THIS JOURNAL DOCUMENTS MY INTAKE OF ONE BOOK, ZINE, CD OR DVD A DAY. RATINGS ARE: ***** = Godhead, **** = Great, *** = Good, ** = Fair, * = Why Bother?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mickey Baker (***)

In the 50s - Hit, Git & Split
Rev-Ola Records, 2007

Another new compilation I picked up at the library recently. I never knew much about Mickey "Guitar" Baker, other than hearing his late 50s session work at Mercury Records backing Louis Jordan's rocking blues sides like the 1956 version of "Caldonia" (which is included here). I had heard him thanks to the good taste of Kenny Vieth, who used to played the gifted guitarist at his Fells Point bar-and-restaurant Henninger's Tavern, and recently was thinking of him thanks to the Gallery Cafe, where Kate the sandwich girl was playing some instro compilation - I remember liking it because normally the place blared forgettable classic rock on 98 Rock. And I know Rolling Stone magazine included Baker as #53 in its list of the all-time Top 100 guitarists (Hendrix was #1 -surprise!).

If you check out this anthology, I recommend burning selected songs (git-the-hits-and-split!), mainly the instrumentals, because it's a hit-and-miss affair. Yes, there's the famous Mickey & Sylvia hit "Love Is Strange" (which ironically made its way onto the Deep Throat soundtrack) and Louis Jordan's "Caldonia '56," but with the exception of unsung rockabilly star Joe Clay's "Did You Mean Jelly-Bean (What You Said Cabbage-Head)?," a lot of the vocal sides are pretty pedestrian, being strictly B-list rockabilly and jump blues tunes.

Of those instros, I like the Bill Hendricks Orchestra's "Spinnin' Rock Boogie," Baker's own House Rockers' "Bandstand Stomp (Ho Ho Ho)", "Shake Walkin'", "Rock with a Sock" and "Greasy Spoon" (all of which would compliment any Las Vegas Grind collection) and Sam Price & His Texas Bluesicians ' "Rib Joint" (whose sleazy sax stylings are also worthy of Las Vegas Grind).

Of the vocal tracks, you gotta love Brownie McGhee's "Annie mae" - which features smokin' hot Baker solos after the first and second verses - and, of course, the irrepressibly charismatic Louis Jordan's "Caldonia '56" in which Baker conducts a riffs workshop, sliding up and down the frets like he's just greased his fingers with butter, and the boppin' titular "Hit, Git & Split" by Young Jesse.

Amazon product description: "2007 release, a definitive collection of Mickey's early world-shaking sides. Probably every guitarist has at least had a go at the legendary Mickey Baker's Complete Course in Jazz Guitar, right? And anyone who doesn't know the classic Mickey And Sylvia hit 'Love Is Strange' just hasn't been paying attention! As influential a stylist as Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, as vital to the music as Ike Turner, as innovative in technique and technology as Les Paul, Mickey was the secret hero who defined the electric guitar as it now exists."

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