- 'leven Thirty Saturday Night
- Night Owl
- Got A Date With An Angel
- Gotta Getta Girl
- Sing Song Girl
- God's River
- Bonzo's Tango
- Mysterious Mose
- My Sweet Virginia
- It All Belongs To Me
- Moanin' Low
- New Orleans Shuffle
- Ghost Of The St. Louis Blues
- Shepherd Of The Hills.
Spats Langham and his Hot Combination, with special guests
Dressed like Bogie but sounding like an Edward Hopper. The Bogart
aspirant is Spats Langham and the title of his new album has that
Hopper ring. It's not how I think of Tom Langham, that pre-War
recidivist, whom I imagine driving an open-topped British Racing Green
tourer to Shuttleworth, a picnic basket clinging precariously to a
boot full of champagne, and a Flapper giggling in the passenger seat.
Maybe a portable HMV gramophone somewhere about the place as well,
with some Eddie Lang and Lew Stone ready to receive the thorn needle.
Actually it turns out that Langham drives a 1931 Austin Seven and
wears Harris Tweed. The man is an incorrigible throwback. He and his
Hot Combination, with some guest stars, have carved out just shy of
an hour's worth of good honest pleasure in this Hopperesquely
titled disc. The song selection satellites around things by Ukelele
Ike, a special favourite of Langham, Emmett Miller and a number of
tunes that won't be over-familiar to listeners. Astute song selection
ensures interest is maintained and choice arrangements similarly ensure
that aural fatigue is kept splendidly at bay.
Kudos to Malcolm Sked, who pumps away so splendidly throughout, not
least in the opener where Danny Blyth's rhythm guitar keeps things
springy and swingy. Norman Field multi-tasks on clarinet and saxophone
and Spats takes the vocal and a solo strong on vitality.
Keith Nichols, piano meister, guests on trombone on Got
A Date With An Angel and elsewhere. Another guest, Langham's
guitar confrere Martin Wheatley, lays out some Hawaiian guitar wares
on Gotta Getta Girl. Chinoiserie vogue haunts Sing Song
Girl whilst Bonzo's Tango is a Langham composition,
a sinewy affair, full of shining teeth and hips. I reckon Maurice
Elwin and the Rhythmic Eight are the inspiration for this version
of Mysterious Mose - a good tune that should be heard more
often despite the period vocal. Most certainly though Al Bowlly and
Roy Fox resonate behind My Sweet Virginia though it's just
possible that an archivist extraordinaire such as Langham has had
access to Bowlly's rare recording of the song with Arthur Lally
on Durium; the result in any case is exciting and highly effective.
Talking of which the rhythmic brio and panache that launches It
All Belongs To Me is searing; what a punch is packed by the chaps,
not least by Wheatley sitting in again, and by Spats's excited
vocals. Debbie Arthurs lends her vocals to Moanin' Low and
her pure Annette Hanshaw voice is, as ever, a splendid asset, and
so too her skill behind the drum kit, as she displays throughout.
Good on the band for revivifying the Halfway House's 1925 New
Orleans Shuffle. (If they came to the song by another route, good
on them anyway.) Langham admits that the song long associated with
Argentinean jazz guitarist Oscar Aleman, Melancolia, is 'dangerously
modern' for the early 1940s but it's good he has graciously
crept over the boundary rope separating darkness from light to revive
it. Langham and Wheatley both share admiration for Aleman but neither,
I suspect, much goes for Django. Chaps, for shame!
The hot quintet of like minded confreres - Langham, Blyth, Field,
Sked and Arthurs - produces a splendidly authentic ensemble sound.
The music is vibrant, swinging, and investigates reportorial byways
well worth exploring. Nighthawk or not Langham proves a fearless and
finger-sure revivifier of true accomplishment.