Music Week's round-up of the latest album reissues and catalogue releases, including Beat Girls From The Eastern Bloc, Thelma Houston and Confessin’ The Blues
She Came From Hungary! – 1960s Beat Girls From The Eastern Bloc (Ace International CDTOP 1519)
After the success of its original Beat Girls albums which concentrated on British female artists of the 1960s, Ace has expanded the scope of this fascinating series to include releases showcasing the contemporaneous recordings of girls from Japan, France, Italy, Sweden and Spain but now ventures behind the Iron Curtain for the first time with 24 largely obscure recordings of female-fronted tracks from Hungary. Bearing in mind Hungary was a strictly controlled Communist state at the time, where every recording had to be vetted and approved, the results are surprisingly diverse, accessible and enjoyable. There are no covers of familiar songs, and all tracks are performed in Hungarian, often incorporating traditional folk instruments, but there’s much here to admire, with most artists displaying a grasp of and a talent for the beat idiom. Browsing the credits, I note that eight of the tracks – a third – were written or co-written by Istvan S. Nagy of whom I know little more than the fact he was in the band Romanyi Rota. On the evidence here, Nagy seems to know his craft. To name three of his songs: Ez Az Utolso Randevunk by Eva Nagy – who may or may not be related – is a stirring freakbeat creation; Csak Fiataloknak is a haunting debut from Marta Bencze; and Ven Tukor by Sarolta Zalatnay is a brassy, punchy confection with a nice string-powered middle eight. Other similar delights - some with Nagy credits, some not - pepper a rich and solid selection, and kudos to Ace for not only unearthing these treasures but also for assembling extremely comprehensive and illustration-rich liner notes for what is fairly obscure material.
The Devil In Me/Ready To Roll/Ride To The Rainbow/Reachin’ All Around (SoulMusic SMCR 5176D)
After the enormous success of Don’t Leave Me This Way and parent album Any Way You Like It, the estimable Thelma Houston remained with Motown for some time but was on a downwards spiral as far as sales were concerned. Four of those Motown albums are now combined, along with a couple of bonus tracks on this twofer, which pairs 1977’s The Devil In Me and 1978’s Ready To Roll on one CD, and 1979’s Ride To The Rainbow and 1982’s Reachin’ All Around on the other, While much of the material reflects the prevalent disco/R&B sound of the time, Houston’s artistry provides a lift for even the most mundane of tracls. Not that there are many of them. In fact, overall the material stands up well with highlights including Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, an uplifting and uptempo track that was to provide Houston with her final Top 40 pop hit stateside; a hustling disco remake of labelmates The Miracles’ monster hit Love Machine; Just A Little Piece Of You, an elegant Stevie Wonder/Syreeta Wright composition; and I’m Here Again, the best of several songs penned and produced by husband and wife team Michael & Brenda Sutton in the style of Don’t Leave Me This Way. Houston herself provides reminiscences for the liner notes, which complete an excellent package,a although some writer credits are randomly absent..
Confessin’ The Blues (BMG/Universal Music On Demand BMGCAT 155CD)
Curated by The Rolling Stones and with cover artwork painted by Ronnie Wood, Confessin’ The Blues is a 42 song 2 CD set compilation whose brief is to represent the evolution of blues-rock. The Rolling Stones have been lovers and supporters of the genre from the very start, covering their favourite tunes whenever so minded throughout their career. Here, therefore, we find Howlin’ Wolf’s original Little Red Rooster, a No.1 hit for the Stones in 1964 and Chuck Berry’s Carol, which was on their first album, also in 1964. Otis Rush’s I Can’t Quit You Baby and Lightnin’ Slim’s Hoodoo Blues, both of which they covered on their most recent album, 2016’s Blue & Lonesome are also present. Jay McShann & Walter Brown’s elemental title track for the collection, dating from 1941, and guitar virtuoso Buddy Guy’s Damn Right I’ve Got The Blues, from 50 years later are also included. Both evoke the same intense emotions, and putting together this set was obviously a labour of love for The Rolling Stones, while also acting as an acknowledgement, endorsement and advertisement for the genre. Also available as a book pack (BMGCAT 155EPXX), with 5 10-inch records, and six art cards) and split across 2 12-inch doublepacks (BMGCAT 155DLP1 and BMGCAT 255DLP2)