october challenge, pt. 1

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For various reasons, I'm finding myself writing fewer and longer pieces than I used to. Which is great, in general, but also means that I have a rapidly mounting pile of music I feel like writing something about that I often don't have a place to write about for money. So, as a challenge to myself, I'm going to try to write a (very) casual review of something here every day this month.

First up: Louis Jordan's Number Ones (officially on Geffen, bizarrely--maybe that's where it got randomly assigned in the latest Universal redistribution). It makes sense on the face of it that Jordan would get the Beatles/Elvis all-number-one-singles treatment: he had more #1 R&B hits than anybody but Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder, and spent 113 weeks at #1 (the closest runner-up is Stevie, with 70 weeks). But I'm finding, strangely, that this doesn't track as well for me as other compilations of his stuff. Partly it's that his biggest hits are almost all good-natured in exactly the same way, and they've got the same good-natured beat, which means they're most effective for three or six minutes at a time, not 45. ("Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens" was #1 for 17 weeks in 1947, and it's buried here by its context. When I've heard it, or any other Louis Jordan song, on R&B comps, they always jump out at me.) Mostly, though--and this marks me as a bizarre kind of snob, I realize--my favorite Jordan songs of the relatively limited selection I know are the ones that weren't the biggest hits: the ones that showed off his weird, cutting sense of humor or burned a little too hard for the top of the chart. "You Dyed Your Hair Chartreuse," obviously, but also "That Chick's Too Young to Fry" and "A Chicken Ain't Nothin' But a Bird" and a few others that aren't here.

Even so, I kind of love almost all of these songs individually, and the later ones more than the earlier ones, which doesn't happen very often. (I'd never actually heard "Stone Cold Dead in the Market"--with Ella Fitzgerald!--before, and I'm still not sure what I think about the two of them doing calypso.) "Blue Light Boogie" is a pretty appropriate final #1, a song about going to a party and feeling out of the demo and alarmed by the kids and not knowing how to dance any more. Except he had five more top 10 hits after that, all of which I now want to hear. (They seem to be available on eMusic; I'm gonna investigate.)

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This page contains a single entry by Douglas published on October 1, 2005 10:39 PM.

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