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1939 Camel Caravan Shoes

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Album Review

Harlequin delivers another surprise package. Culled from radio broadcasts sponsored by the Camel cigarette company, here are no less than 28 previously unreleased recordings by the band that played Dixieland revival before there was such a thing as Dixieland revival. Bing Crosby's brother leads an ensemble partly peppered with members of Ben Pollack's Pick-a-Rib Boys. The rhythm section alone is a force to be reckoned with: drummer Ray Bauduc, bassist Bob Haggart, guitarist Nappy Lamare, and the amazing pianist Joe Sullivan. Irving Fazola and Eddie Miller light up the reed section, and Billy Butterfield comes across as a versatile trumpeter. A lot of these tunes are only about two minutes in length, which accounts for the comparatively high number of tracks. "Love Nest" is very attractive, and there are surprisingly cool versions of "What's New" (composed by Haggart) and "Girl of My Dreams," a melody thoughtfully revived in 1959 by Charles Mingus. For those who must have singers, Helen Ward performs a couple of standard ballads, and there are a few attempts at hipness by various males who sing or who have convinced themselves that they can sing. "Well All Right" is a rather contrived novelty group vocal led by Bob Crosby and Johnny Mercer. "The Jumpin' Jive" is similarly conspicuous as a Cab Calloway imitation involving Mercer again and the voice of Nappy Lamare. These two also trundle out something called "The Little Man Who Wasn't There." This one is so unsubstantial that they are unable to carry it beyond one minute and 49 seconds duration! The best selections are of course the instrumental versions of traditional jazz classics: Jelly Roll Morton's "Wolverine Blues" expands in a full-blown big-band arrangement. "Song of the Wanderer" is a smoker. "High Society" is dynamite. "Smokey Mary" showcases the percussionist from the get-go. "Fidgety Feet," "Bugle Call Rag," and "Muskrat Ramble" are stone beautiful Crescent City stomps. There's even a worthwhile rendition of "Beer Barrel Polka," performed in this case without any vocals, thank goodness.

1939 Camel Caravan Shoes, Bob Crosby & The Bobcats
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