A Guide to The Wonderful Music of Vegas
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Modern Swing & Lounge Acts / Previous Albums of the Month / Hip Swingin' Sounds / Cruising Classics / Club Copa Classic Cuts


      People often say to me "Hey,Frankie what’s happenin’ in the hippest nitespots on the Vegas Strip,man. Which sounds are the hep-cats groovin’ to,baby? Well folks, you’re asking the one guy who’s got his finger on the racing pulse of the vibrant, throbbing, sensual, libidinous, uninhibited, swinging, polymorphously perverse phenomenon that is Vegas. The only rule is it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing, baby. For the last few years hipsters have been jumpin’ about like cats on a hot tin roof to the swing sound of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Royal Crown Revue, Brian Setzer Orchestra and all these new kids on the block but they’re still payin’ homage to the aristocats of swing who fired the whole crazy scene into action back in the days when Dino was still a big hit with the chicks.

      So here’s a dozen tracks old and new that can’t fail to get the party started right.The key to all these tracks is their "live" sound. Some of these tracks were recorded live on stage, others were studio sessions which retained the raw energy of live performance. This ain’t easy listening folks it’s kick ass swingin’ funky latino mod jazz boogie!


PEREZ PRADO Mambo No.5 Perez "Prez" Prado King of Mambo RCA LP 1989
Was rockin’ the casa at Vegas years before Lou Bega got a hold of it, plastered his limp rap over the top of this monster and made plenty of midsummer moolah. "Perez the Mambo King" deserves a better legacy. Hear the original and best at Vegas.


CHERRY POPPIN’ DADDIES Zoot Suit Riot The Swingin’ hits of the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies Mojo Records 1997
The new swing anthem from a buncha punks straight outta Oregan. These cats are puttin’ ska, swing, blues, funk and punk into the melting pot and cookin’ up a very spicy gumbo indeed.
3. BIG BAD VOODOO DADDY You & me & the bottle makes 3... "Swingers" soundtrack Mirimax Records 1996
BBVD set the wheels in motion for the whole street swing rennaissance with their appearance in the Doug Liman "Swingers" flick. The BBVD debut album is hot stuff with this the stand out track but the "Swingers" soundtrack gives you three BBVD tracks (including a great version of Jungle Book anthem "I Wanna Be Like You" ) plus Dino, King Floyd, Roger Miller, Love Jones etc. etc.
4. RAY GELATO GIANTS Tu vuo fa l’Americana   Double Scoop 45 1998
Swinging London gets into the scene with this Louis Prima style homage to the Italian-American connection.
5. YOUNG HOLT UNLIMITED Light my fire The Best of Y.H.U. Brunswick LP 1995
These cats were the smokin’ rhythm section on the Ramsey Lewis Trio’s biggest hits. On leaving RLTin 1966 Isaac "Redd" Holt (drums) and Eldee Young (bass) put together the Young-Holt Trio (later to become YHU) with pianist Don Walker. With their cool blend of jazz and Latin and their hip renditions of popular songs of the day YHT were soon joining contemporaries Cal Tjader and Mongo Santamaria as big favourites with the Mod and Hipster crowds. Listen to the excellent YHT live album "On Stage" (available on a reissue cd on the Brunswick label) and be amazed at how funky a jazz trio can get. Their medley of Ramsey Lewis hits "The "In" Crowd" , "Wade in the Water" and their own excellent " Ain’t there Somethin’ Money can’t Buy" (also on Best of YHU) has to be heard to be believed. Great tracks like "Soulful Strut", "Wack Wack" and "Yon Gimme Thum" were an early blueprint for funk bands like Kool & the Gang and Salsoul pioneers like Joe Bataan. But perhaps their most astonishing track was their superbly funky version of The Doors "Light My Fire" which was used as the killer backing track for both Erma Franklin and Jackie Wilson’s northern soul versions of the song. Shirley Bassey later did a great rendition on her "Something" LP but nothing beats YHU’s instrumental with it’s melodic piano motif taking centre stage. Later to be sampled by De La Soul for "A Rollerskating Jam Called Saturdays."
6. MONGO SANTAMARIA Watermelon Man Latin Fever LP JazzFM Records 1998
The Latin soul anthem. This track never goes away. A staple of mod clubs, soul clubs, disco clubs, latin clubs, funk clubs, jazz clubs you can hear Mongo’s version of Herbie Hancock’s tune a hundred times yet it still sounds fresh. My vote goes to the instrumental version available on this LP over the familiar vocal one. Like Quincy Jones’ ubiquitous "Soul Bossa Nova" this track is so popular because it’s so good. You can’t argue with the dancefloor.

The "In" Crowd

Ramsey Lewis Trio’s Greatest Hits Chess LP 1997
These guys took Dobie Gray's song and turned it into an infectious red hot mod jazz instrumental. This track became one of the biggest instrumental hits of the 60's and still packs a punch today.

Mano Caetano

Mojo Dancefloor Jazz vol.5   1996
Sheer Brazilliance from the magical Maria Bethania . A singer of songs beyond compare, a musical dramatist whose deep resonant voice casts a spell on the listener. But most of all this song kicks ass on the dancefloor. Ignite this polyrhythmic firework and stand well back. It doesn’t matter if the crowd have never heard this song before. Dancing to this is an involuntary reflex action akin to an uncontrollable muscle spasm. A big track at Vegas for the last couple of years but few will know the artist behind it. If you only check out one of these tracks make it this one.
9. RAY CHARLES What I’d Say (live) Ray Charles Live In Concert ABC/Paramount LP 1965
Anyone who thinks the piano ain’t rock n’ roll sure hasn’t heard this baby. This is a psychedelic latin blues soul explosion of a record, a carnal celebration of jumpin’ jazz and blues born in Africa, baptized in the barrios and brought up in New Orleans. This live version is surfin’ on a wave of pure rock power.

Mack The Knife (Live)

Bobby Darin’s Greatest Hits Curb Records LP 1990
The hippest single ever bar none. Bobby Darin transformed this very morbid teutonic Kurt Weil/Bertold Brecht song about a serial killer "MacHeath" from "The Threepenny Opera"into a swingin’ stateside smash hit. Admittedly Louis Armstrong bridged the transatlantic chasm first with his version but it was Darin who subverted the song completely, translating the story from Berlin to New York and transforming the tone from a stately song of mourning to a hip celebration of gangster chic. The live version on this LP is so good it almost surpasses the studio cut and was allegedly Bobby’s favourite version.
11 GOOGIE RENE COMBO Smokey Joe’s La La Mo’ Mod Jazz Kent LP 1998
This is the northern soul mod jazz anthem you’ve heard everywhere but probably can’t put a name to. Much used on football preview programmes and sampled by hip dance d.j. David Holmes amongst others. This sounds like a party goin’ on down at Smokey Joe’s Cafe with a funky rhythm section, a boogie-woogie piano player and the whole drunken bar room clientele singin’ along in the background. Chas and Dave with soul.
12 DEAN MARTIN Ain’t That A Kick In The Head The Very Best of Dean Martin Capitol LP 1998
Dino up on stage doing what he does best. This is one of his best songs and it sounds like it was recorded live at "The Sands" with Dino workin’ the room like only Dino can.


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