Various Artists

Hands Off! 1950-1956 Modern Studio Recordings

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What to do with the output of several women singers who recorded for one of the foremost R&B labels of the early to mid-'50s, but didn't really record enough to merit a single-artist CD of their work for the company? Ace Records, which has released many compilations from the Modern vaults, comes up with a logical solution on the Hands Off! compilation, grouping them all together on this 27-track disc. Nine songs are featured by Donna Hightower; five by Helen Humes, the most celebrated performer on the anthology; two by Zola Taylor, most famous for joining the Platters soon after these tracks were cut; and six and five respectively by Dolly Cooper and Linda Peters, who according to the liner notes are likely different names for the same vocalist. Spanning the years 1950-1956, on the whole it's decent, period R&B with elements of jazz, jump blues, and doo wop, though it doesn't often catch fire. Hightower's portion is about the most interesting, as she's a solid singer of up-tempo material and provides what's easily the CD's standout cut, a cover of the lively, sassy Jay McShann-Priscilla Bowman hit "Hands Off." Humes' tracks are all from 1951 and are all, with one exception, previously unissued alternate takes. She has the jazziest feel of any of the singers, though she gets into relatively earthy blues on "I Ain't in the Mood," an "answer" record to John Lee Hooker's smash "I'm in the Mood." Cooper and Peters, who as previously noted might well be the same singer, offer more routine doo wop-flavored sides on the verge of making the transition into the rock & roll era, though more so on the Cooper cuts than the ones credited to Peters. Taylor's tracks, taken from both sides of a 1954 single, are pretty unimpressive early doo wop, though she'd be the singer from this group to experience the greatest commercial success when she joined the Platters shortly afterward. As is customary for Ace, the annotation and sessionography are first-rate in their thoroughness.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:01
2 2:54
3 2:37
4 2:31
5 2:53
6 2:58
7 2:09
8 2:52
9 2:24
10 2:34
11 2:00
12 2:57
13 2:42
14 3:17
15 2:12
16 2:48
17 2:28
19 2:57
20 2:12
23 2:26
24 3:00
25 2:19
26 2:33
27 2:51
blue highlight denotes track pick