Various Artists

More Mellow Cats 'N' Kittens

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When over half of a various-artists compilation of rhythm and blues from the late '40s and early '50s is comprised of previously unreleased recordings, and when one of the artists is billed as "Unknown Male Vocalist," it's fair enough warning that the disc is for specialists only. Still, if you do like the more jumping brand of early R&B, this is pretty decent, even if it's lacking in big names and limited in its scope, taking all of its material from the vaults of the Modern and Sensation labels. Nothing cries "lost classic," but that's not the point of these compilations; the intention is to supply aficionados of the style with a program of reasonably enjoyable material they haven't yet heard. On that count, this release succeeds, mixing up boogie, jump'n'jive, blues, free-spirited lyrics, a little bit of R&B balladry, a lingering swing jazz influence, a lot of fine raucous piano playing, and some faint hints of the rock & roll that grew out of this mixture. Highlights are going to vary according to individual tastes, but Emmitt Slay & His Slayriders' "Looky Ploot" will certainly appeal to Louis Prima fans, though this has a greater earthiness and less of a novelty feel than Prima took to his material. The Noc-Tunes' "Gotta Go Back to Katie" is a pretty novel mixture of hepped-up jump blues with some wild steel guitar playing, and Butch Stone's "I'm OK" is a reasonably witty "things can't be any worse, so why not paste a grin over them" tune. If you're looking for that hint of rock & roll, it's in "Rockin'," a 1951 single by Bobby Nunn & the Robins, Nunn later becoming part of the Coasters.

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