Screamin Jay Hawkins – The Bizarre Years
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You can have your Big Jay McNeely, Wynonie Harris, even your Little Richard…cuz when it comes to R&B wildmen, we’ll see you and raise you with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, the craziest SOB ever to grab a microphone. Jay’s legend begins on September 12, 1956, when, after reputedly being plied with bottles of cheap Swiss Colony wine by A&R man Arnold Maxin, he and the band cut what is probably the single most insane slab of vinyl ever released, “I Put a Spell on You.” The song became an underground hit, and launched a career spanning three-plus decades during which, in the indelible words of liner note writer Chris Morris, “Hawkins materialized on stages around the world as a shrieking, tail-dragging hoodoo creature. Rising like one of the undead from a coffin, his hair sculpted in a towering conk, his noise pierced by a pointed bone, he shook a stick topped by a skull (nicknamed Henry) in his audiences’ faces, declaiming his wacked-out songs…in a molten baritone punctuated by throat-rending howls, profound groans, jibbering wails, and guttural howls.” This 10-track compilation captures the best tracks that Hawkins cut in the early ‘90s for Bizarre Records (could a label have a more perfect name for Screamin’ Jay?), the imprint originally founded by Frank Zappa and his business partner/manager Herb Cohen. Among the highlights are his two Tom Waits covers, “Whistling Past the Graveyard” and “Heart Attack and Vine,” Jay’s first-time-on-vinyl disquisition on oral hygiene, “Shut Your Mouth When You Sneeze,” and his lustful ode to the Twin Peaks star, “Sherilyn Fenn,” (Parental Advisory, y’all!). Pressed in lurid purple vinyl limited to 1000 copies, with the aforementioned notes by Mr. Morris. Bizarre indeed!
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