[This is one post in a series about my music mixes. The series list has links to all posts in the series and also definitions of many of the terms I use. You may wish to read the introduction for more background. You may also want to check out the first volume in this multi-volume mix for more info on its theme.
Like all my series, it is not necessarily contiguous—
For the fourth volume of my brassy, upbeat mix, I decided to open with a stretch about that favorite theme of retro-swing (and swing, for that matter): drinking. Now, back on volume II, I had already experimented with this in a very small way by following Joe Jackson’s “What’s the Use of Getting Sober When You Gotta Get Drunk Again” with “You and Me and The Bottle Makes 3 Tonight” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. But there’s no shortage of songs about drinking, of course, and I began to slot several of them to form a great little run of tunes praising—
We kick it off with “Party Life” by Eight to the Bar, who we were introduced to last volume, then take it down a notch with our old friends Asylum Street Spankers singing “D.R.I.N.K.,” a (mildly) more reflective tune. Then we start to pick back up with “Whisky & Wine” by newcomer to these mixes Matt Costa, who was recommended to me by a coworker, and whom I now in turn recommend to you. And of course no treatise on drinking would be complete without hearing from Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, who advise us to “Gimme That Wine.” The ever-excellent Atomic Fireballs follow that up with “Drink Drank Drunk,” a rollicking bit of boogie-woogie that comes in with a bump and ends the same way. And, just for kicks, after all that drinking I thought you might be seeing a few “Bedbugs,” so I sent the Squirrel Nut Zippers to put you to bed. Overall, it’s a magnificent six-song-run that has lows, highs,1 and a little bit of hot jazz psychedelia to close it out. I’ve always been quite fond of it.
So we’ve already had a few of our old Salsatic Vibrato favorites, but there’s more to come, as always. Always reliable, the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies give us two tracks, and, for the first time, I’m straying from their retro-swing compilation Zoot Suit Riot to their follow-up album, Soul Caddy, which (like their previous, non-compilation ablums) features far more than retro-swing. Although I’m sticking to the retro-swing cuts off that album, to be fair: both “Swingin’ with Tiger Woods” and “So Long Toots” fall comfortably into that bucket. SNZ not only give us their contribution to the drinking run, but also another bit of odd psychedelia, “Ghost of Stephen Foster,” whose lyrics are so bizarre that it might have just as well fit in over on Bleeding Salvador. BBVD also give us another track towards the end of the mix, in this case their take on the ultra-classic Louis Prima tune from Disney’s Jungle Book, “I Wanna Be Like You.” And we hear again from the Atomic Fireballs for our closer, “Calypso King.” Hell, even Eight to the Bar comes back in our second half, giving us our volume title with their remake of “Nagasaki,” from way back in 1928. “Hot ginger and dynamite: that’s all there is at night.” Very fitting for this volume, I thought.
Other returning favorites include the Brian Setzer Orchestra, with the best cut off what may be my least favorite album of theirs (proving that even a “bad” BSO album is still pretty good), “Gettin’ in the Mood” off Vavoom!, and Lee Pres-On and the Nails, with the classic “It Had Better Be Tonight.” Both are covers. The latter was originally composed by Henry Mancini in 1963 for The Pink Panther, sung in Italian in the movie by Fran Jeffries. The English version has been sung by everyone from Sarah Vaughan to Michael Bublé; LPN’s Leslie Presley is no Sarah Vaughan, but she sounds pretty amazing here. The former is, of course, the classic Glenn Miller instrumental tune “In the Mood,” often considered one of the greatest swing songs ever. Setzer adds some lyrics of his own devising here,2 which are somewhat reminiscent of his Stray Cats days. But they’re pretty fun lyrics, so it works well here.
We also have Swingerhead, back from volume II. Swingerhead isn’t my favorite retro-swing band, but they hit it every now and again, and “She Could Be a Spy” is probably their best. Then we have Diablo Swing Orchestra returning from last volume. As I said when I first introduced them, DSO is a bizarre mash-up of swing, metal, and opera singer that almost always doesn’t work ... but, when it does, it’s transcendant. “Voodoo Mon Amour” isn’t quite as good as “A Tap Dancer’s Dilemma,” but it’s damn close, and provides a powerfully rockin’ transition from the six-song drunken tear into the center stretch of the volume.
We’re also hearing for the first time from electroswing favorites Caravan Palace, one of Europe’s many bands in that subgenre.3 The Paris natives could more properly be classified as “electro-gypsy-jazz,” if such a thing existed. But I don’t think it really does. But possibly the most amazing thing about Caravan Palace as regards this mix is that many of their songs (this one included) don’t actually include any brass.4 CP technically has a saxophone/clarinet player, but, if she’s doing anything on this track, I certainly can’t hear her. But I still feel like “Jolie coquine” fits this mix, in spirit if nothing else.
We have less deviation from the retro-swing this time around (except what SNZ and DSO are providing, of course). Mad Caddies are back to give us a touch of New-Orleans-infused ska with “Tired Bones.” And Devil Doll, who so far we’ve only seen on Moonside by Riverlight, shows up here for the first time with her distinctive sound which I’ve tried (and failed) to describe for two volumes now: it’s 50s-adjacent, but not retro-rockabilly nor even psychobilly; it’s high-energy, spiritually descended from Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis, but with very modern sensibilities; and, like all the best 50s rock-and-roll,5 it makes generous use of saxophone breaks. Of all Devil Doll’s tunes of this nature (which is almost all of them), “Driven to Distraction” is the best. It serves as our centerpiece for this volume.
Salsatic Vibrato IV
[Hot Ginger and Dynamite]
[Hot Ginger and Dynamite]
“Party Life” by Eight to the Bar, off Behind the Eight Ball
“D.R.I.N.K.” by Asylum Street Spankers, off Mercurial
“Whiskey & Wine” by Matt Costa, off Songs We Sing
“Gimme That Wine” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, off Rattle Them Bones
“Drink Drank Drunk” by The Atomic Fireballs, off Torch This Place
“Bedbugs” by Squirrel Nut Zippers, off Bedlam Ballroom
“Voodoo Mon Amour” by Diablo Swing Orchestra, off Pandora's Piñata
“25 or 6 to 4” by Chicago, off Chicago II
“Everyday Sunshine” by Fishbone, off The Reality of My Surroundings
“Swingin' with Tiger Woods (The Big Swing)” by Cherry Poppin' Daddies, off Soul Caddy
“Jolie coquine” by Caravan Palace, off Caravan Palace
“Driven to Distraction” by Devil Doll, off Queen of Pain
“It Had Better Be Tonight” by Lee Press-On and the Nails, off El Bando en Fuego!
“The Perpetual Bachelor” by Jet Set Six, off Livin' It Up
“So Long Toots” by Cherry Poppin' Daddies, off Soul Caddy
“She Could Be a Spy” by Swingerhead, off She Could Be a Spy
“Ghost of Stephen Foster” by Squirrel Nut Zippers, off Perennial Favorites
“Tired Bones” by Mad Caddies, off Keep It Going
“Nagasaki” by Eight to the Bar, off Behind the Eight Ball
“I Wanna Be Like You” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, off This Beautiful Life
“Gettin' in the Mood” by The Brian Setzer Orchestra, off Vavoom!
“Calypso King” by The Atomic Fireballs, off Torch This Place
Total: 22 tracks, 76:19
Just to prove I’m still exploring new retro-swing bands, I’ve thrown in a tune from Jet Set Six, whom I also discovered via Pandora.6 After a brief perusal of their catalog, I found that much of it wasn’t particularly stand-out. But there’s something about “The Perpetual Bachelor” that is just magnificent. Oh, sure: it starts out as a pale copy of “Sing Sing Sing,”7 and its lyrics are vaguely sexist,8 and the addition of fuzzed out guitars is nothing that BBVD hasn’t done before them, and even the faux ending that kicks back in with a roar isn’t particularly original, but man ... the beat is pulsing, the trumpet work is outstanding, and lead singer John Ceparano’s voice is particularly smooth here. I couldn’t pass it up.
In the category of less likely candidates, I threw in my favorite Chicago tune, “25 or 6 to 4.” Chicago is not necessarily unlikely on a mix that focuses on brass, of course, but they often have a mellower bent than fits well here. But I’ve always found this song to be pretty rockin’. Plus it’s just a classic. I’ve followed that up with Fishbone, which also commonly features at least a little brass on most of its songs: its two co-vocalists Angelo Moore and Walter Kibby play saxophone and trumpet, respectively. But typically Fishbone is more funk than brass in the Salsatic Vibrato sense. “Everyday Sunshine,” however, is a pretty powerful song that works very well here. And it gives us some good variation from the strong retro-swing tendency of this volume, while still providing a good transition back to that tendency with its lead-in to “Swingin’ with Tiger Woods.” Plus it adds just a little bit of funk.
Next time, we’ll add another fourth volume to one of our long-running mixes.
1 No pun intended.
2 Note that “In the Mood” has gotten lyrics before, such as Al Donahue’s version featuring Paula Kelly. These are not they.
3 Others include Koop, Caro Emerald, Waldeck, and Parov Stelar.
4 Remember, I have a very liberal definition of “brass,” including not only the saxophone, which is not technically a brass instrument, but also the clarinet, which is not even remotely a brass instrument.
5 As distinguished from “rock” in general. See also Wikipedia.
6 I had a brief discussion of my use of Pandora as a music discovery service last volume.
7 You may recall that I noted that every swing band has at least one song that starts out that way.
8 Although certainly no more so than other bands I like, such as the Violent Femmes.