Various Artists

Central Rocks: The Central Ave Scene 1951-58, Vol. 2

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Like the first volume of this series, this gathers a couple of dozen recordings from the vaults of the Combo label, which recorded a good deal of R&B in Los Angeles in the 1950s. (A focal point of that scene was a strip of Central Avenue, hence the title.) Its appeal is mostly to hardcore R&B collectors: there's just one hit (and even that's in an alternate version) and only a few performers of fairly wide repute, and seven of the tracks are previously unreleased outtakes or alternate takes. It's standard mid-'50s-style R&B from the honkers-and-shouters style, though these are pretty spirited performances with a good sense of humor, even if they're not too different from each other in melody or approach. The "hit" (indeed, the only national hit that Combo had) is an alternate take of 1954 Gene & Eunice's Top Ten R&B single "Ko Ko Mo," though it should be noted that actually the duo released two versions of that song around the same time (the other was on the Aladdin label). A few of the other bigger names include Chuck Higgins, one of whose tracks is "Real Gone Hound Dog," an obscure 1952 "answer" record to "Hound Dog"; Joe Houston, another of the numerous honking saxmen heard on this disc; the Ernie Fields Orchestra, who'd later have a number four hit with "In the Mood" on a different label; and Jack McVea. The most memorable thing here, however, might be Higgins' "The Blacksmith Blues," with some of the most incoherently nonsensical, drunkenly sung lyrics you're apt to come across anywhere.

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