The Best of Bill Black's Combo - The Hi Records Years
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These 18 songs, from 1959-1964, should be all anyone needs of this extremely popular instrumental group. Indeed, people tend to forget just how popular these fellows were back in the early '60s: all but two of these cuts made the Top 100, and six made the Top 20 in 1959-1961 alone. It's still surprisingly samey-sounding all at once, though, most of the cuts anchored by a walking R&B shuffle beat, often embellished by honking sax and chintzy organ. It was the Bill Doggett ("Honky Tonk") format, diluted somewhat for the pop audience, and tethered to very basic bluesy riffs that didn't vary too much over the years. For that reason, these must have been better to hear back in the day on actual honky tonk jukeboxes than on greatest-hits compilations one after the other. When there's some change in the tempo, as on "Blue Tango" and "Tequila," it comes as a relief. The collection is enhanced by Colin Escott's lengthy and learned historical liner notes.
Great album, but....
Be aware that these are not the mono Top 40 hit versions of these songs. Originally, Black released songs like "Josephine," for example, only on 45. The original versions were not on any album.
In 1963, he released an album called "Bill Black's Greatest Hits" that had stereo re-recordings of his hits. This cd contains those stereo re-recordings from 1963, not the original mono recordings that were played on the radio and became the hits a few years earlier. As far as I know, the original recordings are still not available on cd (except for Smokie, Part 2, which is on a number of compilations in its original mono). This is a great album, but know what you are getting.