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Chris Barber 1956

LAKE LACD246 [79:37 + 41:41]




Whistling Rufus
Big House Blues
April Showers
One Sweet Letter From You
We Shall Walk Through The Valley
Thriller Rag
Texas Moaner
Wabash Blues
Bugle Call Rag
Petite Fleur
Sweet Georgia Brown
A Smooth One
Bourbon Street Parade
New Blues
Willie The Weeper
Mean Mistreater
Yama Yama Man
Ol’ Man Mose
Mood Indigo
Bearcat Crawl
Lowland Blues
Panama; Bourbon Street/ When The Saints
Railroad Bill
Ballad Of Jesse James
Old Riley
Lost John
Doin’ My Time
Where Could I Go
Can’t You Line ‘Em
Gypsy Davy
Chris Barber’s Jazz Band; Lonnie Donegan’s Skiffle Group; The Chris Barber Skiffle Group
rec. 1956

Say Whistling Rufus and Petite Fleur and it’s not just the Barber discographers who’ll snap back "1956." This was a busy and propitious time in the band’s illustrious history and it’s been mapped with typical thoroughness and attention to detail in the latest of Lake’s landmark "year" editions – in this case a double CD set, of which the second disc lasts forty-one minutes, but which is priced as a single.

The repertoire and the methodology were both set by now and the repertoire ranged with occasionally eclectic glee. The rhythm section is spruce and springy, the front line finely calibrated to show off Halcox’s fiery lead, Barber’s cosmopolitan control and Sunshine’s ebulliently piercing clarinet. That said it’s the mellow lyricism of Petite Fleur that lends especial distinction to his playing – a famous hit that was to spawn a long line of imitators. His own other solo feature Hushabye is almost as good. The leader didn’t play on the big hit, of course, but makes amends on April showers where his bluff fluency matches that of his clarinet partner. The repertoire, as ever, takes in Ellingtonia, Classic Blues, standards, a Spiritual, Rags, a cakewalk and the like. Texas Moaner is a long track, at eight minutes, but it allows the band to stretch out, not least Pat Halcox whose blues drenched solo is a high point.

The Royal Festival Hall concert performances are here as well on disc two. They’re in obviously rougher sound, being live, but have the advantage of an increased level of adrenalin. Ottilie Patterson is as fine as ever and we can, as before in this Lake series, hear her piano playing as well. She lent ears to boogie and blues masters and in Bearcat Crawl she seems to have lent particular ears to Clarence "Cripple" Lofton. The whole band though is on uplifting and vigorous form and sounds like they were enjoying every minute of it.

There are also, inevitably, the two Skiffle bands – Barber’s and Lonnie Donegan’s. Some of the Barber tracks feature American bluegrass singer and guitarist Johnny Duncan, who essays the mandolin on Where could I go? There’s a degree of unevenness in these skiffle tracks but they’re invariably committed and fervent examples of the genre.

Original LP artwork has been cunningly and cleverly presented in Lake’s packaging. Restoration work is expert. No complaints at all from me here – a class restoration.

Jonathan Woolf


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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