House of Blues Swings!
Swing compilations and impeachment hearings seem to be in a heated battle over which one can do a better job of aggravating the American public, due to their overabundance and redundancy. And so, who WOULDN’T be cautious when picking up yet another compilation of neo-swing bands, all tooting their horns on their way towards trend success? Two things, however, made this specific compilation look more appealing than the rest of the parade of compact discs: one, it’s endorsed by the House of Blues, who had a pretty good track record; and two, it didn’t include another version of “Jump Jive and Wail.”
The bands featured here are geographically from all over the place, and are, for the most part, half-way decent. There are a few stand-outs, including Indigo Swing’s “Regular Joe,” which starts off as an awful show-tune piano ballad, then moves on to become a delightful and mellow tune, despite their obvious attempt to recreate Frank Sinatra. The Savoir-Faire Pistol Pocket Dance Band (these names are getting absurd), of which all 17 members are still in high school, presents a well-done version of Louis Prima’s “5 Months, 2 Weeks, 2 Days,” and Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys present a neat catchy “honky-tonk bop” tune called “Feelin’ Kinda Lucky.” Also, Vargas Swing contributes the low-keyed jazzy vocal trade-off number, “Satan,” which certainly takes the band a step above the generic neo-swing blandness that you’re all too prone to run into.
There are also the songs on here that aren’t so grand, but still manage to sound somewhat pleasing. Blues Jumpers’ “Chicken Wing” will keep your foot tapping, but their lead vocalist sounds far too much like ’80s rap sensation Humpty Hump to be taken seriously. Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers provide an engaging version of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies,” but of course are certainly no replacement for the original.
Then you hit rock bottom with the Swingin’ Decons’ mildly swing version of Schoolhouse Rock ‘s “Conjunction Junction,” a performance and concept that almost made me want to discontinue any further listening of the album.
Of the endless onslaught of compilations, House of Blues Swings! definitely has the moments necessary to make it a respectable addition to one’s collection. And with its showcase of twelve bands from various locations, it makes for a decent tour of who’s out there to carry the musical torch that began more than fifty years ago. But many of the tunes sound almost watered down; and while most songs will make you tap your foot, only a few will actually prompt you to get up and dance. As far as swing compilations go, this one’s a toss up, really. No pun intended.
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