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Collecting Louis Jordan:
Advice on Collecting the Music of Louis Jordan’s Rockin’ Era

Louis Jordan "The Rock 'n' Roll Years 1955-58" (2011)

The Louis Jordan CD compilation The Rock 'N' Roll Years 1955-58 (Jasmine Records, 2011) collects Louis Jordan's hard jumpin' X, Vik and Mercury Records sessions together for the first time.

Collecting Louis Jordan's rockin' era material just got incredibly easy! Here's all you need to get to have it all:

For the X, Vik and Mercury Recordings, get

(Jasmine Records, 2011)
(Buy on Amazon.com)

For the Aladdin Recordings, get

One Guy Named Louis:
The Complete Aladdin Recordings
(Capitol Records, 1992)
(Buy on Amazon.com)


The Aladdin, X & Vik Recordings 1953-55
(Rev-Ola Records, 2006)
(Buy on Amazon.com)

An odd track you can add to this collection is “Fire” (Take 4), an alternate version of that song with no siren overdubs. This track is available on the German import Mercury R+B '46-'62 (1989). (Buy on Amazon.com)

Background: A Long, Hard Road to an Easy Collection

On March 26, 2011, collecting the music of Louis Jordan’s 1954-1958 Rockin’ Era got TONS easier, thanks to the release of a two-CD Jasmine Records compilation called THE ROCK 'N' ROLL YEARS 1955-58 that was released on that day. This collection released all of LJ’s X, Vik, and Mercury Sessions together on CD for the very first time, and included a number of tracks that had never seen a digital release before.

This release single-handedly solved many problems LJ fans have had in collecting this material on digital. To appreciate this a bit, have a gander at our Louis Jordan 1954-1958 Discography. The Mercury sessions (1956-1958) had been gathered together for the first time ever when, in 1986, Bear Family Records released the two LP’s Rockin and Jivin’ Vol. 1 and Rockin and Jivin’ Vol. 2 on high-quality LP’s. CD’s were still an expensive audiophile’s toy, and the CD reissue boom had not yet hit, so there was no thought of doing a concurrent CD release at that time.  As music’s digital age began to kick in gear, an incomplete one-CD collection called Rock n’ Roll (1989) came out as a French import that collected Somebody Up There Digs Me and a lot of the other Mercury material, but not all of it. A compilation called Mercury R+B '46-'62 (1989) collected a few more Mercury sides which remained otherwise unavailable on digital for years. It also featured the version of "Fire" with no overdubs; this version of "Fire" is still available nowhere else on digital.

The first of the two Mercury LP’s, Somebody Up There Digs Me (1956), has received numerous CD releases because the album consisted of hard jumpin’ versions of LJ’s hits from the 1940’s. But LJ’s follow-up “late night” LP, Man, We’re Wailin’ (1957), fared far worse, not receiving a full CD reissue until 2005.  It was in that year that Man, We’re Wailin’ was released on CD in Japan, complete with fantastic mastering and excellent reproductions of the front and back covers of the original LP artwork. So the good thing was that Man, We’re Wailin’ was finally available as a CD reissue at that time. The bad thing was that it was an expensive and difficult-to-get reissue.  Atop that, you still had a lot of other non-LP and initially unreleased Mercury material to locate, quite a bit of which was still not on CD.

The Aladdin, X, and Vik material (1954-1555) fared a little better. One Guy Named Louis: The Complete Aladdin Recordings was released on Capitol on 1992, and a short but complete collection of the X and Vik material called Rock n Roll Call came out on CD on RCA’s Bluebird imprint in 1993. These collections remained in print throughout the 1990’s, but in the Zero Decade (2000’s), these two collections and the Rock n’ Roll (1989) compilation of Mercury material all went out of print, which drove up the going prices for all of them.  And we still did not have anything close to a complete reissue of the full Mercury sessions.

UK label Cherry Red Records' Rev-Ola imprint helped to alleviate the availability problem somewhat with the release of The Aladdin, X & Vik Recordings 1953-55 and Rock Doc! Louis Jordan on Mercury 1956-1957 in 2006 and 2008 respectively. But buyer beware: these one-CD compilations were limited by the space restraints of the CD, so the former left off three of the unreleased Vik recordings, and Roc Doc! left one track off of Man We’re Wailin’ and ignored the later Mercury singles.  Meanwhile, those old Bear Family LP’s were still glaring at us LJ fans...

2011: Problem Solved with THE ROCK 'N' ROLL YEARS 1955-58

It was Jasmine’s 2-CD collection THE ROCK 'N' ROLL YEARS 1955-58 that fixed this problem at long last.  Disc One thoughtfully collects all of the X and Vik sessions together with the non-LP Mercury material on the Bear Family LP's.  The only thing that’s missing is, as mentioned previously, the unreleased alternate take of “Fire” without the siren overdubs, but as mentioned, that one is already available on Mercury R&B (1946-62) (1989). Jasmine then put Somebody Up There Digs Me and Man We’re Wailin’ back to back in their original sequential order on Disc Two.

The inclusion of the X and Vik sessions but not the Aladdin sessions on THE ROCK 'N' ROLL YEARS 1955-58 is actually a smart one because the Aladdin material still finds LJ transitioning toward a harder rockin’ sound. The tracks are great, but do not have the power and heavy intensity of later tracks like “Big Bess,” “Fire,” or “Baby You’re Just Too Much”. With this in mind, THE ROCK 'N' ROLL YEARS 1955-58 does about the best job it can of bringing everything together in one place, and in an inexpensive collection at that.  As for getting CD's of LJ’s Aladdin material, you have two options:  1) getting The Aladdin, X & Vik Recordings 1953-55 (Rev-Ola Records, 2006) or 2) getting One Guy Named Louis: The Complete Aladdin Recordings (Capitol Records, 1992).

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU Jasmine Records for the sorely needed release of THE ROCK 'N' ROLL YEARS 1955-58! Now, on to a complete release of LJ’s recordings for Tangerine Records (that’s Ray Charles’ label), that finds LJ dabbling in 1960’s soul music.