even talk about the pile of unused DeLuxe sides, somehow postponed for a future that now will never be. And how about the concrete factual information about the King family of labels that I’ve never bothered to communicate – because I decided to leave the detail work to others better suited to it?
Facts, too few and too late: Did you know that most King and Federal singles went from conception to recording to mixing to mastering to pressing to storage to distribution – the whole shebang – under the roof of the company HQ at 1540 Brewster Avenue in Cincinnati, Ohio? That hillbilly music constituted an equal share of the King output, and
that there are country versions of many of the R&B records featured on “Hipshakers”? How odd is it that you haven’t heard even a peep in this series from James Brown, King’s biggest star? That’s because he pried his masters free from the label’s grip in the early 70s, thus blocking our access to them.
A word about masters. You may be aware of the loss of a pantheon of beloved recording artists’ master tapes in a fire at Universal Studios in Los Angeles in 2008, a staggering blow to our cultural heritage that remained widely unknown until recently. Well, the fact is that even the masters that do survive are often in a sorry, baffling state. Compilers mining “masters” often find that what’s been saved are alternate mixes, alternate takes, edits. Throughout this series I’ve attempted to present the recordings as they appeared on released 45s. This has sometimes meant remastering from my own copies of the original records – although in one instance on this new volume, I’ve opted for a previously unreleased (as far as I can tell) version of a song, Lulu Reed’s ‘Your Love Keeps A-Working on Me’, because I like the bare-bones, no-backing-vocals recording. Don’t go looking for an original single of it, though, as there isn’t one! (You wouldn’t be the first to undertake that kind of wild goose chase.)
So here it is, the last batch of your 100 montaditos from the King catalog, 20 final tasty morsels to savor. These hundred “Hipshakers” tracks barely scratch the surface (not a great expression to use in the context of records, I know!) of King and Federal’s incredible output, insane as it may sound. Think about that as you listen to returnees
Little Willie John and The 5 Royales, whose catalogs are so rich they could keep appearing on hypothetical future volumes in perpetuity. And to the fresh sounds of first-timers Dolph Prince, Cora Woods and Sonny Thompson, which rank with the best on any volume. Rockers, moody slowies, wailers, brassy instrumentals – all here, all hipshakers. Hank Ballard, my favorite (whose six tracks across the series are the most by anybody), fittingly gets the last word. When he predicts — perhaps overoptimistically — “This is a hit”, these rocks in my head, responsible for so many questionable decisions over the years, go bim-bam. I can only hope yours do too.
Mr Fine Wine
New York City