1924-1925

1924-1925

by Helen Gross
     
 
Not a blues singer in the classic sense, like a Bessie Smith, but more of a vaudeville performer, Helen Gross recorded some of the strangest material ever marketed as blues. Recorded in New York in the mid-'20s with many of the best jazz players of the day -- including horn players Bubber Miley and

Overview

Not a blues singer in the classic sense, like a Bessie Smith, but more of a vaudeville performer, Helen Gross recorded some of the strangest material ever marketed as blues. Recorded in New York in the mid-'20s with many of the best jazz players of the day -- including horn players Bubber Miley and Louis Metcalf from Duke Ellington's band and stride pianist Cliff Jackson -- Gross was a competent singer, but it's the arrangements on these extremely rare 78s that are most arresting. Combining traditional blues elements with odd sound effects and strange, swooping horn charts, some of these tracks are nothing less than bizarre. The ukulele version of Son House's powerfully emotional "Death Letter Blues" is a case in point. Aside from the absurdity of the ukulele, a second vocalist scat sings odd sounds in and around Gross' melody line, stripping all the tragedy from what is a very tragic song. In "Haunted House Blues," Gross sounds as if she's wandered into a carnival funhouse. If this sounds interesting, it isn't, it's just strange. The same technique of using goofy Halloween sound effects makes the similar-sounding "Ghost Walking Blues" work wonderfully, however, with just the right balance between odd and eerie. As chilling as "Ghost Walking Blues" is, "Bloody Razor Blues" is downright murderous, containing the lines "I want to bleed him until his heart runs dry." Best in small doses, this collection is so strange it is actually pretty fascinating. As is usually the case with archival reissues of old 78s, the sound quality varies from OK to poor, depending on the track.

Product Details

Release Date:
11/22/1996
Label:
Document
UPC:
0714298547726
catalogNumber:
5477

Related Subjects

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Helen Gross   Primary Artist,Vocals
Billy Higgins   Spoken Word
Rex Stewart   Cornet
Louis Metcalf   Cornet
Bubber Miley   Cornet
Porter Grainger   Piano
Elmer Snowden   Banjo
Bob Fuller   Clarinet
Sterling Conaway   Ukulele
Louis Hooper   Piano
Jake Frazier   Trombone
Arthur Ray   Piano
Kansas City Five   Track Performer
Cliff Jackson & His Crazy Cats   Piano
Joe Davis   Spoken Word
Choo Choo Jazzers   Track Performer

Technical Credits

Irving Berlin   Composer
Johnny Parth   Producer
Howard Rye   Liner Notes

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >