The Okeh Rhythm & Blues Story 1949-1957
Though not as renowned among R&B fans as contemporary labels like King, Specialty, and Aladdin, the Columbia subsidiary Okeh was nonetheless a major player in the postwar scene. This 78-song set offers a thorough, if not comprehensive, survey of the R&B sides that Okeh released during this period. While many independent R&B labels specialized in a particular regional style, Okeh enjoyed major-label backing, which let it record artists from all over the country, from the sophisticated harmonies of veteran New York vocal group The Ravens to the rollicking New Orleans piano of Paul Gayten and the entendre-laden sleaze of Andre Williams. Indeed, many of the most exciting sides here take the form of slyly transgressive numbers, like Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” or The Treniers’ gleefully smutty “Poontang.” Though some listeners may be confused by the dizzying array of styles featured here, The Okeh Rhythm and Blues Story’s greatest strength is its eclecticism, which sheds a light on the artistry of a bygone era.