Chris Barber, Elite Syncopations (2011 reissue of Chris Barber's Bandbox, Volume 2, with bonus tracks).
Lake Records LACD 294, released in February 2011.
The original LP Elite Syncopations, (Chris Barber’s Band Box, Volume Two), issued in 1960, featured the Barber Band with its classic lineup of Chris, Pat and Monty, Eddie and Dick Smith, and Graham Burbidge. It was recorded in January and February 1960. The LP was a great success and has been issued and reissued as an LP on various labels. (You may check the original LP cover and sleeve notes here.)
However, it was not until 1995 that Lake Records decided to release the complete LP on a CD, adding four more tunes such as Thriller Rag, Whistlin' Rufus, Tuxedo Rag and Bugle Call Rag (tracks recorded in 1955 and 1956). This CD was soon sold out and remains a rare item. (Please read our review here.)
Now, in February 2011, Paul Adams from Lake Records has again reissued the original LP tracks. What makes this CD so interesting is that the additional tracks are completely different from those on the first CD issue; however, I would not say that the original tunes are not interesting at all. But tracks 11 to 15 have not been previously issued, while the bonus tracks 16 and 17 feature the 1953 Ken Colyer's Jazzmen. Those two bonus tracks are taken from the Lake Records CD From New Orleans to London (LACD 209) (see our review here).
As mentioned above, we have already posted a review of the 1995 CD, so we do not repeat our comments on the first ten fantastic tunes. These tunes have again been carefully re-mastered by Paul Adams. Thanks Paul for this work!
The new CD is a full "ragtime" CD. Track 11 (Hiawatha – A Summer Idyll) features the 1954 line-up re-united in 1994 on the occasion of several 40 years jubilee concerts. Great sound – the 1954 band in full stereo with Monty Sunshine, Pat Halcox, Lonnie Donegan, Jim Bray, Ron Bowden and Chris.
Merrydown Rag (track 12) was recorded in 1967; the opening of the tune features Ian Wheeler in a beautiful solo on clarinet.
Whistlin' Rufus (track 13) has always been a very popular Chris Barber tune which has been issued on numerous EPs, LPs and CDs, but the most common is the 1955 version, which originally appeared on the 10-inch LP, Chris Barber Plays, Volume Two. The version on the new CD was recorded in June 1975, this time with John Crocker on clarinet. John and Pat are featured in a short but great duet.
Harlem Rag (track 14) was recorded in November 2001 with the traditional 8-piece band line-up. This was at the time when the Chris Barber Jazz & Blues Band started to play with the Bob Hunt Ellingtonians, thus finally ending later in the Big Chris Barber Band. Harlem Rag has often been played in concerts and is a typical ragtime number, freshly played by the Chris Barber Jazz & Blues Band.
Maple Leaf Rag (track 15) was recorded at the Playhouse at Whitley Bay in December 1998 and fits beautifully into this ragtime CD. The Chris Barber Band played this tune in the 60s and then again only in 1998.
As already stated, the bonus tracks come from the Ken Colyer CD From New Orleans to London and were recorded in 1953. Cataract Rag and Harlem Rag are the two bonus tracks. It is interesting to compare the versions of Harlem Rag from 1953 and 2001.
I personally like this CD very much as it covers rags played by the Chris Barber Band from 1953 to 2001.