In 1999 Britain's Living Era label released Choo Choo Ch'Boogie, an entertaining compilation packed with 25 of Louis Jordan's most popular hit recordings. A native of Brinkley, AR, Jordan made his very first records with Clarence Williams in 1934 and was a featured member of the Chick Webb Orchestra, with whom he recorded in 1937. Jordan's background included a certain amount of medicine show minstrelsy and vaudeville, elements that would fuel his jazzy R&B act and establish his enduring fame as an exciting, hip, and very funny vocalist who also just happened to play alto saxophone with commanding power and lightning dexterity comparable to that of Pete Brown or Earl Bostic. This heartwarming anthology maps Jordan's rise to fame during a time period extending from November 15, 1941 -- the day he recorded "Knock Me a Kiss" -- to January 23, 1947, when Jordan waxed his own outrageous cover of Dusty Fletcher's "Open the Door, Richard." There's a lot to enjoy on this disc; "Caldonia," "Buzz Me," "Five Guys Named Moe," "Let the Good Times Roll," "Texas and Pacific," "Boogie Woogie Blue Plate," "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying," and "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens" -- these constitute the truly essential Louis Jordan, and for this reason Living Era's Choo Choo Ch'Boogie is highly recommended, even if those thoroughly familiar with his career will search in vain for choice oddities like "Sam Jones Done Snagged His Britches," "Beware," and "Cole Slaw." A sanguine pair of duets with Ella Fitzgerald -- his old buddy from the Chick Webb days -- adds critical ballast to an already excellent compilation, particularly "Stone Cold Dead in de Market," an outrageous, lively calypso novelty during which Louis impersonates a singing corpse and Ella cheerfully describes how much fun it was to beat her abusive husband to death with a frying pan. Their unique ability to transform such shocking and tragic subject matter into unforgettably funny dance music makes this performance one of the great milestones in 20th century entertainment.
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AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf