CD of the Month

SCREAMIN’ JAY HAWKINS: The Planet Sessions

Ace CDCHD 1493 (66:02)

Night And Day/ In My Dream/ I Wanna Know/ Your Kind Of Love/ Change Your Ways/ Serving Time/ Alright, O.K. You Win/ Please Forgive Me/ Move Me/ I’m So Glad/ My Marion/ All Night/ I’m Lonely/ Stone Crazy/ I’m So Glad/ Change Your Ways/ Please Forgive Me/ Your Kind Of Love/ My Marion/ In My Dream (with alternate guitar solo)/ All Night/ Please Forgive Me (take 3)/ Change Your Ways (take 4)/ Your Kind Of Love (take 3)

Recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London in 1965 under the auspices of Don Arden, who, at the instigation of enthusiastic Jay fans had brought him across to tour the U.K. that year. Jay’s career had taken a low turn at the time to the point where he had almost given up performing, and his recording career had just about ground to a halt. His U.K. devotees, amongst whom were Cliff White, Bill Millar, Roger Eagle and Brian Smith, convinced Don Arden that Jay would be a worthwhile draw.

Whilst the tour was poorly promoted and audiences variable, the recording session itself was an unmitigated success to the lucky fans that bought the resultant album which came out some eighteen months later, ‘The Night And Day Of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ (Planet PLL1001). The reason for the lateness in releasing the album was a fallout between Jay and Arden, resulting in the tour being curtailed and the album shelved.

However, by 1966, Jay’s career was taking an upward swing thanks to Nina Simone’s hit cover of Jay’s original ‘I Put A Spell On You’, and lots of cover versions by artists such as Them, Manfred Mann and others. Don Arden decided that Jay was hot enough to bring out the album and another tour was mooted to promote it. The album was released in late 1966 and sold miserably, due again to poor promotion (there is doubt about whether the promotional tour ever took place at all).

All this belies the excellent quality of the music. Jay was, as ever, on stupendous form and the recording quality was second to none. The handpicked, but unknown, musicians are thought to be stalwarts of the London jazz and r&b scene, and their playing, consisting of rhythm section, organ and horns, was impeccable. Somewhat more restrained than his classic 1950s masterpieces, Jay is nevertheless in fine form vocally. His trademark shouts, grunts and screams are there, but not as frenetic as had been the case a decade earlier.

Jay’s rich baritone is right at home on a relaxed version of Cole Porter’s ‘Night And Day’ and a great bluebeat-styled version of ‘Alright, Okay, You Win’, on which Jay demonstrates that he’d lost none of his powerful zaniness.

The rest of the numbers are purported to be Jay originals, but ‘I Wanna Know’ is a cover of the Du-Droppers recording from 1953 and sleeve-note writer Alec Palao points out that ‘Serving Time’ has certain similarities to ‘Riot In Cell Block Number Nine’, a rather tenuous suggestion in my opinion.

Numbers like ‘Please Forgive Me’ (a recut of his 1957 Okeh original) and ‘My Marion’ are lovely ballads on which Jay demonstrated that he could be a ‘proper’ singer when he wanted to be, whilst ‘In My Dream’ is a great stop-start blues-ballad which gets the full Jay powerhouse treatment. Also noteworthy is the fine guitar solo on this number afront the swirling organ. ‘Your Kind Of Love’, ‘I’m So Glad’, ‘All Night’ and ‘Move Me’ are contemporary-sounding beat numbers that wouldn’t have sounded out of place alongside the likes of Spencer Davis or The Animals, but all contain Jay mannerisms that make them unique.

The newly issued sides are all on a par with what was chosen for the standard twelve-track LP: ‘Stone Crazy’, which is skillfully cobbled together from a couple of try-out fragments, is typical Jay fare with plenty of whoops and purred lips, whilst ‘I’m Lonely’ is a great 1950s-styled beat ballad with Jay’s chops in fine form. The rest of the tracks are alternate takes, not noticeably different from the album cuts.

This is a most welcome release from Ace, in great sound with fine notes from Alec Palao and plenty of Brian Smith’s wonderful photos, some familiar, other less so. Recommended for all Jay fans and r&b/rock & roll collectors alike. Let’s make sure it sells better than the original album did!

Tony Watson

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