Phil Alvin – Un “Sung Stories”
This collection found Phil Alvin exploring genres not too far from the base of The Blasters’ rockabilly. He performs pieces that are vintage & retro but with a buffed shine. Blues, jazz, country & pop songs written & popular between 1925-1953. It’s all pre-rock & at times using the talents of 50s saxmen who worked with the pioneers & were influenced by these dusty jewels.
Produced by Phil Alvin (guitar) & Pat Burnett the 10-track 1986 solo album reissue Un “Sung Stories” (Drops Nov 3–Liberation Hall/34:00) was recorded in Los Angeles, New Orleans & New York City & features two bands – side one: Sun Ra & the Arkestra & side two: The Dirty Dozen Brass Band. It was an interesting collaboration & a bit left of field from The Blasters, but it was a great effort worth rediscovering.
Featuring The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the opening tune is a New Orleans’ flavored savvy jambalaya of music on “Someone Stole Gabriel’s Horn,” (with Lee Allen’s tenor sax) & Phil’s distinctive vocal. It seems these rockabilly masters are also aficionados of music that are decades older. Vintage Cab Calloway-type tunes, Dixieland excursions & Fred Astaire savvy ballads.
“Death In the Morning” features the Jubilee Train Singers & tramps along despite its dour subject matter as a song that could’ve found a spot in the Coen Brother’s film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” The tune “The Old Man of the Mountain,” is brass-heavy & dressed up tight by Sun Ra’s Arkestra (an unlikely source but it surprisingly worked well).
Get well, Phil & Dave Alvin.
Highlights – “Someone Stole Gabriel’s Horn,” “Death In the Morning,” “The Old Man of the Mountain,” “Titanic Blues,” “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime,” “Collins’ Cave” & “Gangster’s Blues.”
Musicians – Mike Roach & Gary Masi (guitars), David Carroll (drums), Gary Taylor (bass), Gary Taylor bass), Gene Taylor (piano) & (Richard Greene (violin).
Sun Ra & the Arkestra — Fred Adams (Trumpet), Marshall Allen (Flute/Alto Sax), Bruce Edwards (Guitar), Alvin Evans (Flugelhorn/Trumpet), John Gilmore (Clarinet/Tenor Sax), Tyrone Hill (Trombone), James Jackson (Bassoon), Stanley Morgan (Conga Drums), Arthur O’Neil (Drums), Sun Ra (Piano), Rollo Radford (Bass), Leroy Taylor (Bass Clarinet/Alto Sax), Danny Thompson (Alto & Baritone Sax), June Tyson (Vocals) & Ronald Wilson (Tenor Sax). The Dirty Dozen Brass Band — Gregory Davis (Trumpet), Kevin Harris (Tenor Sax), Charles Joseph (Trombone), Kirk Joseph (Sousaphone), Benny Jones Jr. (Bass Drum), Roger Lewis (Baritone & Soprano Saxes), Jenell Marshall (Snare Drum) & Ephram Powns (Trumpet).
B&W image courtesy of Alex Flores. CD @ https://philalvin.bandcamp.com/album/un-sung-stories