Mungo Jerry, Baby Jump - The Definitive Collection Reviews

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Mungo Jerry, Baby Jump - The Definitive Collection
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“All The songs through '74. You can't find these all...”


written by on 27/08/2009

All The songs through '74. You can't find these all individually, albums and non-album singles. All for the price of one of Mungo Jerry's CD albums.

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“Mungo Jerry, Baby Jump - The Definitive Collection -...”


written by JOHNV on 25/11/2004

Mungo Jerry, Baby Jump - The Definitive Collection - Since Mungo Jerry hogged the No. 1 slot for the best part of two months of 1970 with 'In The Summertime', changed their line-up time and time again, and became part of the 70s nostalgia scene, a bewildering array of reissues and re-recordings has hit the high street. Fronted from those early days to the present by Ray Dorset (he of the earthy vibrato vocals, big hair, generous sideburns and that unmistakable gap-toothed grin), they were chart regulars up to mid-1974, the period covered by this 65-track, triple-CD fest. Starting as purveyors of washboard-led skiffle and good-time blues (initially without a drummer), they later dabbled with heavier, stomping glam rock and out-and-out rock'n'roll revivalism. But there was always an identifiable sound to their music.

Eight singles graced the charts during their first four years, all but two reaching the Top 20, and each one is here. 'In The Summertime' (all together now - "choo choo-choo - ah!") must be familiar enough, and if you don't know the original, you must remember the Shaggy version which made No. 5 in 1995.

I know many Mungo fans have long since become bored with that particular tune, in which case there's plenty more to whet the aural appetite. Often overlooked is 'Baby Jump', the second single, which also reached No. 1 in the UK. Ray is growling and screaming like veteran blues legend and eccentric Captain Beefheart down a long, dark tunnel over this thinly-disguised 12-bar rock'n'roll tune, and that ghostly recorder in the background, make this unique. The summery 'Lady Rose' had to be one of the most infectious Marc Bolan-soundalike songs ever, while the more ambitious 'You Don't Have To Be In The Army To Fight In The War' is something else again, with its more Dylan-influenced lyrics and wailing clavioline keyboard in the background. It was also at that time the longest title ever to reach the UK Top 20.

When musical and personal differences led to founder members Paul King (acoustic guitar, banjo, jug) and Colin Earl (keyboards) quitting early in 1972, Ray recruited a full-time drummer in pursuit of a more conventional rock sound. The first single in this new musical guise was 'Open Up', which sounded less skiffle, more laid-back Status Quo. It stalled at No. 21, and the lovely, wistful 'My Girl And Me' bombed completely. But the infectious, effervescent 'Alright Alright Alright', a Top 3 hit in the summer of 1973, made up for it. Its follow-up 'Wild Love' is heavier and more funky, with call-and-respond chorus, while 'Long Legged Woman Dressed In Black' was arguably the most catchy of the lot. I defy you to keep your feet (or your air guitar) still to this one!

But there was much more to the group than a few hits. The non-single album tracks, mostly written by Ray Dorset, demonstrate their versatility. Perhaps the best of all is 'Memoirs of a Stockbroker', reminiscent of late Beatles with echo-soaked vocals, recorder and above all amusing story in the lyrics of the schoolboy rebel who broke all the rules, put sugar in the petrol tank of the headmaster's Jag, etc., only to end up as a middle-aged victim of ulcers, false teeth and piles in a smart suit. The more poignant 'Coming Back To You When The Time Comes' is marvellous - a semi-acoustic, soft rock-folk ballad on the love, loss and let's-make-it-up theme. 'Follow Me Down', with its catchy tune, singalong chorus, and vaguely environmental theme, has always been a personal favourite. And on the anti-war 'Peace In The Country', they even drafted in veteran jazz fiddler Johnny Van Derrick.

Several of the songs are rearrangements of old blues, jug band and skiffle Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie songs, or else traditional numbers from that era. 'Have A Whiff On Me' (which briefly led to a BBC ban), 'Ella Speed', 'That Old Dust Storm', 'Milk Cow Blues', 'We Shall Be Free' and 'San Francisco Bay Blues' all follow the pattern, with blues harmonicas, kazoos, washboards, banjos and boogie piano ahoy.

Ray sometimes wrote songs in the same idiom himself, notably 'Johnny B. Badde' (who could resist a title like that?) and 'You Better Leave That Whisky Alone', all sounding like they could have been written twenty or thirty years earlier. Who cares? How many Chuck Berry hits used more than three chords? Much the same could be said about 'Mighty Man', which the group initially wanted to be the main track on their first single. How different would their subsequent history have been if their management had not insisted that 'In The Summertime' was the lead track?. It may only be a 12-bar blues, but with that carefree piano, lead guitar, harmonica and kazoo all taking turns between the vocals, it's mighty infectious stuff. So is the instrumental 'Mother Boogie' (OK, I've left a word out, as did the record company on initial release).

Paul King contributed three songs, 'Hey Rosalyn', 'Sad-Eyed Joe' and 'Tramp', though in his writing a more melodic, folksy influence was always apparent. Even Colin Earl got in on the act when he wrote and sang 'Daddie's Brew', which sounds like a cross between Jerry Lee Lewis and Dr. John.

A couple of rock'n'roll cover versions really take the originals by the jugular. The old 50s rockabilly 'Baby Let's Play House' is swamped in echo and one of the most audacious Elvis impersonations ever, and if you're listening on headphones, marvel at the way that manic piano zooms from one channel to another. Willie Dixon's 'I Just Wanna Make Love To You' is miles away from the more familiar Etta James and Rolling Stones treatments, and with its slow blues riff, I'll wager that the group had been listening to Led Zeppelin or something pretty similar just beforehand. Ray could even outscream Robert Plant when he wanted to.

When the group reinvented themselves as a more conventional rock band, with drums taking the place of the washboard and a sound that was closer to glam-rock than skiffle, there was still room for a few rock'n'roll epics, like 'Little Miss Hipshake' and 'Too Fast To Live, Too Young To Die'.

To sum up, this is some of the most infectious, exuberant music ever made of its type - but with just enough light and shade, plus contributions from different members of the group, to prevent the affair from sounding too samey. All the tracks from all the UK albums, plus the maxi-single B-sides and bonus tracks (with the exception of the 10-minute 'Live from Hollywood' that originally graced side 2 of the 'Baby Jump' maxi-single), all in chronological order of release, plus informative notes on the insert, are here. What more could a fan want?

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