Chris Barber Band

In Barber's Chair

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The first release in Lake's Record Supervision series of Denis Preston productions, In Barber's Chair is a veritable collector's paradise, as it trawls through the plethora of "solo" EPs released by Chris Barber Band members for cuts featuring Monty Sunshine, Ottilie Patterson, Pat Halcox, and Ian Wheeler (Sunshine's replacement in the lineup, in early 1961). Four original EPs are spotlighted: Sunshine's Monty and Halcox's Pat, both released in 1960; Wheeler's Ian, from 1961, and In Barber's Chair itself, a 1962 four-tracker that spotlighted the band as a whole, via the romping "Ory's Creole Trombone," Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo," the sparse "Ca C'Est l'Amour," and the delightfully tricky "Body and Soul." Even with the other musicians taking a deserved turn in the spotlight, however, there is a solid consistency to the CD, whether it's Halcox marching through the almost vaudevillian sequence of "Making Whoopee," "Sunny Side of the Street," and so forth, or Wheeler's wicked "New Stag O'Lee." Sunshine's magnificent rendering of Sidney Bechet's "Bagatelle," meanwhile, stands out not only as a highlight of the album, but also as one of the group's best-ever recordings -- Sunshine cut it immediately after the band scored their biggest-ever hit with another Bechet number, "Petit Fleur," and one cannot help but wonder why their label of the time didn't hustle this new recording out as a follow-up. In fact, if there is any major criticism to be made, it is that the fifth star member of the group, vocalist Ottilie Patterson, is so poorly represented; though she is heard on just three tracks (1962's R&B-tinged single "Come On Baby" and a couple of tracks -- "I Hate Myself" and "Till We Meet Again" -- that remained unreleased until 1989), her own EP release is absent from this gathering. However, the liners' promise of "another collection" that will address her absence offers something to look forward to. And in the meantime, Barber Band fans will certainly thrill to some truly invigorating performances.

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