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Monday, December 14, 2009

Alberta Hunter: Complete Recorded Works Vol. 3


1) Everybody Loves My Baby; 2) Texas Moaner Blues; 3) Nobody Knows The Way I Feel 'Dis Morning; 4) Early Every Morn; 5) Cake Walking Babies (From Home); 6) Your Jelly Roll Is Good; 7) Take That Thing Away; 8) Eve­rybody Does It Now; 9) A Master Man With A Master Mind; 10) Don't Want It All; 11) I'm Hard To Satisfy; 12) Em­pty Cellar Blues; 13) Double Crossin' Papa; 14) You For Me, Me For You; 15) I'm Tired Blues; 16) Wasn't It Nice?; 17) Everybody Mess Around; 18) Don't Forget To Mess Around; 19) Heebie Jeebies; 20) I'll Forgive You 'Cause I Love You; 21) I'm Gonna Lose Myself Way Down In Louisville; 22) My Old Daddy's Got A Brand New Way To Love; 23) I'm Down Right Now But I Won't Be Down Always.

The third volume in the series is arguably the best. First, there is a dramatic increase in sound qua­lity: for all the hype around Paramount, its records were known for horrendously low fidelity, and even if that was not the main reason for Alberta's jump to Gennett in 1924 and then to Okeh in 1925, it is still mighty fine for the fans that she did make that jump. The Gennett records, in particular, sound unusually crisp and sharp; alas, the songs on them are not among Alberta's best material. The cracks and pops come back on Okeh, but in a moderate manner.

With such an increase in quality, one can finally start noticing all the subtle nuances in Hunter's singing: she was, quite clearly, maturing as a singer, perhaps striving to bring out all her hitherto undisclosed sides under the pressures of competition; by the end of 1923, the "Blues Queens" era had mobilized a veritable swarm of mighty singers, and it was certainly harder to compete with Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith than with Lucille Hegamin and Mamie Smith. But Alberta almost rises to the challenge, toughening up her act, yet still sounding "lady-like". 'You For Me, Me For You', for instance, where she is only accompanied by a modest piano backing, is a great example: strong and protective, but gentle in overtones.

She even engages in singing more provocative stuff, rich on double-entendres — on one record at least (Okeh 8268), where the A-side is 'Take That Thing Away' (what thing?) and the B-side is 'Your Jelly Roll Is Good' (no comment necessary). And she lets her hair down on faster, merrier, speakeasy-friendly numbers more frequently than before (the classic chestnut 'Cake Walking Babies (From Home)'; 'Heebie Jeebies', etc.). All in all, fans of the Roaring Decade will probably get a kick out of at least half of these performances. There's also supposed to be some Louis Arm­strong backup on a few of them, but I do not know where exactly.

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