Boogie Fever no. 11-15

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Bonnie Davis (with the Bunny Banks Trio): “Don’t Stop Now” [March 6, 1943]
“I’ve got you under my spell/How long, I can’t tell/Way your loving tests me/Sure does affect me/[sucking intake of breath]—don’t stop now.” The chart gets dirty, finally. It’s always hard to tell how accurately a record this old reproduces its vocalists’ voices, and the transfer I have of the song (it’s off DW’s radio show archive) doesn’t help much—as Douglas points out while back-announcing the song, it’s strangely out of print for a song that stayed number one for three weeks—but on the evidence, Bonnie Davis had a kewpie-dollish voice with a hint of bellow in it (dig the way she swoops down and up near the end on the chorus), fairly typical for the time and kind of fetching even now. Bunny Banks takes a nice little solo but his accompanists stay out of the way, and mostly so does he; it’s her show, and her libido’s. 7.5

Ink Spots: “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” [March 27, 1943]
Along with the Mills Brothers, the Ink Spots tend to be written off by rock historians (and even pop historians) as milquetoast, safe, bland, and they can certainly be heard that way to rock-and-after-trained ears, but this Duke Ellington cover (which Duke himself would hit number one with two months later) has a free-and-easy insouciance it’s hard to imagine anyone hating. Then again, I haven’t heard many Ink Spots songs beyond what I’ve caught in a couple movies (Woody Allen’s Radio Days, prominently), and on old radio shows, including if I’m not mistaken Amos & Andy (oh yeah, I was a big old-time radio fan when I was younger, an offshoot of my comics fandom, though I’ve barely played any in years, including the bunch I ordered from OTR CAT last summer, I’ll go into it another time), and when I got The Best of the Mills Brothers: 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection in the mail four years ago I liked precisely the two songs I already knew, so who fucking knows? Maybe this is the exception that proves the rule. Still, the fluid lead (either Deek Watson or Charlie Fuqua, not sure which) is at least as persuasive as Nat King Cole’s, and the group harmony on the closing iterations of the title swing slyly and thicken beautifully. 8

Harry James and His Orchestra: “I’ve Heard That Song Before” [April 17, 1943]
Onomatopoeia swing: The lyric is about how the singer has heard that song before, so please play it again, and it’s preceded by a riff that you’ve been hearing all your life even if you’ve never encountered it prior to the first time you hear the record. Non-onomatopoeia swing: Harry James then follows said plea by not reiterating the bompa-bompa-bom! riff he started the song with! It’s the kind of riff that announces itself as classic the first time you hear it if you’re a real cornball, and James juices it for every kernel. 7

Ink Spots: “I Can’t Stand Losing You” [April 24, 1943]
Different lead singer--this time it’s Bill Kenny, and lord does it show. This is what historians are talking about when they fleck the Spots with accusations of mimsiness, accusations that stick--Kenny is so fussy he’d embarrass Queen Victoria. But then! Suddenly! Well, OK, in the exact same place he did it on most of their other songs, but still--ladies and gentlemen, bass singer Hoppy Jones steps in and gives his recitation. This is the kind of thing that Spike Jones was making fun of in his version of “You Always Hurt the One You Love,” but what’s great about H. Jones is that even if he can’t save the song--and he can’t, here--he sounds so plainly country (not meaning -and-western) that he makes the song take on dimensions larger than that of the fancy tablecloth Kenny makes it into. Hoppy and Hoppy alone is why I didn't give this a 3. 5

Duke Ellington: "Don't Get Around Much Anymore (Never No Lament)" (May 29, 1943)
Throwing some new words on an old tune (this was originally recorded in 1940) and watching it go to the top of the charts evidently suited Duke fine, because he went and reissued the original himself with the new title (and the old one in parentheses). Motherfucker was suave, and so is the record, from the sidle-up-and-order-you-a-drink sax to Ellington's own (or maybe Strayhorn's?) piano calling the thing into being with such irresistible jaunt you wanna order whatever tipple he's got. First minute and a half is better than the second minute and a half; the arrangement evens out some, even after the piano re-enters, but you won't mind it a bit. 8