Often I receive review copies in the mail of upcoming releases, and there’s some entertainment value in opening the mailer and discovering what’s inside. As you might imagine, they’re not all masterpieces—but occasionally you end up with some nice surprises. Yesterday something showed up called Hipshakers, Vol. 3: Just a Little Bit of the Jumpin’ Bean. While the title didn’t give it away, I could tell by the 45 labels plastered across the cover that it was a King Records compilation (more accurately, King Records and its subsidiary Federal).
That’s the third compilation in a series devoted to songs released on a Cincinnati label whose depth of talent was remarkable. This Hipshakers includes some of the better-known artists— Little Willie John and Freddy King, for instance—as well as a bunch of names that, for me, were either less familiar or totally unfamiliar.
For me, that’s much of the fun of the compilation—tuning into artists whose output was sometimes limited to a handful of singles (or in some cases one). People like Tiny Topsy, a female singer who belts out “Just a Little Bit” like it was nobody’s business. Or El Pauling and the Royalton, a 5 Royales spinoff; their “Solid Rock” has a mean guitar lick and is a much an early rocker as it as an R&B dancer.
Listening to this compilation, I keep thinking, these people passed through this city, performed here, recorded here, and some of them lived here. Much of my time recently has been spent talking to and reading about musicians who were active locally at that time, and the message that keep getting repeated is what a vibrant music scene we had at that time, with clubs everywhere and musical talent on a level that a town of this size didn’t deserve.
What’s intriguing about this collection is that it’s not from Cincinnati or Ohio or for that matter anywhere in the US; it’s a label from Madrid, Spain called Vampisoul. Per their Facebook page, “Starting in 2002, Vampisoul is now established as one of the hippest and most respected reissue labels on the planet. New Orleans funk, deep southern R&B, East Harlem boogaloo, Cuban jam sessions, exotic soundtracks, tail-shaking soul, trippy tropical sounds, Peruvian groovers, West African highlife, East European jazz, Nigerian Afrobeat.” They have a very colorful website devoted to all kinds of great sounds. Check it out and see who’s on all three Hipshaker compilations; you can buy it on Amazon as a CD – or on vinyl, as a 45 box.
Here’s a cut from the compilation, “Dry Bones Twist” by The Drivers: