In-demand funky R&B from the sax master, reissued for the first time.
1970s Los Angeles was a boom town if you worked in the music industry. The business had moved West to the sunshine in the late 60s and buoyant album sales meant there was plenty of money around. This trickled down to those who were already based there, of whom a significant number were veterans of the Central Avenue R&B scene of the 1940s and 50s. Pioneering indies such as the Bihari brothers’ Modern label continued to exist beyond its heyday, but by the end of the 60s its main business was budget LPs of earlier recordings. However, in the mid-70s owner Jules Bihari decided to launch the Big Town imprint for new material, and signed up a slew of artists, mainly those who had recorded for him in earlier years, including Joe Houston.
Born in Austin, Texas, Joe Houston was a master of the “blowing” record, where his distinctively raucous saxophone would blow over the top of a compelling rhythmic groove. Early hits such as ‘All Night Long’ were Southern Californian R&B classics which kept him in work from the day they were released. He settled on the West Coast in 1951 after a record he cut in Texas was picked up for national distribution by Modern. Although he never signed exclusively with the Biharis, he recorded for them throughout the mid-50s on several of their labels.
“Kicking Back”, Houston’s one Big Town release, has been largely overlooked by blues fans. Although he looks super-cool on the cover, who can blame them? Titles such as ‘Hawaiian Disco’ seem to mark the album as a cheap cash-in. In fact, the formula isn’t so far from his earlier records. The only difference is this time the grooves are no longer rocking R&B but instead resemble a blaxploitation soundtrack. Houston is on top form throughout and the music sounds brilliant. It is only in recent years since funk fans have started to dig a little deeper that albums such as this have started to be appreciated. Our first-time reissue is remastered from the original tapes.