Cab Calloway made a lot of records besides Minnie the Moocher
. The best of these date from the first 15 years of his recording career. If you want to delve deeper than the standard thimbleful of over-circulated novelty hits, you might as well opt for JSP's affordably priced four-CD compilation Vol. 1: The Early Years 1930-1934
. It contains every single issued recording he made between July 24, 1930 and September 4, 1934, lined up in chronological sequence. While this time line stops short of Calloway's masterful 1935 scat version of "Nagasaki," the sheer volume of vintage material makes this a rolling goldmine of classic early swing. Young Calloway was still patterning his act after big sister Blanche Calloway
, a boisterous entertainer who pushed every song to the limit. Both Calloways tended towards shouting and screaming the lyrics; certainly Cab's outbursts on "St. Louis Blues" and "Bugle Call Rag" straddle the line between abrasive and manic. Other highlights include the justifiably famous "St. James Infirmary," the Duke Ellington
covers "Creole Love Call" and "Mood Indigo"; Fats Waller
's "Old Yazoo," and those notorious anthems of substance abuse, "The Reefer Man," "Kickin' the Gong Around" and "The Man from Harlem." Although Calloway was not noted for his instrumentals, several excellent examples occur in this part of the man's discography, including "Moon Glow," "Hot Toddy," "The Nightmare," "My Honey's Lovin' Arms" and Fats Waller's "Viper's Drag." This is the young, fresh, slightly over-the-top Cab Calloway. Guaranteed to keep everyone awake.