Richard “Groove” Holmes, Book of the Blues, Vol. 1

Posted on September 28, 2011 by

Artist: Richard “Groove” Holmes
Title: Book of the Blues (Vol. 1)
Label: Warner Brothers WB1553
Release Date: 1964
Condition: Very Good +

The B-3 is funky. “Groove” Holmes is funky. Warner Brothers records circa 1964 was not funky.

Book of the Blues Vol. 1 is an odd piece. It’s a collection of blues standards – “See See Rider,” “I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water,” “How Long Blues,” “Roll ‘Em Pete, et al. – that sounds tapped between eras. Holmes tries to get funky, but the big band arrangements by Onzy Matthews never seem to mesh with Holmes and his generation soul jazz listeners.

It’s not to say that Onzy can’t swing. We know he can. He was an Ellington acolyte, wrote some great arrangements for Lou Rawls in the sixties, most notably, “Tobacco Road,” and arranged for Esther Phillips and Roy Ayers. Plus, on this Warner Brothers’ release, he appeared “Courtesy of Capitol Records,” thus he was sought out to accompany Mr. Holmes’ first record for the label.

On the original inner sleeve of the album, Warner Brothers advertisers its current hit albums including The Trapp Family Singers, The Outriggers Playing Golden Hits of Hawaii, Bonnie Prudden’s instructional album, Fitness for Baby & You, and the famous, Sidney Poitier Meets Plato. Again, Warner Brothers was not funky. But they attempted to be by matching Holmes and Matthews. But it just didn’t sound contemporary.

Count Basie made some hip records with his big band in the 60’s because he could swing. Unfortunately some of Onzy Matthews arrangements swing more like the “Tonight Show Band” with Tommy Newsome, more than they do Count Basie. On this offering Matthews had different kind of swing that twisted more than it strutted. And it didn’t work well with the blues, nor did it jive with Holmes’ B-3.

Fortunately, the rhythm section is tight and when the big band doesn’t come blaring through, the LP is listenable, mainly for Groove’s chops. But conceptually, this combo of big band, blues and B-3, backfires. In 1965 one year after this release, Holmes would record Soul Message for Prestige. It would contain his signature tune, “Misty” and Holmes would ride that groove until his death.

There are better Groove Holmes LPs than Book of the Blues Vol. 1, and Warner Brothers Records must have thought so too, because there was never a Volume 2.

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