Johnny Ace inadvertently pioneered the rock & roll cliché of "live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse." On Christmas day, 1954, Ace died at the age of 25 as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound he received while playing Russian Roulette backstage at a show in Houston, TX. Ace recorded a mere 21 songs in his lifetime, and not long after his death Duke Records prexy Don Robey compiled 12 of them on Memorial Album. Remarkably enough, the collection is not only still in print, but remains the only widely available Johnny Ace compilation (even though his entire body of work would fit on one CD). Ultimately, this album forged the sonic portrait of Johnny Ace that has survived to this day, and it's still a powerful and indelible set of songs, with Ace's smooth but unmistakably melancholy voice riding on a pillow of tape echo over the lazy shuffle of drums, organs, and vibraphones. While a more complete collection would seem to be in order, Memorial Album remains a satisfying collection of Ace's work, and nearly half a century after his passing, songs like "Pledging My Love," "The Clock," "Anymore," and others are still haunting and compelling listening.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming