(EMI) 12 tracks Capitol 1959 - a must have Rock'n'Roll platter - top sound EMI GB pressing - notes by Charlie Gillet.
Capitol was the only company to find any kind of answer to the wildness of Little Richard, in an equally bizarre performer who called himself Esquerita. As `S.Q. Reeder' he had recorded 'Green Door', an excellent rock 'n' roll song that was not done justice to in the hit version by Jim Lowe. For Capitol Esquerita cut a series of the most frantic rock `n' roll records ever made.
If a producer or arranger was deputed to the session, he must have been bound and gagged and put in a corner, for there was little sign that anyone responsible for the records had been concerned for their commercial potential.
Several of Esquerita's eight records were roughly based on recent Little Richard hits, but only roughly. The singer had a lower register and narrower range than Richard, and virtually spoke the lyrics in a gruff, hoarse shout, occasionally breaking into a wavering falsetto. Few of the records sounded as if the band had ever played the songs before and frequently most of the musicians took off on searing solos whose key and tempo were only vaguely connected to those of others in the band.
Esquerita played piano with a speed and staccato attack that echoed Little Richard's style, but the overall sound here in some way conjured a chaotic symphony, as a succession of chords chased each other desperately up to the keyboard. The violence that was normally only a promise (or threat) in rock 'n' roll was realized in Esquerita's sound."
"Though Esquerita may be a footnote in Rock'n'Roll history, it's one written in shocking pink day-glo." (Rick' Coleman, Wavelength Magazine). It's a pretty well accepted rule of thumb in Rock'n’Roll circles that anything Esquerita cut alter his parade of manic Capitol records doesn't amount to a cheap rhinestone on the Voola's patented sunglasses. That's a diggable standard when you consider just what Esquerita did at Capitol, takin’ Little Richard's 'Slippin' And Slidin’' blowout and xing it to the 10th power ‘til the resultant records - 'Rockin' The Joint', 'Hole In My Heart', and especially 'Esquerita And The Voola' - all sounded like they were cut on Mars. In fact, New Orleans disc jockey and longtime Esquerita supporter Billy Delle called the 'Voola' 45 "raw jungle music" and said when you blasted it, "man, you had to look behind you to see if anybody was coming chucking spears at you!" Yes Sir, the rep that hangs on those Capitol platters is a valid one and it's no wonder that fans of flat out abandon accept no substitute. I've gathered up the marbles on the Esq’s life story twice before, in KICKS Magazine and on the VINTAGE VOOLA collection and there's no need to run it down again, but we should get some focus how these toons fall into the whole Esquerita rodeo.
We gotta first focus on Esquerita's departure/dumping from Capitol in ‘59. The keen eyes of Big Joe Turner spotted his atomic stage show and gave the Voola a second shot at blastin' off, this time in New Orleans. For the next couple of years, the lunacy never let up. Billy Delle recalls: "He used to play a place called 'The Baby Grand', but mostly at the 'Safari Room' with Irma (Thomas), (Ernie) K-Doe, (Benny) Spellman - all the Minit artists. Little Richard was more polished, I think, than Esquerita. Esquerita had that raw energy, but he catered more to the crowd, something like Snooks Eaglin. And the more the audience started cheering him on and egging him on, the wilder that son of a gun got. He had the high pomaded hair, almost like straight up with a little wave. He had all kinds of wild sunglasses, wild clothes, baggy pants. He used to like to play that plink-plink type of sound, the real high keys more than anything else. When you'd say you were going to see Esquerita there would be a lot of people who would want to go, because they knew they were in for a show. The parking lot at the old 'Safari Room' used to be packed, boy." It woulda sewed us Rock'n'Roll fans well if that raw energy Delle talked about made itself well on vinyl again, but from Esquerita's first post-Capitol side, 'Green Door' on Minit, the results were alarmingly tame. Despite the \/oola's outwardly wild, almost insane personality, his ‘60s records belie the true Esquerita craziness.
Still, wherever the action was, he seemed to always get a toot in the door. An early Joe Jones sponsored Detroit jam session for Berry Gordy saw the Voola along with the crescent city's finest talent light the torch that’d keep the charts at lame for years with Motown hits. "That's when the Gordy sound changed", claimed Esq. "They were nowhere near our sound, that funky boomin' stuff we brought up from New Orleans. After they heard us...“ Gordy gave the tapes to their writers and said, "THIS is the sound for Motown!" Unrewarded in this, as with most of his ‘60s ventures, Esquerita's premier meal ticket came from patting around with the guy he both greatly inspired and liberally swiped from. Little Richard and the Voola's stamp was pounded onto the Georgia Peach’s Brunswick, Okeh and Reprise sides. Through all of these behind the scenes shenanigans, the Voola label-hopped, tryin’ to get somethin’ goin’ tor himself. Ok, now the selections on this disc come from a totally unissued 1965 session cut under the guiding hand of former Atlantic records bigwig Herb Abramson. Esquerita, as always, traveled first class across the ivories, and Abramson landed a bonus in the fact that the Voola’s ready-to-go- any-sec voice was in full bodied form. The finished complete band tapes would have been hoisted up the flagpole by Triumph Records under the savory banner of Esquerita & The Morticians, but nothing got beyond the stage of Esq. bangin' 'n‘ howlin' with occasional background warbling and some now-and-then percussion.
It's a shame there’s no small combo blastin' behind the Voola, ‘cause pumped up by some of his New Orleans pals, a couple of these sides like 'Sock If To Me, Baby', 'Wig Wearin’Baby', and the toon that'd ultimately see wax, by both Esquerita and Little Richard, 'Dew Drop Inn', would have no doubt been his coolest records of the decade. On some of the sides, Esquerita drifts a tad farther into 'Porgy And Bess' territory than what you and I'd regularly toss on the family hi fi and if the eclectic mish mash of styles seems kinda weird, you gotta realize Esquerita's personal taste ain't too easy to pigeon hole. See, when he first kicked off his career the Voola was singin' high voiced opera", while on the other bejewelled hand, he banged out intense piano with gospel great Joe May“. He professed a deep diggin' for Country & Western music but was equally gassed by corny show toons. Buddy Holly was a left field fave tho warbler Nina Simone wowed the Voola, too. And, bizarre as it may seem, the Esq. once told yours truly he couldn't get enuff of the Beach Boys but wouldn't listen to Frank Sinatra squawk if you paid him! So, you can reckon whatever kinda music this stuff is, it's comin’ from a whole lotta distant directions and no doubt that’s what drew Herb Abramson aboard Esquerita’s rocket. Now me, I would hands down, eight days a week, no questions asked take Esquerila’s interplanetary Capitol "raw jungle music" over anything he's tossed out since, but I figger, hey, if yer an Esquerita fan, you might wanna consider bendin' the great Non-Capitol-1st-decree and give this hooey a rassle. The Voola may not be blastin’ us quite to Mars on this flight, but pop on a sec of 'Sock It To Me, Baby' and dig why Esquerita will forever be outta this world! - Billy Miller, Kicks Magazine, June 1989 - Big thanks to Flick Coleman / Wavelength Magazine