Chris Barber's Jazz Band, Lonnie Donegan's Skiffle Group, and The Chris Barber Skiffle Group: Chris Barber 1956

LPs and EPs recorded in 1956; Reissued on a double-CD in June 2007 on Lake Records LACD 246.

Chris Barber 1956 is the second CD in a (so far) two-part series of re-issue discs from Lake Records, each charting a year in the band’s early recording history (the previous CD was Chris Barber 1955).

In actuality, I suppose one should say these are the second and third in the series, because Chris Barber 1956 is a 2-CD set (for the price of one!) that contains the entire recorded output of the Barber Band on the Pye/Nixa label in 1956, with the exception of some Ottilie Patterson tracks, which have also recently been re-released by Lake (That Patterson Girl).

Going by the personnel, there are essentially three sets of recordings in the set: 24 by Chris Barber’s Jazz Band, six by Lonnie Donegan’s Skiffle Group, and four by the Chris Barber Skiffle Group. The band pieces originally appeared on three LPs: Chris Barber Plays, Volumes 2 and 3, and the first of the Chris Barber In Concert series. Most of the skiffle sessions were released on “feature” EPs.

All of the tracks have been previously re-released on one CD or another, but it’s nice to have this more or less chronological package of recordings from a single year, not least because it gives a clear picture of changes in the rhythm section over this short period. Bass player Micky Ashman left in April, being replaced by Dick Smith, who was to remain in the band for the next decade, while in 1956 the band had three banjo players: Lonnie Donegan to begin with but who left to take advantage of his growing fame from the success of Rock Island Line, then Dick Bishop for a few months, and finally Eddie Smith who, like Dick, stayed around until the mid-1960s.

I seem to say this with each successive new CD from Lake Records, but as usual the packaging is superb, with detailed personnel lists and recording dates, informative notes by producer Paul Adams, and several contemporary photographs.

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