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The Independent Culture
The King R&B Box Set (King, 4xCD). That rock'n'roll was really rhythm and blues in whiteface is fairly well known. That R&B itself derived from the black big bands of the 1930s, like those of Lucky Millinder and Bill Doggett, is less celebrated. This magnificent collection of shoutin', honkin' and doo-woppin' R&B tracks from 1945 (Bull Moose Jackson's "I Know Who Threw the Whisky in the Well") to 1965 (James Brown's "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag") assembles a formidable mass of tracks from the Cincinatti King, Queen and Federal labels. Their boss Syd Nathan was the Sam Goldwyn of the record business, and he shifted the company's focus from the hillbilly to the race market, seeking out ex-big-band singers like Wynonie "Mr Blues" Harris (who, when Nathan went in to his dressing-room to sign him up, was in bed wearing nothing but pink-satin drawers and accompanied by three naked women) and crooner Ivory Joe Hunter, and also buying in finished masters from black A&R men. Some of the greatest records of the 1950s came out on King or its subsidiaries: "Work With Me Annie" by the Midnighters, "I'm Tore Up" by Billy Gales (really an Ike Turner record), Little Willie John's "Fever", and the Platters' "Only You"; as well as some of the most bizarrely titled, like Bill Doggett's "Ram-Bunk-Shush" or Hank Ballard's "Get That Hump in Your Back". A wonderful 36-page booklet tells the story of the label, and recordings of boss Nathan addressing sales conferences and telling dirty stories earthily communicate the flavour of the times. Phil Johnson

DJ Shadow: Endtroducing ... (Mo' Wax, CD/2xLP/tape). The long-awaited debut album from light-fingered Californian Josh Davis more than confirms the promise of his 1993 breakthrough single "In Flux". This sampledelic cornucopia of found sound, shadowy beat-shuffles and out-of-work Disney choirs unfolds at a stately pace without ever becoming funereal. Shadow works through his ideas one by one, with intense concentration -from the awesome nine-minute Mike-Oldfield-meets-Moby thought concerto of "Stem/ Long Stem" to the rapier 43-second polemical thrust of "Why Hip Hop Sucks in '96" ("It's the money") - and the fruit of his labours is the large-scale shedding of light. Ben Thompson

Winx: Left Above the Clouds (XL, CD/2xLP). Who said Americans can't make electronic music? This debut album from Philadephia deep-house maverick Josh Wink starts out badly - "Warm Wet Sand" is seven minutes of unasked- for tidal therapy recalling the Orb at their ditziest - and concludes in triumph, with the mesmeric spiralling frequencies of the epic Top 10 single "Higher State of Consciousness". The intervening 26 tracks run the gamut from spoken-word indulgence to ambient austerity, with momentary conceptual interludes like "Air Pillows", "Lint Trap" and "Stiff Neck" suggesting a bold attempt to do for air travel what Kraftwerk's Autobahn did for motorways. BT

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