1924-1925

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Steve Leggett
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 ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Steve Leggett
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.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 11/22/1996
  • Label: Document
  • UPC: 714298547726
  • Catalog Number: 5477

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
Gerhard Wessely Remastering
Howard Rye Liner Notes
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