes are their covers, the Mills Brothers version of Opus One (the slower version with lyrics) and "Evening," a slow swing tune.

You will like this cd if you want a jazzy group that swings, and you are not looking for Lindy tunes.

Swingtips "Let's Play Some Ball"
Appeared in the Dance Forum, September 28, 1998

This week we continue looking at more recent albums.

Lets Play Some Ball

The Swingtips are a regional band from Mesa, Arizona. While they do not yet have the sound of a national act, they must play for swing dancers, because most of the songs are the right tempo (assuming you like medium and fast, 156-212 bpm) and length (2:30-3:40). Most of the tunes are originals, or original arrangements. Their style is mainly a "thin" style swing, with a little jump. I like the title track, "Little Brown Jug," a haunting tune "It's what you need," and the jump tune "Angels don't play this harp."

New Morty Show "Mortyfied"
Appeared in the Dance Forum, October 12, 1998

This week we continue looking at more recent albums.

New Morty Show Mortyfied **,LL,1998

At least on this CD, the New Morty Show (NMS) is a group searching for their own identity. They describe themselves as a lounge act, they appear to be part punk-swing, sounding like the Cherry Poppin' Daddies or covering Billy Idol's "White Wedding," part metal-swing (is there really such a thing?), covering Metallica's "Enter Sandman" and part Louis Jordan, with a raucous version of "Caldonia." But mostly they seem to write tunes in the Louis Prima/Keely Smith, part novelty act, part swing. And although I am not convinced that just because you can make something swing that you should make it swing, the NMS have the talent to pull it off. The group is led by Morty Okin, a trumpeter, and three vocalists, Vise Grip, Connie Champagne and Kat Starr, who have an act much like Prima and Smith. The group has a big sound, with a strong horn section.

There are a lot of fast songs on this CD, including many too fast dance to. But there are also some very enjoyable Lindy tunes at a medium tempo. But I would not look to this CD for slow songs.

It will be interesting to see what the group's next effort is like. Will it be their original tunes like "Shoppin' Mall Mama," a vocal duet worth of Prima, or a continuation of the novelty approach.

By the way, this is an interactive CD, which means that it has an application that you can play on your PC. No great shakes, but some nice photos. Also, the last track, "Caldonia," is an extended track - after a few minutes of silence (while you are thinking "why hasn't the CD switched yet?"), there is some spoken word - not worth waiting around for.

Brian Setzer "Dirty Boogie"
Appeared in the Dance Forum, November 2, 1998

This week we continue looking at more recent albums.

Brian Setzer
Dirty Boogie

Talk about being in the right place at the right time - Brian Setzer covers `The Gap Song.' I would guess that this will be Brian's commercially most successful album, but musically it falls right in-between his first album, The Brian Setzer Orchestra, and his second album, Guitar Slinger. It also features somewhat of a return to his rock-a-billy roots, and certainty the whole 50's thing.

The reason that I do not like this album as much as I did the first album is the arrangements. On the first album it was a band, not Setzer plus a band, and the quality of the arrangements made up for Setzer's weak vocals. Here many songs are more like the Stray Cats with horns tacked on. I do find Setzer's original tunes to be stronger than his remakes. Most of the covers pale next to the originals, including "Jump, Jive and Wail."

Although this CD has some Lindy material, and it will appeal to kids who hear "Jump, Jive and Wail" on the radio, I hope that it serves as a stepping stone back to the original material.

Louis Prima "Capital Collector Series"
Appeared in the Dance Forum, November 14, 1998

This week we look at Louis Prima, who wrote both "Sing, Sing, Sing," and "Jump, Jive and Wail".

Louis Prima
Capital Collector Series
***,LL,1991, covers 1956-1962
Louis Prima Cover

In the early 50's, with swing music in decline, Louis Prima moves to Vegas, marries his 18-year lead singer Keely Smith, and becomes a lounge act. The act is successful, and Capital signs him to do 7 records.

This set of 26 tunes covers those records, cut between 1956 and 1962, as well as some show and movie tunes (but not The Jungle Book). The results are uneven, as [at the time of recording] swing music had declined in popularity, but overall this is a strong album. [By the way, I have not been able to find any Prima stuff prior to this in print].

Many of the tunes have a novelty or Lounge aspect to them, such as "Just a Gigolo." But a number of them swing, in a variety of tempos (sometimes even in the same song). "Jump, Jive and Wail" is the only jump tune. There is also quite a mixture of rhythms, vocal styles and types of tunes.

If you are in the "Martini Nation," then you should own this. As a dancer, there is enough good stuff here (8 or more cuts) to be worthwhile. It sure is a lot of fun to listen to on occasion.

Rhino Blues Masters "Vol. 5: Jump Blues Classics"
Appeared in the Dance Forum, November 30, 1998

This week we finish our look at "Jump, Jive and Wail."

Rhino Blues Masters (Various Artists)
Vol. 5: Jump Blues Classics
***, LL, 1992, songs from 1948-1956
Blues Masters Cover

When you look at a compilation, some of the things to consider are how many songs that I don't already on are on this compilation, how well are the songs selected, and how well are the songs arranged. Is there a theme, or is it a random selection of tunes that could be licensed cheaply?

This is a very solid collection of Jump Blues tunes from 1948 to 1957. It contains a good mix of standard and difficult to find material. The song order appears to work, although I am not sure how it was selected.

The tunes are solid. They show both Jump Blues and a good history of the music industry -- shoutin' the lyrics more than singing, a strong tenor sax, strong back beats (the even ones), often provided by clapping, and a lot of songs with 'rock' or 'roll' in the lyrics, and call and answer between the vocalist and instrumentalists. There are also follow-up songs (where a band tries to build on its previous hit), songs that white bands would cover as rock-and-roll songs ("Shake, Rattle and Roll," "Hound Dog") and songs that would be covered or would inspire modern jump swing artists ("Cadillac Boogie," "Rockin' at Midnight"). This makes for a pretty good CD to listen to. The obvious comparisons for this album are to "Risque Rhythm," and to next week's "Vol. 14: More Jump Blues Classics." For listening and history, the songs here are more important than on either of those albums. But as a dancer, although there are a number of "B" list tunes, this album lacks the "A" list swing tunes that Risqu‚ has, so I would put it in between the two.

Rhino Blues Masters "Vol. 14: Jump Blues Classics"
Appeared in the Dance Forum, December 14, 1998

This week we finish our look the Rhino Blues Collection.

Rhino Blues Vol 14
More Jump Blues
**,L,1993, covers 1948-1958, Jump Blues
Blues Masters Cover

Although this CD contains two excellent dance cuts, Louis Jordan's "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie" and Wynonie Harris's "Destination Love," overall I do not find the material on this CD to be as compelling as on #5, either as a dancer or as a collector. There are only a few other Lindy songs on the CD, and only one West Coast number, which is not very compelling.

As a collector, with this CD you are likely to already own some of the tunes, and are less likely to fill holes in your collection. The tunes appear to be somewhat less skillfully chosen and arranged than on #5. Good liner notes, though.

Dan Electro and the Silvertones "Mr. Smooth"
Appeared in the Dance Forum, January 7, 1999

Dan Electro and The Silvertones
Mr. Smooth
**, L, 1997
Dan Electro Cover

Dan Electro is a harmonica player from Florida, who played at the Chevy Chase Ballroom last October. The band was really swinging that night. [Editor's note: check out our photoessay on the event.]

The band on the record, however, is a smaller band, and it does not have a horn section. There is Dan on harmonica and vocals, an upright bass, a guitar and drums. Although they have a swing sound, this band really doesn't have enough members to really do Jump or Swing that you can Lindy too. The members are talented, and this is an enjoyable record, and I can recommend to West Coast dancers. The record is smooth, and the songs have a lot of good breaks. They also have a good combination of originals and covers. The group they remind me the most of are the Paladins.

I look forward to seeing a CD with horns, or seeing them again live, because Electro understands that Lindy music is more than just West Coast music played fast (unlike the new Roomful of Blues CD).

Roomful of Blues "There Goes the Neighborhood"
Appeared on the Website, January 25, 1999

Roomful of Blues
There Goes the Neighborhood
*, X, 1998
Roomful Cover

As we all know, there is a new resurgence in swing music. There is also a trend among West Coast dancers to prefer dancing to CDs over a live band. You would think that Roomful of Blues would be poised to capitalize on these trends, by switching to being a full-tilt Lindy band. But on this CD (and as those of us who were disappointed at Glen Echo already know), they have actually gone back to being a West Coast band.

Furthermore, this new CD is basically unremarkable. It is competent, with an R&B and Soul slant, but the material is just not inspired. I like the new singer, and the musicianship seems fine, but it appears that they brought the album out to soon.

For dancing, the arrangements are lacking. There are a couple of uptempo tunes, but they don't swing. I would think that Roomful would understand that a Lindy tune is more than just a West Coast tune played faster. I would stick to their other albums.

Dr. Zoot "Ghosts of Swing"
Appeared on the Website, February 22, 1999

Dr. Zoot
Ghosts of Swing
**, LL, 1998

This week we review a recording by the Pittsburgh group Dr. Zoot.

Dr. Zoot is a group of classically trained musicians who are comfortable in a variety of styles. In their songs, mostly originals, you can hear strains from Dixieland to Jump. I, of course, prefer the original jump tune "Jump, Jive and Shake."

The album is mainly originals, with a mixture of instrumentals and vocals. The vocals are often clever lyrics that tell a story, such as "Guido the Mosquito," who squeals on the mob. Although some people like this, for me the novelty tunes wear thin. So while some tunes have grown on me, as I appreciate the musician's craftsmanship, I find myself skipping other tunes. There are 7 tunes that you can Lindy to, but only 2 that I play as a DJ.

This CD is available from Al Peden, or (412) 351-6503.

Jive Aces "Planet Jive" and "Our Kind of Jive"
Appeared on the Website, March 8, 1999

The Jive Aces will be appearing at Nicks on Saturday March 13. They are a good group live, and on CD. I review two of their CDs here, which are currently available (they have a third, older, CD that I cannot find). I listen to the second CD when I need a lift on my way to work.

The Jive Aces
Our Kinda Jive
**, L, 1996
Jive Aces Cover

The Jive Aces are a group out of England, of musicians who are also dancers. They must like to dance fast, as the majority of these songs are in the 190-210 BPM range. My favorite, however, is the medium speed original "Love Without Faith."

Outside of tempos, there is a lot of variety, as this is their kinda jive -- they have their own sound, mixing swing, jump and lounge. All have a lot of energy. Although this CD is not as accessible as "Planet Jive," it does grow on you.

The Jive Aces
Planet Jive
***, LL, 1998
Jive Aces Cover

This CD also has a lot of variety -- but the tunes all have a common "positive" thread. This is the most upbeat collection of songs that you will find. The Jive Aces admonish you to get involved and live. Typical numbers include very Lindyable arrangements of "When you Wish Upon a Star" and "Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive." They also have a number of upbeat originals with the same message.

There is also a much wider variety of tempos on this CD, mixing slow and medium in with their traditional fast numbers. The group is still tight, and the musicians enjoy playing off each other. The music is still their own, with the same mix of swing, jump, loung and even show tunes (done in swing arrangements).

If you are looking for a positive record to pump you up, then you have found it.

Blues Jumpers "Wheels Start Turning"
Appeared in the Forum, April 4, 1999

Blues Jumpers
Wheels Start Turning
***, LL+, 1997
Blues Jumpers Cover

As their name implies, this group out of New York jumps, with a mixture of new tunes and remakes. Louis Jordan would be proud of "Chartreuse" (my favorite) and "Thanks for the Boogie Ride" (a remake of an Anita O'Day/Gene Krupa tune). As one would expect, their songs are mostly up-tempo (there are 7 dance tunes in the 190-200 range, and 2 in the slow range). They also do a couple of non-dance slow blues tunes.

The group (7 pieces + vocals) is tight, with good arrangements and good solos. The lead singer has somewhat of an unusual voice, but this has grown on me. I would be curious to meet him, as he sings an ode to a "Chicken Wing" that is quite convincing.

I haven't been able to come up with a valid group to compare them to, but based on discussions with other people, this record definitely appeals to the BBVD crowd, but is much more danceable (200 is a slow song on BBVD). I use their of Roy Milton's "Baby I'm Gone," with its "goodbye, so long" refrain, as my signoff song.

Casey McGill "Jump"
Appeared in the Forum, April 19, 1999

Casey McGill and The Spirits of Rhythm
**, LL-, 1998
Casey McGill Cover

Casey McGill and The Spirits of Rhythm are a group out of Washington State. Last year they played New Years Eve at Swingout Northwest, Seattle's big Swing week.

Their CD, "Jump," appears to me to be a concept album -- seeing a swing band dinner and stage show. Picture a bandleader in a white dinner jacket strutting on stage. The band kicks in, dancers run out onto the stage. Many of the tunes make you want to stop eating so that you can get up swing (Note: the songs are marked with beats per minute, but played faster than indicated on my CD player. This means that some of the tunes are better for East Coast/Jitterbug than for Lindy. One nice thing that the band has done is keep their very fast numbers short.) But you enjoy the ones you dance to, and watch the stage dancers for the ones you can't. It is a nice evening.

Perhaps the album should have been entitled "Swing," as many of their tunes have a prewar sound. Two of the three remakes are from the '30s, "Swing brother Swing" and "Undecided." Most of their original tunes, such as "Rhythm" and "Late Night Swing" have this same prewar sound, too, but with more production. This sound is achieved by using such instruments as a ukulele.

My favorite Lindy cut, however, is not typical of the rest of the CD. It is the 1950's Lieber and Stoller tune "Whadaya Want." This medium-tempo tune jumps with a very nice vocal duet.

This band reminds me of the Bill Elliot Orchestra, but with male vocals instead of female vocals, as they use modern lyrics but have an older sound.

Swingerhead "She Could be a Spy"
Appeared on the Website, May 31, 1999

She Could be a Spy
***, L, 1997
Swingerhead Cover

Swingerhead, a group out of Florida, is fronted by Mickey "SwingerHead" Andrew. On this CD, he debuts with 12 originals, in somewhat of a Frank Sinatra/ Bobby Darrin style; a 50's style updated for the 90's.

I think that the CD has some highs and some lows. Some of the songs I like quite a bit, such as the slow Lindy tune "Hey Baby, I'm Home," and the ballad of a broken heart, "I'll be Alright." In general, the lyrics to songs are playful, which works for me on some songs, but not on others. I am always disappointed by two catchy tunes with nonsensical lyrics, but this might not bother everyone.

An 8-piece band, the musicians are quite competent, and the list of guest musicians is longer than the actual group members themselves. The horns wail on most tunes.

Because there are only 3 cuts that I play as a DJ, I would buy this CD if you are looking as much for lounge music as dance music. But I look forward to their next CD.

Indigo Swing "Red Light"
Appeared in the Dance Forum, June 18, 1999

Indigo Swing
Red Light
**, LL, 1999

Ok, I probably messed up on my initial assessment of Indigo Swing's second CD, All Aboard!, giving it only LL; it deserved LLL. Although this CD may grow more on me, I am sticking with LL for it, primarily because fewer of the tunes really grab me.

This CD follows in the footsteps All Aboard more so than their first CD. Once again the band shines on slow Lindy tunes, featuring Johnny Boyd singing and William Beatty playing the walking piano, with tunes mainly set with blues lines. "The Best You Can" and "Another Day in LA" are right up there with "My Baby Just Cares for Me" and "How Lucky."

There are also some the very fast swing tunes. My favorite tune, however, is a fast instrumental "Guiliaume's Pepper Step."

If you liked All Aboard, then you will probably enjoy this CD.

Rocket 88 "1-2-3 Jump!"
Appeared in the Dance Forum, July 20, 1999

Rocket 88
1-2-3 Jump!
**, L, 1999
rocket88 Cover

Rocket 88, a group out of Florida, is not be confused with Mitch Woods's backup band with the same name. Like Mitch Woods, they have a strong piano and play music rooted in the late 40's and early 50's. The two tunes I like best on the album, Five-Ten-Fifteen Hours and Sam Butera's Dig that Crazy Chick, are both remakes of songs from that era. Both are medium tempo Lindy tunes.

The rest of the tunes are also mostly medium speed, but are a little more straight ahead -- they would swing more if they were more syncopated. Although both might enjoy listening to it, I would guess that East Coast dancers will enjoy this record more to dance to than Lindy Hoppers.

Peggy Cone "Central Park Stompers"
Appeared on the Website, August 1, 1999

Peggy Cone and The Central Park Stompers
Peggy Cone and The Central Park Stompers
**, L, 1999
Music Calendar Hotline (212) 769-7947
Peggy Cone Cover

Peggy Cone, a jazz vocalist and Lindy dancer from New York city, has released this self-titled six-song EP. It shows a lot of potential, with four very Lindy-able tracks. She has a unique vocal style, blending her jazz background with swing, jump and Broadway. There is quite a variety for an EP. Although I prefer her version of Daddy to the original, I would say that the EP lacks a true single.

She is backed by the Central Park Stompers, a six-piece band of good musicians. The play very well off of each other and have nice solos. The songs are played very smooth.

In all, I would say that it is a pretty happy EP. I look forward to seeing her Saturday, as I understand that she is even better live. I also look forward to a full length CD.

Ron Sunshine "Straight Up"
Appeared on the Website, August 24, 1999

Ron Sunshine was the first swing .MP3 file that I downloaded from the Internet.

Ron Sunshine & Full Swing
Straight Up
**, LL, 1998 Ron Sunshine Cover

Ron Sunshine leads a 6-piece band out of New York who play jump blues in a jazzy style. They mostly write originals, but cover such songs as "Hit that Jive, Jack" and "Salt Pork, West Virginia," which are fairly representative of the tunes they write. Their tune "She Won't Believe" (your jive) could easily pass for Louis Jordan.

The two tunes that you can download from, "Enough for You" and "Red Light" are also representative of how their sound is different than Jordan's. The solo instruments are harmonica, guitar and keyboards, with only some sax. The band is pretty tight, with kind of a thin sound, where you hear just the featured solo instrument, the stand up bass and the drums.

Despite the fact that there are eight swing/dance tunes, I can really only give this album LL because of tempo. Five songs very fast (over 210 bpm), but this should be OK for East Coast, and one is borderline too slow.

I would go to and download the mp3 files (more on that next week) or listen to the samples. If you like what you hear, then buy the CD.

Ray Gelato "Straight Up"
Appeared on the Website, October 12, 1999

This week we look at an old release and a new release from Ray Gelato. You have probably heard their tune "Tu Vou'Fa L'Americano?" in the Levis Docker's "Surfers" commercial.

The Ray Gelato Giants
Men from UNCLE
***, LLL, 1998

I like this CD. Although the group is only 8 pieces, they have a big sound, and it is like having a big band backing Louis Prima and Nat King Cole. They punch up a lot of songs that you might have heard from a vocalist backed by a small combo. But it is definitely still more of a 50's sound than a 30's sound.

There is a lot of variety, with a mixture of big band, jump blues and slow tunes. Most are upbeat and happy songs. My favorite Lindy tunes are "Walk Between the Raindrops," "Chicky-Mo," and "The Great City." (They are also all different tempos, which is also convenient as a DJ.) Most are tunes are not originals, but Ray says "I think that we have succeeded in imposing our own individual personality upon this timeless and still very contemporary music," and I agree with him. And with 17 tunes total, it is likely that you will find other tunes you like as well.

Although this CD will clearly appeal to Prima fans, I think that there is a lot here for people who like Big Band or just a big 50's sound.

Ray Gelato's Giants of Jive
Giants of Jive
*, L, 1989
Giants Cover

What a contrast with "Men from Uncle." This is the kind of CD that you might buy after seeing a band live; and when you take it home you go "they were so much better last night." You can see the unrealized potential in their cover tunes, but you put it away and hardly ever play it.

Set 'em Up Joe "Set 'em Up Joe"
Appeared on the Website, November 8, 1999

"It is quarter to three,
There is no one in the place
Except you and me
So set `em up Joe,
I got a little story
You ought to know"
- Lena Horne, "One for My Baby"

Set 'em Up Joe
Set `em Up Joe
***, LLL, 1990
Set 'em Up Cover

Set `em Up Joe is a talented 5-man group from New York who swings in a variety of styles. Although they would rather be compared to the Rat Pack, and perhaps that is true in attitude and lyrical content; musically I would say that they have influences from the Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Jive Aces and Indigo Swing to Jazz and Broadway. Their own character comes out towards the end of the CD, when they do a couple of songs about New York. You may have also heard their song "Zoot Suit" done by The Flying Neutrinos.

With this variety of styles comes a variety of tempos, but it is mostly medium and fast. My favorites the medium numbers "(Let Me) Cater Your Next Affair" and "Cake & Eat it Too" and faster tune "I Wanna Have Fun". Most of the songs have clever lyrics that are full of double entendres. Although the album is mostly swing tunes, perhaps their nicest song is the Rumba "Gino Goes Wild." Some of the songs do have a certain edge to them, which some people may not care for.

Because of the variety it is hard to say if this CD would have a broad appeal, because most people could find something that they liked, or narrow appeal, because the songs can be so different from one to the other. But I think that the CD has some strong songs that people who like other Neo Swing groups should at least a few of the cuts on this CD, too.

Furthermore, this group has some exposure on the Neo-Swing compilations, but those don't really have my favorite tunes on them. But if you like those tunes, then you should pick up this album.

Compilation "Got Swing?"
Appeared on the Website, December 6, 1999

It is the Holiday season, so here is a good choice if you are looking for gift ideas.

Got Swing?
****,LLLL, 1999
Got Swing Cover

The focus of this CD is to have good swing dance music, with a very broad audience appeal. It achieves this by segueing between styles and tempos. Its 14 cuts are by 13 current artists, who play in 3 major styles: a 30's & 40s swing sound like Bill Elliot and Ray Gelato, a 50's jump style like Lavay Smith and the J Street Jumpers, and a 90's sound like the New Morty Show and Bellevue Cadillac. Not to leave anyone out, the other groups are Big Time Operator, Eddie Reed, Pete Jacobs, Red & the Red Hots, Steve Lucky, Casey MacGill and Mitch Woods.

There is a good mixture of tempos, with 3 slow, 5 medium and 5 fast; but watch out for cut 11 "Call of the Wild," a 209-BPM song that is almost 5 min long (the cuts are marked with time and BPM). The tunes are well selected, and include the outstanding tracks "Walk Between the Rain Drops," "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" and "Whadaya Want."

This CD also provides a good guide to new music, as most of the songs are representative of the other cuts on their original CD. As the artists are all current I don't think that this will plug any holes in your collection, but the range of artists is so broad and current that I did not own all of the original CDs.

If you are looking for just one swing CD this year, either for yourself or as a present, then this just might be it. It is like having a party in a jewel case.

Dr. Zoot "Ragtop"
Appeared on the Website, December 27, 1999

Dr. Zoot will be appearing at Glen Echo on New Year's Day, and promises to be one of the highlights of the 2000 schedule.

Dr. Zoot
***,LL, 1999
Ragtop Cover

This group out of Pittsburgh is back with their second CD, and I am looking forward to seeing them live. They have a unique swing sound with a hint of the 20's to it. I think that this CD is stronger than their first CD.

The two CD's are similar in that most of the songs are originals, and are mainly stories (this CD continues their infatuation with gangsters, with "Pretty Boy Floyd."). Many songs are on the longer side for dancing, around 4 minutes.

The musicians are very strong and polished, and their classical training shows. The vocals, however, work better on some songs than others (well, Sinatra is hard to cover).

If you liked their first CD ("Ghosts of Swing"), then you will probably like this CD more. If you like them on New Years Day, then you should buy their CD from them, as it is not easily available in stores. If you miss them live, you can download MP3 files from their site that are representative of their sound, and order their CDs there too.

Various Artists "Jump, Jive & Swing"
Appeared on the Website, March 21, 2000

What makes a good compilation?

  1. To be an introduction, giving you representative songs CDs that you might want to buy
  2. Gives you the one song off of an album that you want, so that you don't have to buy the album
  3. Pulls together hard-to-find materials that were not widely released

This week we look at 2 CDs that combine the first 2 elements.

Various Artists
Jump, Jive n' Swing Volume 1
Jump, Jive n' Swing Volume 2
Ragtop Cover
Ragtop Cover

These CDs draw track from the blues groups that kept Jump Blues alive during the 80's and 90's, usually by playing for West Coast Swing'ers. The producer, Boston's Dan "DJ Mez" Mezrich has assembled these tunes for East Coast & Lindy swing dancers, culling 1 or 2 tracks from CDs released between 1987 and 1998. Although many of the songs swing, a few of the songs "bounce," more like west coast music played fast. The tunes are almost all medium and fast (the CD gives the time and BPM for all songs). There are a number of strong tracks on both CDs.

As it happens, I own most of the CDs that these tracks are taken from, and have reviewed many of them already. On Volume 1, I would say that if you like the cuts by Roomful of Blues, Big Joe Maher or the Love Dogs, then you might want to purchase their original CDs. On Volume 2, you should already own Lavay Smith, and perhaps Steve Lucky.

On Volume 1, The following cuts are drawn from blues CDs, where Dan has selected the best (and sometimes only) swing dance cut: Greg Piccolo's "Heavy Juice," Michelle Wilson's "So Emotional," Snooks Eaglin "Black Top Blues-a-Rama, Volume 6" and Mitch Woods's "Solid Gold Cadillac." (Mitch's weakest album). On Volume 2 I don't think of James "Thunderbird" Davis as a swing artist (although "Hello Sundown" is a great blues cut).

Each CD also has 3 cuts by Big Joe, from 3 different CDs.

Volume 2 is similar to volume 1, but stronger.

These CDs would please someone who was looking for the 50'ish small group Jump Blues sound done by groups still touring, playing "Happy Blues." The CDs can serve both as an introduction, and cover some gaps in a collection.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy "This Beautiful Life"
Appeared on the Website, May 2, 2000

Big-name bands such as BBVD usually have a number of useful reviews at But here are my 2 cents worth on their latest effort.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
This Beautiful Life
**,L, 2000
BBVD Cover

BBVD is changing their tune a little on this CD - it doesn't really swing that much. They use a variety of rhythms, but still only two tempos - fast and slow, and not much in-between. These two factors do not make for a great Lindy album, or even an East Coast album. There is some swing, but the Prima and Sinatra covers were disappointing to me.

There are some high spots. My favorite number is "When It Comes to Love," a very nice slow Lindy tune. And about half of the tunes swing. Some other reviewers think that the album grows on you. But there is nothing instantly grabs you like "You and Me and the Bottle Makes 3 Tonight" or "Go Daddy-O."

But they are still a great live show.

Lavay Smith "Everybody is Talkin' about Miss Thing;
Appeared on the Website, May 2, 2000

Big-name bands such as BBVD usually have a number of useful reviews at But here are my 2 cents worth on their latest effort.

Lavay Smith
Everybody is Talkin' about Miss Thing
***,LLLL, 2000
Lavay Cover

Lavay Smith's second CD, "Everybody is Talkin' about Miss Thing," is a solid effort that will be enjoyed by swing dancers of all types. Although its songs cannot top some of the truly great songs on Lavay's first effort, "One Hour Mama, " this CD was clearly created with dancers in mind. There are at least 10 songs that you can Lindy too, with a variety of tempos and a lot in that hard to find mid-speed (160-180) groove.

I think that the band may even be better than on the first CD. The piano, horns-everything--are still great. With the breaks and arrangements there is a lot for a dancer to play with. The sound is authentic late 40's small band night club R&B, Jazz/Blues meld, even the originals.

One could make a case that the first album is better to listen to, but this is a superior dance CD.

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