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BOB WILLS & HIS TEXAS PLAYBOYS

TEXAS, HOLLYWOOD AND CHICAGO 1940-1947 (4CD)

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JSP (JSP77114)

During the 1940s Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys journey took many turns - ranging from the lows of army life when many of the band members were conscripted, to the highs of their big success on the Western Swing circuit and, later in the decade, their adventures in Hollywood movies.

Whatever the period, the quality of the music remained consistently high because Bob Wills was at the heart of the outfit and his reputation always attracted a virtual ‘Who's Who' of musicians to complete The Playboys line-up which included such legends as guitarists Eldon Shamblin, Leon Huff and Herman Arnspinger, pianist Al Stricklin, fiddle players Jesse Ashlock and Joe Holley, steel guitar masters Leon McAuliffe and Herb Remington and, most importantly, the vocalist Tommy Duncan whose smoky vocals defined the sound of Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys.

Bob Wills loved to jazz up everything from fandangos, waltzes, rags, blues and cowboy songs to boogies, cakewalks, sob songs and old time country so the band's output was as varied as it gets and always filled with surprising little twists and turns. The swinging arrangements were irresistible, not only on the white-hot hits like Brain Cloudy Blues, Roly Poly, Time Changes Everything and Take Me Back To Tulsa but also on lesser known rambunctious numbers such as Papa's Jumpin', Hometown Stomp, That Hot Lick Fiddlin' Man and Bob Wills Boogie.  

By the end of the period, Bob was attracted to the bright lights of Hollywood and made several films and provided the music for many others. The band's recordings from this time feature a honed-down string-based sound for saddles and sagebrush songs such as Cherokee Maiden and Ride On My Prairie Pinto and beautiful little numbers like Dusty Skies. 

For the most part, it's the big band music we hear in this box set, and it blasts along like an unstoppable steam train with Bob Wills standing upfront hollering the musician's praises and exhorting them to perform like the kings they were. I swear you can hear that man smile.

We've had to wait a while since the first Bob Wills set (JSP7770) but it's been well worth it. Here's another chance to experience more glorious sounds of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys at the absolute top of their game. Over the years, many bands have copied their style, but none have equalled it.

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Review Date: Febraury 2011

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