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  • Hawkins Screaming Jay - The Planet Sessions (CD)


    At last, the first official reissue of Screamin’ Jay’s rare second album, recorded in the UK in 1965. Bonus stereo mixes and unissued tracks help clarify its status as an overlooked mod-jazz classic.

    Screamin’ Jay Hawkins was one of R&B’s choicest characters: a one-man circus sideshow with some of the most memorable routines – and props – the music world had ever witnessed. To be sure, the man could scream. But he also groaned, gurgled, snorted, scatted, regurgitated and rubber-lipped his way through five decades of eye-popping performances and a remarkable cache of recordings. Yet, the grunts and gibberish masked the fact that the author of the much-covered standard ‘I Put A Spell On You’ was an accomplished and serious musician who also coveted the urbanity of jazz and the proficiency of opera.

    While Hawkins recorded prolifically during the 1950s and 1960s, he released just three long-players during that period. The second of these, “The Night And Day Of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins”, is not only the rarest but was for many years considered the strangest. The British-only album was an overlooked entry in his discography, perceived by some as too restrained when compared to the decidedly perverse – in all senses of the word – nature of Hawkins’ catalogue. Recorded in London in 1965 with session players, and issued the following year on Shel Talmy’s Planet label, the record’s fascinating blend of louche lounge balladry, frantic R&B workout and cool club groove is now revealed as a quintessential mod-jazz artefact.

    Ace’s “The Planet Sessions” sees the first official reissue for this obscure gem, and the original album’s running time is doubled with unissued stereo variants, alternate takes and a pair of exciting outtakes, including an early version of the classic ‘Stone Crazy’, all drawn from the original Abbey Road session tapes. Detailed notes spell out the singer’s first outrageous visit to the UK in early 1965, based on the recollections of long-time observer Brian Smith, who also provided some amazing documentary stills for the eye-popping booklet. All in all, “The Planet Sessions” is not only a reappraisal but a reaffirmation of the bizarre genius of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.

    Alec Palao

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