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1950-1954

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Album Review

Oliver King Perry ("King" was his given middle name) was born in the industrial boomtown of Gary, IN, in 1920. Precociously multi-instrumental from an early age, Perry was inspired to play alto saxophone after hearing Johnny Hodges featured with Duke Ellington's orchestra. He performed with the Steel City Melodians, studied music at West Virginia's Starr College, and formed his own little band in the early '40s, gigging at clubs throughout Detroit and Chicago. After joining a package tour with Dorothy Donegan, the King Cole Trio, and Scatman Crothers, King Perry's group found itself stranded in Los Angeles. When they started performing in the clubs to generate cash, it was "standing room only." Then Daniel O'Brien began recording their music and issuing it on his Melodisc label. This led to recording opportunities with United Artists, Excelsior, and De Luxe. Early King Perry records reveal a soulful, spirited saxophonist who sang his own unusual and often humorous lyrics. At its best, his sense of showmanship was striking and inventive. Perry kept up with changing popular tastes, focusing on the R&B trend as the 1950s got underway. He engaged in quite a bit of label-hopping during this time, recording with Specialty in 1950-1951; Dot in 1952; RPM in 1953; and the Lucky, Unique, Look, and Hollywood labels in 1954. At this stage of his career, Perry sang a bit like Wynonie Harris, Louis Jordan, or late-period Cab Calloway. "I Ain't Got a Dime to My Name" is an arresting blue bolero based on Gershwin's "Summertime" and laced with traces of "St. James Infirmary." After naughtiness erupts during "Duck's Yas Yas Yas" and Perry loses his last shred of dignity during the foolishly contrived "Animal Song," he actually imitates a circus barker on "I Must Have Been an Ugly Baby." Two instrumental tracks — "Coquette" and "On the Sunny Side of the Street" — feel like precious gems after all that corn. Perry was an accomplished saxophone balladeer, something like Earl Bostic but without Bostic's high-end blowtorch tonalities. Two more instrumentals, "Christopher Columbus" and "Things Ain't What They Used to Be," are ladled out rather heavy-handedly, giving way to raucous singalong novelties ("Pitching a Party") and ballsy topical rockers with all the subtlety of a bus wreck ("Get Out of My Face"). A real slice of history is presented here. It will sound best when considered in the light of Perry's earlier and frankly more dignified recordings.

1950-1954, King Perry
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  • 5,99 €
  • Genres: Blues, Music
  • Released: 19 April 2005

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