Hoxton today is one of the most fashionable parts of inner London, yet within living memory it was the capital's most notorious slum area. 'Hoxton is the leading criminal quarter of London, and indeed of all England', wrote Charles Booth in a famous report at the beginning of the twentieth century. It remained a byword for its combination of poverty and crime until the Second World War - London's busiest market for stolen goods, the centre of the pickpocket trade, home to a razor gang that terrorised racecourses all over southern England.
Andy Kirk's Orchestra was at the height of its popularity during the late 1930s, still riding high from their hit "Until the Real Thing Comes Along." The star of that record, singer Pha Terrell, is on the majority of the songs on this CD (the fourth in Classics' complete reissuance of the master takes of all Andy Kirk recordings from the swing era), but there are some hotter tunes too, most notably "Mess-A-Stomp," "Jump Jack Jump," "Dunkin' a Doughnut" and "Mary's Idea." However, Terrell's dominance of many titles may make many swing fans opt for the GRP/Decca single-disc Andy Kirk sampler instead.
Andy Kirk's Twelve Clouds of Joy was a top-notch Kansas City swing band that, by 1939, featured the pop vocals of Pha Terrell, the more blues-oriented singing of June Richmond, creative arrangements by Mary Lou Williams, and some excellent soloing from pianist Williams and Dick Wilson on tenor. Most memorable in this entry in Classics' "complete" Andy Kirk CD series are "Floyd's Guitar Blues" (an odd but pioneering electric guitar feature for Floyd Smith), "Wham" and "Scratching In the Gravel."