Various Artists

R&B on Lakewood Boulevard

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The Downey studio, located in a hi-fi store in the town of Downey itself (not far south of Los Angeles), recorded many tapes in the 1960s. It's most known for the surf music it recorded, since the only substantial hit that resulted from this activity, the Chantays' "Pipeline," was a classic surf instrumental. However, it recorded several different styles of music while it was in operation, including, in the first half of the 1960s, a good deal of rhythm and blues. R&B on Lakewood Boulevard presents 26 such recordings, less than half of which found release on small labels at the time; the other tracks are either previously unreleased or had to wait several decades to appear on other collector-oriented CDs. There are a few artists who had some success at other points in their careers, notably Little Johnny Taylor, Chuck Higgins, and Jessie Hill, but otherwise it's populated by unknowns (unless you count T-Bone Walker, Jr., nephew of the great blues guitarist T-Bone Walker, as a known entity). This isn't great stuff, and the R&B-blues-oriented material was going out of style in the marketplace even as it was being recorded, but it's actually more varied and interesting than the usual such special-interest anthology. There's some decent moody minor-keyed blues from T-Bone Walker, Jr., who sounds a bit like a bluesier Little Willie John; some New Orleans-styled R&B from Jessie Hill, though it doesn't ring as authentically as what he actually recorded in New Orleans; and a bit of doo wop by the Debonaires. And there's lots of fair, and fairly derivative, R&B-blues reminiscent of the wealth of such material recorded in the style by Los Angeles labels like Specialty, Aladdin, and Modern in the 1950s, though with a slightly more modern approach.

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