The Blasters’ leader’s debut solo album from 1986. Features
prominent contributions from the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Sun Ra’s
After the much-admired Blasters broke up in 1985, the group’s founder
member, lead singer and guitarist Phil Alvin chose not to form or join
another band. He wanted to make an album that featured music by some of
his earliest musical influences – artists whose records he had heard
thanks to his parents while growing up in the California town of Downey
in the late 50s and early 60s. In 1986, Phil got to do just that.
“Un ‘Sung Stories’” was warmly received at the time of release but the
Slash label was not yet fully committed to the CD market and chose to
issue it only on vinyl and cassette. The album didn’t receive a CD
release until the 21st century, when a Japanese label put out a limited
edition, and it’s never been issued in the UK in digital form until now.
Suffice to say Big Beat’s release is not in any way limited, and will
remain in catalogue as long as there are customers for it.
The term Americana was not yet in widespread use in 1986 but it suits
the contents of “Un ‘Sung Stories’” perfectly. Phil drew repertoire from
his own youthful favourite artists and songs, reviving an early Bing
Crosby hit, a gospel obscurity by Elder Anderson Johnson and no less
than four songs (three in a medley) by the great Cab Calloway. On a
couple of tracks he was joined by some fellow former members of the
Blasters, on others by the Dirty Dozen Brass band from New Orleans.
Perhaps most significantly, he persuaded Sun Ra to come back from outer
space for a couple of days to lead his Arkestra in a session that
produced three of the album’s 10 cuts. The end product remains
invigorating and compelling, and can now be heard in the kind of sound
it fully deserves.
Hardly the most prolific of artists, it took Phil almost 15 years to
produce another solo album but he remains busy in 2018 leading a
re-formed Blasters and making the occasional album with brother Dave
that are basically extensions of “Un ‘Sung Stories’”. If you have any
interest at all in what’s now called Americana, it’s a set you will not
want to be without. (Ace Records)