Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Count Basie & Joe Williams Count Basie Swings Joe Williams Swings Verve/Polygram 1955
Pretty incredible album. It was the first of several albums Basie did with blues singer, Joe Williams. Basie had quite a string of discovering amazing vocal talent and Williams was no different. Williams was born in Georgia, but spent most of his youth in Chicago, so outside of Basie, he has no Kansas City connections.
Previously, Basie was working with featured vocalist, Jimmy Rushing. Rushing was a fantastic shouter and while Williams couldn't match Rushing in that regard, he could sing circles around him. Joe Williams brought a whole new dimension to Basie's big band, providing soulful ballads that would prove influential in the development of soul music years later. Further, Williams could handle up-tempo numbers and the blues, his baritone gliding effortlessly in front of Basie's band.
This album, hands down, is a classic. 5 stars, A+, whatever you want to term it, it's an absolute smoker. You don't have to understand big band, early R&B, or this form of the blues to get it, it's undeniable. Basie directs the band and keeps the groove, his piano is loose, but keeps everyone in check. Williams just floats over the top, taking songs in directions Basie couldn't go before. "Everyday I Have the Blues," "The Comeback," "Roll Em' Pete" are incredible, stand out tracks. The version of "Alright, Okay, You Win", is a just as classic and the big hit from the LP.
Alright, Okay, You Win