BUZZARD elbows and chitlin' a' la king, steamed hot alligator feet with dumplin', roast baboon salad smothered with bubble gum, baked guerrilla ribs, a dish of cow fingers and mosquito pie -- in the mid-'50s this was Screamin' Jay Hawkins' recipe for success.
Well, one recipe at least. Hawkins, who left an indelible impression on a generation of rock R&B fans with "I Put a Spell On You" and his flamboyantly ghoulish stage shows, could play it straight as well, though never with the same degree of notoriety. "Frenzy," a collection of his greatest and not-so-great hits from the era, offers a revealing glimpse of the singer and saxophonist in various guises: as his familiar demonic self on "Spell," "Alligator Wine" and other, less original performances; as an old-fashioned blues shouter on "Person to Person"; as an avid disciple of Fats Waller's whimsicality on "You Made Me Love You"; and in a more serious vein, as the brooding pop balladeer on "Temptation" and "Deep Purple."
But nothing fit Hawkins better than the cape, turban and shades he affected early on, and nothing here wears as well as the nightmarish novelties that made him famous.
That Hawkins has yet to lose his manic demeanor is evident in "Screamin' Jay Hawkins and the Fuzztones Live," an EP that reprises his two biggest hits, the sly "Alligator Wine" and the absolutely raucous "Spell." It also meanders into an unfocused "It's That Time Again" and ends up with "Constipation Blues," your basic sound-effects novelty tune. Recorded at New York's Irving Plaza in 1985, the album finds Hawkins in a typically wild mood. It's all the Fuzztones can do to hang on for the ride. SCREAMIN' JAY HAWKINS --
"Frenzy" (Edsel ED 104); "Screamin' Jay Hawkins and the Fuzztones Live" (Midnight Records 134). Appearing Friday at the 9:30 Club.