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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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George Melly and the Mick Mulligan Jazz Band
Nothing Personal

George Melly (vocals) with The Mick Mulligan Jazz Band
rec. 1950-57

LAKE LACD 265 [58:10 + 51:32]



Sporting Life
Loveless Love
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Gulf Coast Blues
St. Louis Blues
Michigan Water Blues
Aunt Hagar's Blues
Spider Crawl
Sent For You Yesterday
Farewell To Storyville
Roll 'Em Pete
Hound Dog
This Train
Kingdom Coming
I'm A Ding Dong Daddy
Railroadin' Man
Waiting For A Train
My Canary Has Circles Under His Eyes
Heebie Jeebies
Black Bottom
King Of The Zulus
Pleadin' For The Blues
Take Me For A Buggy Ride
Root Doctor
1919 Rag
Candy Lips
Savoy Blues
How Long Blues
The Curse
Down In Honky Tonk Town
Rock Island Line
Send Me To The 'lectric Chair
Kitchen Man
Jazzbo Brown From Memphis Town

This is a nicely bipartite double CD set - two for the price of one, by the way. The first disc is by Mick Mulligan and His Jazz Band and the second by Mick Mulligan's Magnolia Jazz Band. All the tracks were recorded between 1950 and 1957. Nothing Personal refers to the title of the LP of the same name, the first LP to be issued under George Melly's name, and which has never been reissued in full, though a number of tracks have been taken from it.

The first disc covers some stylistic ground - blues, skiffle, Boogie Woogie, and Gospel are all grist to the mill. I've always enjoyed the sound of just Melly and guitarist Denny Wright doing Sporting Life in 1957 and the fuller-than-usual vocals of St Louis Blues. This version of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom was on a favourite compilation LP of the time called A Scrapbook of British Jazz. (I know because one rainy afternoon in 1977 I played it and fell in love with Jazz). At its heart though the Mulligan band was a hard driving Chicago outfit that learned to accommodate Melly's more specialist Classic Blues tastes - the fiery example of their stylistic metier can best be appreciated in Spider Crawl where tenor player Betty Smith joins them. Harry Gold guests on a few tracks on his Rolliniesque bass sax - and John Watson proves a congenial trombonist on the three tracks that he guests. Melly is ever Melly - though it has to be said that his strangulated attempt at a Jimmy Rushing vocal on Sent For You Yesterday is not amongst his imperishable moments of glory on record. The forays into Skiffle - on This Train for instance - are less successful than the almost contemporaneous Ken Colyer skiffle sides.

The second disc gets right back to the beginning with a series of 1950-52 tracks. The earliest feature a rather lumbering, rugged Lu Watters style ensemble with two banjos (most people thought one was a crime let alone two) and tuba. The immobility of the rhythm section doesn't entirely constrain the front line - Mulligan, trombonist Bob Dawbarn and clarinettist Pete Hull, who shows his Doddsian credentials in his lower and upper register work on Pleadin' For The Blues; fine preaching trombone and forceful Mulligan lead on this track as well. These sides have a rawness and commitment that compensate for instrumental or ensemble lapses. Pianist Brian Burn does a Clarence Lofton-inspired turn on Root Doctor - down home and surprisingly effective. I like the relaxation of tempo for Savoy Blues and the set piece success of Melly's great standby Send Me To The 'lectric Chair, though Rock Island Line is rather too heavy.

Quite a mixed bag then of the incongruous, the exploratory and the expected. The looser early sides still pack a punch and the later ones point to a clearer defining of Melly's repertoire - though it was never static in any case, and never confined to Classic Blues. However you look at it it's excellent to have them collated in this way.

Jonathan Woolf



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