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Ace (CDCHD1390)

Professor Longhair, Johnny Adams, Al Johnson, The Gondoliers, Lenny Capello, Eddy Lang, Irma Thomas, Eddie Bo, Chris Kenner, Tommy Ridgley, Martha Carter, Joe Jones, Robert Parker, Mercy Baby & more

Joe Ruffino's Ric & Ron Records was never a massive commercial success during its five years of operation after opening for business in 1958. However, although it may have missed out on the national hits necessary to make its presence felt, it did play an important role in developing the careers of local New Orleans legends such as Professor Longhair, Eddie Bo and Tommy Ridgley and in launching the careers of others, including Johnny Adams and Irma Thomas.

The 24  tracks presented here arise from Ace's trawl through the label's archives, with a focus on recordings from its first two years of operation. A further volume covering 1960-1962 is tantalisingly promised for later in 2014 and, if the second volume is anywhere as good as this, then we really do have another feast of hypnotic and captivating New Orleans R&B to look forward to.

This selection kicks us straight into happy-valley with Professor Longhair's infectious classic, Go To The Mardi Gras, and it simply never lets up, followed as it is in rapid succession by Johnny Adams soul heart-breaker, I Won't Cry and Eddie Bo's shuffling Tell It Like It Is. By the time we've arrived at Edgar Blanchard's irresistible instrumental, Let's Get It, I'm in full Dad-dancing mode grooving to the sumptuous guitar riffing alongside the sympatico honking sax.

Johnny Adams and Professor Longhair both return soon enough with more highlights. Johnny Adams on Come On has a great hook in the song and his vocals, as always, are right on the money. Longhair's Cuttin' Out (Hey Now Baby) demonstrates an indefinable charm that few can rival, here or anywhere.

Elsewhere, there are delightful novelty numbers (such as The Gondoliers on You Call Everybody Darling), greasy R&B instrumentals (Robert Parker's All Night Long), full-throated soul (Martha Carter's Nobody Knows), fragile torch songs (Irma Thomas I May Be Wrong) and I'm not forgetting the Joe Jones Orchestra's You Talk Too Much, an unfeasibly groovy number that gives this compilation its title.

Final word though must go to the two demos unearthed here, the first being a solo version of the classic Tipitina from Professor Longhair that is a beaut (even though the piano sounds as though it was recorded underwater). The second demo is Johnny Adams running through I Won't Cry with just a guitar as support. An unadorned delight to end a whole album of them.

C'mon Ace, bring on Volume 2!!

Review Date: Febraury 2014

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