Screamin' Jay Hawkins

Voodoo Jive: The Best of Screamin' Jay Hawkins

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Voodoo Jive: The Best of Screamin' Jay Hawkins Review

by Mark Deming

Screamin' Jay Hawkins -- genius or lunatic? An investigation of Hawkins' body of work suggests these two options were hardly mutually exclusive in his case, and while he certainly tended to favor material that indulged his fondness for the vocal freak-out, the man also possessed a solid baritone voice and knew just what to do with it. (A careful examination of his music reveals that Screamin' Jay could sing "straight" and do it quite well if the occasion called for it -- he simply wasn't asked to do so very often.) At his best, Hawkins was a musical eccentric in the great tradition of Spike Jones, Captain Beefheart, and Prince, determined to follow his own unique path, consequences be damned. Sadly, most of Hawkins' albums were wildly uneven, but Voodoo Jive: The Best of Screamin' Jay Hawkins filters out the duds to serve up 17 perverse gems from his work on a handful of labels; along with his biggest hit, the once-scandalous "I Put a Spell On You," you get such wonders of modern recording as "Alligator Wine" and "Feast of the Mau Mau," his singular interpretations of "I Love Paris" and "You Made Me Love You (I Didn't Want to Do It)," and the definitive music statement on the inability to void, "Constipation Blues" (which actually charted in Japan, proving this theme truly spans cultural boundaries). If you're only going to own one Screamin' Jay Hawkins disc, Voodoo Jive is definitely the one to get, though we accept no responsibility for the reaction of your neighbors if you play "(She Put The) Wamee (On Me)" at three in the morning.

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