Various Artists

King New Breed R&B, Vol. 2

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So what is New Breed R&B, anyway? According to the liner notes, the term originated shortly before this 2012 compilation to define "late 50s-early 60s pre-soul black acts that owed a lot to the blues, but had largely been neglected by long-term blues fans." Not exactly your pithy single-column genre category, but it's an apt enough description for the 24 tracks on this disc, all released on the King label or its subsidiaries between 1955 and 1967. Though most of those are rarities that even New Breed collectors, should there be such things yet, will probably be unaware of, there are actually a few songs that some general rock/soul fans might well know. Little Willie John's "All Around the World" was a big early rock & roll classic, making number five on the R&B charts in 1955 and inspiring Little Milton's later hit "Grits Ain't Groceries." "I'm Tore Down" was one of Freddy King's biggest singles, also making number five on the R&B charts (in 1961). And the title phrase of Johnny Watson's "Gangster of Love" popped up in Steve Miller's "The Joker," though the songs are otherwise dissimilar. A few other well-known or semi-known names dot the compilation (the "5" Royales, Eugene Church, and Eddie Kirk, the latter better known as bluesman Eddie Kirkland), though there are quite a few artists who'll be recognized by a few, like the memorably named Guitar Crusher. The aforementioned songs aside, it's not on the level of the best King releases. For the most part, it's acceptable R&B/soul/rock & roll/blues crossover music, sometimes with a novelty-friendly humor, as heard in the raps for Hal Hardy's "Love Man" and one of the better songs, James Duncan's "Stop Talking to Your Child (Mother-in-Law)." The humor might be unintentional, however, in Donnie Elbert's "Wild Child," which almost sounds like someone singing "Fever" in a drag show. El Pauling & the Royalton's odd, gloomy minor-key blues "I'm a Cool Teenager," incidentally, is "5" Royales guitarist Lowman Pauling recording under a pseudonym.

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