Global Routes : Orchestre Massako

Jean-Christian Mboumba Mackaya (aka ‘Mack-Joss’) fronted Gabon’s Orchestre Massako from 1971 – when the armed forces formed their own band. Aged 17, he was well known on Gabon’s nightlife scene having released the pan-African hit record ‘Le Boucher’.

Between 1968 and 1970 Mack-Joss and his Negro-Tropical recorded 45s at an open-air studio. In the late 1970s his Studio Mobile Massako was built and he would fly to France, (carrying the master tapes in his hand luggage), press the records and ship them back to African distributors.

A dozen albums were recorded between 1978 and 1986 some featuring the king of Afro-Cuban music Amara TourĂŠ who hailed from Dakar, Senegal.

Searching for tracks for reissue on his Analog Africa reissue label Samy Ben Redjeb recalled: “The last time I heard Mack-Joss’s voice was in August 2016. We had spoken a few  times before – but on that particular day,  I could hear gunshots being fired. Libreville (the capital city of Gabon) was in turmoil following the re-election of president Ali Bongo.” Ali Bongo and his corrupt father Omar Bongo who had ruled Gabon for forty years is believed to have ripped off $130 million (a conservative estimate) of Gabon’s assets.Mack Joss had retired in 1996. “By the time I was ready to go ahead with the reissue project, Mack-Joss’s phone number had been disconnected. Shortly after-wards I found out that he had passed away in 2018. I regretted that we hadn’t been able to be in touch after that tumultuous day” says Samy Ben Redjeb.

Mack Joss’ music and songs occupy a special place with the Gabonese people and a new generation of musicians. This infectious four track vinyl and download set by Orchestre Massako has two tracks with vocals by Amara Touré.

This article appeared in my feature Global Routes Morning Star on-line May 20th

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Global Routes – Vieux Farka TourĂŠ

Vieux Farka Touré, son of Grammy Award winner and Malian national hero Ali Farka Touré has a new album out called Les Racines (“the roots”) on World Circuit which sees Vieux reconnect with the Songhai music of Northern Mali — known as “Desert Blues.”

His father, who died in 2006, was the finest guitarist Africa has ever produced. Following in his father’s footsteps Vieux is now known as the “Hendrix of the Sahara.”

Because of the pandemic he spent two years making the album. “I’ve had a desire to do a more traditional album for a long time. It’s important to me and to Malian people that we stay connected to our roots and our history. Early in my career people asked why I wasn’t just following my father. But it was important for me to establish my own identity,” he says. “Now people know what I can do, I can return to those roots.”

Recorded in Bamako in his home studio, the album is steeped in the mesmeric music of West Africa. With 10 original songs, Vieux addresses the problems Mali faces after a brutal civil war which saw Islamist militants destroy recording studios, close down radio stations and ban music in parts of the country.

“In Mali many people are illiterate — music is the main way of transmitting information and knowledge. My father fought for peace and we have an obligation to educate people about the problems facing our country and to rally people.”

Les Racines is also a tribute to his father whose name is invoked in the album’s closing track Ndjehene Direne. “The album is an homage to my father but, just as importantly, to everything he represented and stood for.”

Les Racines is available on World Circuit Records.

This article appeared in my Global Routes feature in the Morning Star April 15th 2022

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Are You Ready For The Country?

The Birth Of Country Rock:

Great  13 minute film on the birth of country rock…..including Buck Owens, The Everly Brothers, The Byrds, The Dillards, Gene Clark/Doug Dillard, Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons, Mike Nesmith, Gosdin Brothers……..

Find it on Facebook at:


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Cameroon Garage Funk – “a legacy of raw grooves and magnificent tunes”

YaoundĂŠ, in the 1970s, was a buzzing place. Every neighbourhood of Cameroon’s capital was filled with music spots – but surprisingly there was no infrastructure to immortalise those musical riches.

The country suffered from a serious lack of proper recording facilities, and the process of committing your song to tape could become a whole adventure unto itself.

Of course, you could always book the national broadcasting company together with a sound engineer, but this was hardly an option for underground artists with no cash. But luckily an alternative option emerged in the form of an adventist church with some good recording equipment.

Many of the artists on this compilation recorded their first few songs, secretly, in these premises thanks to Monsieur Awono, the church engineer. He knew the schedule of the priests and, in exchange for some cash, he would arrange recording sessions. The artists still had to bring in their own equipment, and since there was only one microphone, the amps and instruments had to be positioned perfectly. It was a risky business for everyone involved but since they knew they were making history, it was all worth it.

At the end of the recording, the master reel would be handed to whoever had paid for the session, usually the artist themselves. And what happened next? With no distribution nor recording companies around this was a legitimate question. More often then not it was the French label Sonafric that would offer their manufacturing and distribution structure and many Cameroonian artist used that platform to kickstart their career.

Mballa Bony & the Ndenga Boys, 1977 (Copyright: Analog Africa)

What is particularly surprising in the case of Sonafric was their willingness to take chances and judge music solely on their merit rather than their commercial viability. The sheer amount of seriously crazy music released also spoke volumes about the openness of the people behind the label.

But who exactly are these artists that recorded one or two songs before disappearing, never to be heard from again? Some of the names – like Jean-Pierre Djeukam whose song “Africa Iyo” from 1978 opens the compilation – were so obscure that even the most seasoned veterans of the Cameroonian music scene had never heard of them.

A few trips to the land of Makossa by Analog Africa’s founder Samy Ben Redjeb, and many more hours of interviews were necessary to get enough insight into Yaoundé’s buzzing 1970s music scene. On one crate digging trip he found sixteen 45’s (most from Sonafric) at the national radio station in Niger.

The set comes with the extensive liner notes are the result of meticulous research by Ben Redjeb and Volkan Kaya, full of personal stories and beautifully designed with plenty archive images.

Despite the myriad difficulties involved in the simple process of making and releasing a record, the musicians of Yaoundé’s underground music scene left behind an extraordinary legacy of raw grooves and magnificent tunes.

The songs may have been recorded in a church, with a single microphone in the span of only an hour or two, but the fact that we still pay attention to these great creations some 50 years later, only illustrates the timelessness of their music.

Cameroon Garage Funk is available on Analog Africa o a double LP pressed on 140g virgin vinyl with gatefold cover + full colour 12-pages booklet and on CD with a full colour 28-pages booklet (AACD092)

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The Trojan Records Story – Rob Bell and Rusty Zinn Interview

Rob Bell and Rusty Zinn to talk about their contributions to Trojan’s latest release – ‘The Trojan Story’. Rob Bell was the brains behind the original release of ‘The Trojan Story’ back in 1971, exactly 50 years later he talks about his motivations behind the release and reveals life at Trojan in the 1970’s.

Watch the Full interview here.

Find out more about The Trojan Story:

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Qobuz, UMe & Zappa Records Offer Zappa Albums in Hi-Res

Qobuz, the Hi-Res streaming and download provider, has partnered with UMe and Zappa Records to provide dozens of Frank Zappa albums for the first time in Hi-Res Audio.

UMe, the global catalogue company of Universal Music Group, and Zappa Records are launching today a Hi-Res reissue campaign on Qobuz totaling 29 albums spanning all phases of Zappa’s groundbreaking career.

The five-week campaign will span a series of drops between now and May 7th, with classic and influential albums released for download and streaming in Hi-Res audio quality for the first time.

Beginning April 2nd, fans will be able to stream and download nine albums exclusively on Qobuz. The albums will be available in native 24-bit Hi-Res FLAC format. Each will include an extensive PDF digital booklet, a feature only available on Qobuz’s streaming apps. The assortment includes the second album from the original Mothers of Invention, ‘Absolutely Free’, first released in 1967, and ‘Halloween 81’, documenting Zappa’s famed holiday residency at New York City’s Palladium, in both full box set and edited ‘highlights’ versions.

Hi-Res Frank Zappa albums to be released so far include Absolutely Free; Burnt Weeny Sandwich; Bongo Fury; Chicago ’78; Zappa In New York (40th Anniversary Deluxe); Orchestral Favorites (40th Anniversary); Halloween 81; Halloween 81 Highlights; The Mothers 1970 Box Set

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A Revolution In Sound: Pop Culture & The Classical Avant-Garde, 4CD Set

‘A Revolution In Sound’ looks at the influence of modern classical music, the avant-garde and free jazz on pop and pop culture, during the second half of the twentieth century.

In the mid-1960s, as pop music acquired a greater sophistication and maturity, artists began to make more ambitious musical and conceptual statements. In the search for new ideas, pop began to find inspiration along the spectrum of classical music – from Stockhausen to Sibelius – and from artists who inhabited the outer reaches of jazz, drawing even on the classical music of Northern India with its roots in the antique past.

The albums produced by The Beatles at their creative peak; ‘Rubber Soul’, ‘Revolver’ and ‘Sgt. Pepper’; almost everything by The Mothers of Invention; The Byrds’ ‘Fifth Dimension’; The Pink Floyd’s debut, ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’; The Grateful Dead’s ”Anthem of the Sun; the early works of Can, Jefferson Airplane and Soft Machine; all were enriched by the assimilation of techniques and procedures appropriated from the pioneers of art music.

Frank Zappa did more than anyone to open the door to the modernist world; his expansive music informed by Stravinsky, Webern, Schoenberg, Messiaen, Pierre Boulez and most notably Edgard Varèse, whose work Zappa encountered in his youth, and spent his life championing.

Paul McCartney and John Lennon increased their creative palettes by borrowing from the strange new musical universes of Stockhausen, Berio and Cage while George Harrison’s life was changed by Ravi Shankar, to whose music he and the other Beatles were feverishly introduced by David Crosby and Roger McGuinn at a Benedict Canyon LSD party in 1965.

For the “Fifth Beatle”, producer George Martin, the passions were the French Impressionist composers Debussy and Ravel, from whom he claimed to have learned to “Paint in Sound”; for Phil Lesh of The Grateful Dead it would be the music of Charles Ives (“It sounds like the inside of your head when you’re daydreaming”). Brian Eno directly answered Erik Satie’s call for “music that would be a part of the surrounding noises” with his ambient Music for Airports, while Captain Beefheart, Robert Wyatt and Lou Reed would all surrender to the liberating spirit of Ornette Coleman.

In the realm of electronics and musique concrète, the tireless experiments in tape-manipulation by Daphne Oram and Pierre Henry found expression in radio, television and on stage. In cinema, Stanley Kubrick’s masterful use of Bartok and Liszt vindicated his stated preference for the use of pre-existing music over original score; while in ‘Altered States’, Ken Russell blew our minds by taking the relationship between music and image to a new sensory level; aided by a wild electronic score that included Pierre Henry’s Veil of Orpheus.

The box set includes full 27 minute version of Henry’s Orpheus, the first major work of symphonic concrète music is but one of the historic features to be found in this presentation. A Revolution In Sound also includes the premiere recording of Stockhausen’s monumental Gruppen for Three Orchestras, with Pierre Boulez, Bruno Maderna and Stockhausen himself conducting; Beecham’s beautiful 1955 account of Sibelius’ ‘Incidental music from The Tempest’; an exhilarating recording of Stravinsky’s ballet ‘Agon’ by Hans Rosbaud with the SWGR, a hugely influential piece, a triumph for the composer; and from before the creation of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, the “Radiophonic poem”, Private Dreams and Public Nightmares, a quite unprecedented collage of manipulated voices and sound effects assembled by Daphne Oram and Desmond Briscoe: a challenge for radio listeners in 1957. As the producer, Donald McWhinnie stated in his introduction, ‘You may detest this programme, but I hope you won’t dismiss it. Certainly nothing like this has ever come out of your loudspeaker before’

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Zappa’s Final U.S. Concert in 1988 Gets First-Ever Legit Release

Frank Zappa’s final U.S. concert from a March 25th, 1988 gig at New York’s Nassau Coliseum is the next archival release from the Zappa Trust and UMe.

Due out June 18th, marks the first-ever posthumous release of a live album from the 1988 touring band and boasts 29 unreleased recordings from the concert, plus a pair of tracks culled from the same tour: Covers of the Allman Brothers Band’s “Whipping Post” from the March 16th show in Providence, Rhode Island, and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” from the March 23rd Towson, Maryland, show.

The live album (long available on bootlegs) also sees the first-ever release of Zappa’s “The Beatles Medley,” including “Norwegian Wood,” “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” and “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and is embedded with lyrics inspired by a sex scandal involving televangelist Jimmy Swaggart.

The concert took place months before the 1988 presidential election, with Zappa setting up voter registration drives at his concerts. The Synclavier piece “One Man, One Vote” that Zappa performed at the show also nodded toward the voter registration efforts, as did the performance’s final song, a rendition of “America the Beautiful.”

The Last U.S. Show will be released digitally, on two CDs, or as a four-LP 180-gram vinyl box — available on both black vinyl or as a limited-edition 180-gram purple vinyl variant, exclusively through the official Frank Zappa online store or uDiscover — and is up for preorder now.

The album — newly mixed from long-vaulted 48-track digital master tapes — features liner notes penned by Travers and 1988 touring drummer Chad Wackerman, who celebrated his 28th birthday onstage with the band during what ultimately became Zappa’s final U.S. concert.

The live album follows the most recent Zappa Trust archival release, a five-LP deep-dive into Zappa’s vaults for the soundtrack of the Alex Winter-directed 2020 documentary Zappa.

Zappa ’88: The Last U.S. Show Track List

1. “We Are Doing Voter Registration Here”
2. The Black Page (New Age Version)
3. I Ain’t Got No Heart
4. Love of My Life
5. Inca Roads
6. Sharleena
7. Who Needs the Peace Corps?
8. I Left My Heart in San Francisco
9. Dickie’s Such an Asshole
10. When the Lie’s So Big
11. Jesus Thinks You’re a Jerk
12. Sofa #1
13. One Man, One Vote
14. Happy Birthday, Chad!
15. Packard Goose Pt. 1
16. Royal March From “L’Histoire Du Soldat”
17. Theme From the Bartok Piano Concerto #3
18. Packard Goose Pt. II
19. The Torture Never Stops Pt. I
20. Theme From “Bonanza”
1. Lonesome Cowboy Burt
2. The Torture Never Stops Pt. II
3. City of Tiny Lites
4. Pound for a Brown
5. The Beatles Medley
6. Peaches En Regalia
7. Stairway to Heaven
8. I Am the Walrus
9. Whipping Post
10. Bolero
11. America the Beautifu

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Great article on Charlie Gillett – Doyen Of World Music & UK Radio

Posted in 45 rpm, 78rpm, Americana, Blues, Books, Cassette, Compact Disc, Country/Hillbilly, Gospel, Jazz, Magazine, Rare Records, Rhythm & Blues, Rock, Rock & Roll, Roots, Soul, Uncategorized, Vinyl, Website, World Music | Leave a comment

Death Might Be Your Santa Claus: Early Christmas Blues Jazz, Sermons & Gospel Recordings

By Gillian Atkinson

A Christmas music playlist is a feature of modern life and we have 
thousands of festive tracks to choose from. It seems it is in our blood to enjoy music connected to a winter festival.

We can trace the 
development of ‘Christmas music“’ back to the 4th Century when St.
Hilary of Poitiers composed the Latin carol ‘Jesus refulsit
omnium’ (‘Jesus illuminates all’).

Christmas sheet music has been with us for centuries too. One of the
earliest collections ‘Piae Cantiones’, a songbook from Finland was 
first published in 1582. It contains a number of songs that have
 survived today, as well-known Christmas carols.

By the late 1700s, the festival of Christmas was so popular that it
 produced the secular favourite ‘The Twelve Days Of Christmas’. By
1865, Santa Claus was making an appearance in two popular tunes by
Benjamin Russell Hanby ‘Up On The House Top’ and ‘Jolly Old
Saint Nicholas’.

He composed ‘Up On The Housetop’ as a Christmas
sing-along, originally entitled ‘Santa Claus’.

 Interestingly, this was also the year that Harper’s Magazine sought to 
forge a link between spending money on gifts and Christmas: “Love is
 the moral of Christmas…What are gifts but the proof and signs of
 love !”

What with buying trees, gift giving, drinks and oodles of
 food, Christmas was becoming a costly business, enshrining the modern
 festivities, as a festival of idealised family life and perfect homes.

There was a nod to the less fortunate but it would take another sixty
 years until blues singers began to expose the reality of life for
many, over the yuletide, with their songs of abandonment, poverty,
domestic chaos and hard times, in a seeming world of plenty. 

By 1900, sound recordings had become a growing, new, international 
industry, with the most popular titles selling millions of units.

However, the recording companies themselves had not really thought of
the potential that Christmas records could offer, though that was soon
 to change.

The first Christmas record

On 30th October, 1889 banjo player Will Lyle was invited into the Edison
 studios and unwittingly made history by recording ‘Jingle Bells’,
which is now generally agreed to be the very first Christmas record.
 It was and remains, one of the most sung Christmas songs in the world,
though its composer did not have Christmas in mind when he wrote it.

Written by James Lord Pierpont (1822–1893) in the autumn of 1857, it
 was published under the title ‘One Horse Open Sleigh’ and was
first performed by blackface minstrel Johnny Pell in Ordway Hall on
September 16th of the same year. Initially, the song had no connection
to Christmas and would not become associated with the holiday season
until decades later.

The Roaring Twenties -The Jazz Age

The majority of the Christmas record output of the early 1900s were
 carols or novelty songs but this was to change radically when those
early blues singers stepped up to the recording horn!

The question often arises as to which is the first Christmas blues 
record. As blues and jazz were somewhat interchangeable in the early
 1920s, it is hard to say, though it is generally presumed to be ‘At
the Christmas Ball’ performed by the “Empress of the Blues“,
Bessie Smith, but I beg to differ.

I am tempted to go with ‘Crazy
Blues’ written by Perry Bradford and performed by Mamie Smith. This 
landmark recording is also the first blues record made by a popular
 black singer.

The song was recorded in August 1920 but it was not actually released 
by OKeh Records until October or November that year. It was pushed and
promoted all over the Christmas period and must have stuck in the mind
of many as being associated with Christmas.

The next real contender
must be ‘Santa Claus Blues’ as performed by the Red Onion Jazz
Babies, recorded in New York City on 26thNovember 1924. The
 recording’s stellar line up was Louis Armstrong, cornet; Aaron
Thompson, trombone; Buster Bailey, clarinet; Lil Hardin-Armstrong,
piano and Buddy Christian, banjo.

Maybe we can discount it because it
is an instrumental but what about the remake, recorded on the 8th
October 1925 by Clarence Williams’ Blue Five with Eva Taylor,
 vocalis; Clarence Williams, leader; Louis Armstrong, cornet; Buster
Bailey, saxophone; Buddy Christian, banjo; Charlie Irvis, trombone;
Don Redman, clarinet.

The merry bells are ringing today,

But they don’t mean nothing to me.

I hear the children singing today,

But I’m as blue as I can be.

Ol’ Santa Claus forgot my address,

That’s one thing I can plainly see.

It may be Christmas to some folks,

It’s just December 25th to me!

There was another more sentimental and slower version cut by the
 Clarence Williams Trio on the 16th October and this is really bluesy.
 Interestingly, it was written by Charley Straight and Gus Kahn, two
 white songwriters but it was published by Clarence Williams. After
 Bessie’s hit with ‘At the Christmas Ball’, which, incidentally, is one
 of her very few ‘cheerful blues’, at least in terms of lyrics, the
stage was set for the many hundreds and hundreds of Christmas and New
Year Blues, Gospels and Sermons (and Jazz and Soul) records that 

Anything that might sell to a black (and white) audience was fair game
 for the early record labels. Consequently, Christmas sermons jostled
 with raunchy or humorous recordings. Recorded Sermons by fiery
 preachers, like the Rev J.M Gates, Rev Nix, Rev Claybourne and Rev
Dickinson were very popular and sold in droves during the mid-1920s
 through to the early 1930s.

The titles of many of these recordings would
astonish us now, such as ‘Death Might Be Your Santa Claus’, ‘The Wrong Way To Celebrate Christmas’, ‘Death Might Be Your Christmas 
Gift’, ‘Will the Coffin Be Your Santa Claus?’, ‘Will Hell Be 
Your Santa Claus?’, ‘That Little Thing May Kill You Yet (Christmas
Sermon)’, ‘Did You Spend Christmas in Jail?’.

The counter point 
to these, were the best selling records: ‘Christmas in Jail (Ain’t
that a Pain)’ by Leroy Carr, with Scrapper Blackwell, and the 
amusing innuendo filled ‘Papa Ain’t No Santa Claus (Mama Ain’t
no Christmas Tree)’ from the pen of Andy Razaf and performed by the 
popular comedic duet of Butterbeans and Suzie.

By now, the term
 ‘Santa Claus became interchangeable with the jolly old man 
himself and an actual Xmas gift.

 In 1927, whilst middle America was listening to Vaughn De Leath (The
Radio Girl) crooning ‘The Night Before Christmas’ and ‘Christmas
 Songs For Children’, Harlemites and Chicagoans were rocking to
 Lonnie Johnson’s guitar and sympathising with Victoria Spivey’s

My man’s so deep in trouble the white folks couldn’t get him free

He stole a hog the charge was murder in the first degree

I never had a Christmas with trouble like this before

I Ain’t never had a Christmas with trouble like this before

Sleigh bells is my death bells, and hard luck’s knocking at my door

Back in 1928, a year before his untimely death, Blind Lemon 
Jefferson, one of the most popular blues singers of the 1920s and  
”Father of the Texas Blues”, waxed a double-sided, festive hit,
‘Christmas Eve Blues’ / ‘Happy New Year Blues’, which may be 
the first New Year Blues Record .
In 1929 Frankie “Half Pint“ Jackson, the wildly popular African
American vaudeville singer, stage designer and comedian, and erstwhile
female impersonator led The Cotton Top Mountain Sanctified Singers and
 choir, with the noted musician Ernest “Punch” Miller, in a jazzy 
stomping romping version of the spiritual ‘Christ Was Born On Christmas

In 1921 the Harlem situated, black owned and operated, Black Swan
record Label had thought there might be a market in Christmas records
and they placed an ad in the New York Age on Christmas Eve of that
 year: “Black Swan X’mas Records”.

The December list features 
numbers for the Christmas Season “ Sacred Songs”, which featured a
mixture of Carols, Classics, Jazz and Blues by their artists.

The 1920s did not produce much in the way of black festive
 gospel/carol singing, though there were some artists who recorded some
carols, notably the Elkins-Payne Jubilee Singers with their rendition
 of ‘Silent Night’, back in 1926.

The early blues recordings of the 1920s were dominated by the women n
 known as “The Classic Blues Singers“, so it is no surprise to find
the standard blues laments of “Santa bring my man back” by the
likes of Bertha Chippie Hill, Ozie Ware and Elzadie Robinson, on 

By 1930, recording techniques had improved markedly. Drums and other
 powerful instruments could be used on records and singers did not have
 to bawl to make themselves heard.

The Christmas / New Year blues
 market was well established and the themes of love, loss, death and
 sexual innuendo were well established and becoming increasingly
 sophisticated to meet an expanding black and white market. Therefore,
it is surprising and interesting to find the 1930, Lil McClintock 
recording, entitled ‘You Must Think I’m Santa Claus’. McClintock
 was an older man, who had been in the medicine and tent shows and this
recording mirrors a “minstrel and medicine show routine” made up
 of four separate songs but containing the lines.

Please don’t think that I’m Santa Claus,

’Cause Christmas comes every day,

You can hear dem sleigh bells a-ringin’ now,

Every time you turn around this-a-way,

You need not think that I’m a human bein’,

It’s nothin’ but a fraud,

’Cause I bring you present ever’

Once in a while,
Don’t think I’m Santa Claus. “

The original (comic) song had been written by Irving Jones, with music
by Maxwell Silver and was released both on an Edison cylinder and
Columbia 78 back in 1904/5.

The late 1930s saw the increasing use of electrification and the
electric guitar would come to dominate later blues recordings but the
themes remained the same although one notable exception is the
joyously infectious ‘Swinging Them Jingle Bells’ by Fats Waller 
and his Rhythm waxed in 1938.

In the 1940s and 1950s, there were still plenty of blues and jazz
 Christmas platters to be spun but musical tastes were changing and
there were Big Bands, Swing Bands, Gospel Singers, Doo Wop and Rock 
and Rollers on the Christmas Record scene, which only added to the
 festive mix.

The late 1950s and 1960s brought a whole host of R&B, Tamla and Soul 
 As the century came to an end, there were more musical genres than you
could shake a stick at and they all produced festive offerings for
 discerning aficionados of Christmas music. It was hard to keep track
 of what was available. This century saw technology keep up and even
out strip musical trends enabling us to have a diverse Christmas 
playlist on our phone or PC that is longer than our arms.

Something’s never change though and if we have a song that speaks of
the difficulties of life at Christmas, the loss of a lover or the 
threat of homelessness, we have (most probably) a blues song or a song
that can and should look back to the Blues as its ancestor.

Of course,
the very best of these blues songs can actually lift our spirits,
rather than drag us down. They can elevate our mood, or make us want 
to dance.

This was always the purpose of the blues; to ease one’s 
mind, when the vicissitudes of life got you down. The Blues is as
important to modern life for its observational and healing qualities
as it ever was and this Christmas, with its uncertainties, might be
the very time to revisit some of the earliest offerings to put our
lives, hopes and dreams into context.

The blues tells us that there is
nothing new under the sun and that might be our best comfort and joy 
this Yuletide.

You can hear the above selections and almost 200 more tracks from the
 years 1922-1963 on our 5 Double CD, Series ‘Blues Blues 
Christmas’, with illustrations and notes by Blues Historian and DJ
Jeff Harris from Jazz90.1 c/o ‘Big Road Blues’, Rochester, New

Gillian Atkinson is Director of Document Records

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