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Pachucko Hop

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  • A dozen early-'50s sides are contained on this album, which is pretty smokin' R&B of the honkin' sax school. For someone trying to collect Chuck Higgins sides, though, the question is: does this have stuff I already have elsewhere, and is it the same as another prominent compilation with the same title? First clarification: it's an entirely different set than the one released on CD by Specialty in the early '90s that was also titled Pachuko Hop. Unfortunately, most of the dozen tracks also appear on another, more extensive Ace compilation, Blows His Wig, which has 24 cuts. But -- and this is a big but -- Blows His Wig, unlike Pachuko Hop, does not have the song "Pachuko Hop" itself, which is Higgins' most famous recording. It might be a lot to ask to fork out for a full CD just for that track, especially considering Ace's 2007 CD doesn't add any historical liner notes. But taken on its own terms, this is some of the most intense sax-driven R&B of the early '50s, Higgins pealing off some truly thrilling squeals and honks on the frantic instrumentals that dominate the set, also throwing in some Latin rhythms ("Blues 'n' Mambo") and unpredictably stumbling tempos that make it sound like the CD player is skipping ("Iron Pipe"). It's not entirely instrumental -- some good-humored vocal numbers are on board too, and even a blues ballad, "Stormy," but it's definitely those hurricane-like instrumentals that carry the show. Here's another reason to consider getting this Higgins' set: the cover photo of a just-barely-covered female model, which must have been one of the most risqu‚ LP sleeves yet issued when this album first came out in the early '50s. ~ Richie Unterberger
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