|Performers include: Big Duke, Pat Cupp, Clarence Garlow, Barker Brothers, Sammy Masters, Lee Denson, Van Robinson, Don Cole, Danny Boy, Danny Flores, Jesse James, Mercy Dee Walton.
|What unifies this motley assortment of non-hit 1950s singles, mostly rockabilly in style, although there are a few R&B cuts tossed in? All were done for the Modern group of labels. Modern and its subsidiaries were much more known for early West Coast blues, R&B, and black vocal group sounds than they were for straight rock & roll. This fair but unexceptional sampler illustrates why that was the case: the singers were imitators, not innovators. Ploughing through the generous allotment of 32 cuts, there's the sense that Modern was throwing a lot of stuff against the studio wall to see what might come of attempts to ride the rock & roll craze (it was thought of as a craze back then, remember), though of course there were many other labels doing the same thing. It's certainly not lacking in energy, and some cuts stick out way above the others, such as Clarence Garlow's hot 1953 R&B-verging-on-rock single "Route 90"/"Crawfishin'," and Lee Denson's "High School Hop," soaked with an inordinate bucket of reverb even by rockabilly standards. Don Cole (with "Snake Eyed Mama") and Danny Flores (with "You Are My Sunshine") must have been wearing out the grooves on their Jerry Lee Lewis singles before their sessions, so blatant are the attempts to recapture that atmosphere; Artie Wilson's "Jerry Jerry" is an even more obvious cop of the Little Richard/Larry Williams train. So what might catch the attention of the thorough early rock collector here? Well, Mercy Dee's "Come Back, Maybellene" is a half-decent 1955 "answer" record to Chuck Berry's "Maybellene"; Long Tall Marvin (now there's a hip nom de plume), actually Marvin Phillips of Marvin & Johnny, does a super-jittery Little Richard impersonation on "Have Mercy, Miss Percy"; and Jesse James' "Red Hot Rockin' Blues" is about the most convincing rockabilly song on the disc, with some really twistin' 'n' growlin' vocals, a cool manic guitar solo, and blasting saxophones. Incidentally, a half-dozen of these tracks, including three demos by Jesse James, were previously unreleased. ~ Richie Unterberger