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UNLOCK THE LOCK - THE KENT RECORDS STORY VOLUME 1 1958-1962 (2CD)

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Ace (CDTOP2 1449)

B.B. King, Etta James, Sonny Knight, Floyd Dixon, Hadda Brooks, Jesse Belvin, Jimmy Nelson, Joe Houston, Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, Jimmy Witherspoon, Pat Hunt, Little Joe Hinton, The Senders and more...

The latest instalment of a series that focuses on the various imprints of Modern Records, owned and run by the Bihari Brothers. This edition features the first four years of  Kent Records, formed in 1958 at the same time as the other imprints (RPM and Flair) were being closed down.

This collection offers up 48 tracks ranging in scope from blues, rhythm & blues, rock & roll, rockabilly, ballads and the odd novelty item. The mainstay of the label for a few years after 1958 was B.B. King and this is reflected by the fact that 10 of the sides included are from Blues Boy’s Kent output. As with other releases in the series however, the story is told wherever possible by the inclusion of unissued alternate takes in preference to any versions previously released. So, for B.B. King, you get here new and unheard versions of Please Accept My Love, Worry Worry, The Fool, Bad Case Of Love and more (including a smoking 6 minute version of Sweet Sixteen Pts 1 & 2).

Elsewhere Jimmy Witherspoon delivers a strong version of Hank Williams’ classic Your Cheatin’ Heart and the vocal purity of Hal Davis on Without You wins me over every time.  When considering strong vocals, nobody tops Etta James and here she breezily delivers a powerful performance on Baby, Baby Every Night. And get a load of Hadda Brooks’ brooding and intense vocals on The Thrill Is Gone.

Other highlights include the Barker Brothers, signed with a view to grabbing a bit of the Everly Brothers action and it is easy to see the comparison from their gentle rock & roller, Hey Little Baby. Sonny Knight’s affecting ballad, Madness and Artie Wilson’s uncontrolled R&B stomper That’s My Girl are also top-drawer. And I’ll definitely be looking to catch up on the rockabilly records of Jesse James after experiencing his gloriously out of control Red Hot Rockin’ Blues and South’s Gonna Rise Again.

As always with Ace, the CDs come with a beautifully presented booklet and this has a packed 16 pages of notes telling the early history of Kent Records and the artists that feature here.

If you’ve enjoyed the earlier titles in the series, then this should be a no-brainer. And the good news is that already being prepared is a second and final volume of the Kent Records Story (1962-72), set for release in 2016.

 

Review Date: August 2015

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