The Four Blazes

Mary Jo

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Considering the nostalgic significance now given to even the most obscure R&B acts of the '40s and '50s, it's surprising that the Four Blazes remain virtually unknown to modern listeners. Suave, danceable, and impeccably played, many of the songs on Mary Jo are on par with the best records of the day, and the stunning sound quality belies their early-'50s recording date. Lead singer Tommy Braden sounds like a tonier Wynonie Harris, able to perform racy R&B material and sympathetic ballads equally well. The only real argument that can be leveled against the group is that they rarely stray from the sensible bop of the title track, but since their sound owes as much to the Ink Spots as the Dominoes, this only makes sense, and the exotic cadence of "All Night Long" and the later cuts, with their snapping, T-Bone Walker-style lead guitar, manage to break the mold.

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