Rounder Records have a winner on their hands with this new CD/DVD combo package. It’s a gem and the set includes everything a collector looks for. The liner notes by Chip Deffaa
gather 64 pages of facts and opinions giving a fine insight into the life of an overlooked musician.
Charles Brown (1922-1999) was an outstanding musician who, like Little Jimmy Scott, was passed over by mass audiences. Other musicians loved, admired and often copied Brown’s singing style. Ray Charles
admits in his autobiography that Charles Brown was his major influence. Pop stars, Frankie Laine and Kay Starr learned from the performer and have provided uncredited background vocals for at least one recording.
The recordings of Charles Brown bridge the gap between jazz and blues and are enjoyed equally by fans of both genres. Brown had a checkered life in and out of the music industry. He was often mistreated or cheated outright by folks in the publishing and recording business. The ample notes deal with the matter in detail.
This set offers something new for ardent fans of the performer or those with just a passing interest in his music. The audio CD is comprised of ten tracks recorded "live" at the Lone Star Roadhouse in 1990. The DVD offers the same concert in superb HDTV quality. The session was recorded for TV in a "now defunct" high definition format for broadcast to Japan. Problems with the acceptance of the format and the fact that there were very few HDTV receivers in Japan at the time, resulted in the abandonment of the project. The concert sat in the can for a dozen years before an attempt was made to recover the material from the obsolete media. Chip Deffaa’s notes document the process in detail.
The DVD adds a great interactive discography covering all of Brown’s recordings. The 78 rpm issue numbers are all there but matrix and "take" numbers are omitted. This omission won’t bother anyone but a few discographical purists.
In addition, the DVD includes two performances by Charles Brown with Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers featuring singer John Shadrack Horace. The two short films are 1945 issues of the Soundies Studios owned by songwriter Sam Coslow. The black and white productions were played in an early form of "video jukebox" popular in bars and restaurants. The 16mm prints acquired by Rounder are in almost immaculate condition. The disk throws in a small collection of the singer’s personal photos from his 1949 wedding to singer Mabel Scott. Nat Cole’s wife, Nadine Cole was a bridesmaid and other guests included Benny Carter, Jimmy Witherspoon, Leonard Feather and T-Bone Walker.
The DVD winds up with a couple of interviews late in the singer’s life. In this reviewer’s opinion, Rounder Records made every effort to impress when they produced this great package and I don’t hesitate to recommend it highly. A Life In The Blues
, with its attention to detail, sets the standard for future projects of this type.