Review: Frankie Ford - Sea Cruise: The Complete Releases 1958-62

If you only know Frankie Ford's biggest hit: "Sea Cruise," you're forgiven. Between 1958 and 1960, the New Orleans rocker released a string of singles: "Alimony," "Seventeen," and a version of "You Talk Too Much" are all worth a listen. However, oo-wee, baby, it's "Sea Cruise" that stands as Frankie Ford's legacy. SEA CRUISE: THE COMPLETE RELEASES - 1958-62 gives a near-complete overview of the swamp pop/New Orleans R&B artist's original and most vital career period. 

Numerous gems are uncovered, such as "Morgus the Magnificent" which is an ode to a local horror host that he recorded with Malcolm Rebennack Jr., aka Dr. John: "we don't go out to roll and rock, we get our kicks from the house of shock." Also worth seeking out is the provocative (especially for its era) "It Must Be Jelly ('Cause Jam Don't Shake Like That"). Not all the songs are piano-bashing rockers: when singles after "Sea Cruise" failed to make a splash, Ford's producers tried making him a crooner in the vein of Bobby Darrin. Of these tracks, his version of "Chinatown" is worth a listen, but an unfortunate period of middle-of-the-road pap followed that is offensive in its inoffensiveness. Ford was at his best when he was channeling the same wild, bayou abandon that his Louisiana kinsman Jerry Lee Lewis would take to the limit...and beyond. 

A few years after his one and only LP, LET'S TAKE A SEA CRUISE, Ford was drafted into military service, which effectively ended his run. UK label Acrobat has issued this collection that's made possible by UK copyright laws which put anything from 1962 or earlier into public domain. A lengthy booklet offers a text heavy essay (a 30-45 minute read) and is as close as a biography as we're likely to get. There are a few typos and errors: for example, the CD packaging proclaims 28 tracks when we actually have 30. Still, Acrobat should be commended for issuing an affordable (currently $17 on Amazon US) compilation with quality recordings. 
Musicologists, take note.


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