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August 2021
 

Johnny Tucker featuring Kid Ramos and the AllStars
75 And Alive
Blue Heart Records & HighJohn Records

Johnny Tucker

Johnny Tucker has been singing the blues for most of his life, with this latest recording being done last October on his 75th birthday. To ensure the success of this album executive producer Bob Auerbach, Tucker's manager and owner of HighJohn Records, recruited guitarist Kid Ramos to put together an all-star caliber band to back Tucker on this recording. Joining forces are notable blues cats Carl Sonny Leyland (piano), John Bazz (bass), Jason Lozano (drums), Bob Corritore (harmonica) and Ron Dziubla (sax).

The result of this session is a dozen very fine blues cuts, with Tucker's raw, bluesy vocals featured on ten of the tunes. His voice shows his age at times, but is especially effective on the up-tempo numbers. As expected, the instrumental backing is top-notch. All lyrics were written by Tucker with Ramos putting together the backing arrangements.

Ramos kicks off the first song, the up-tempo stomper "All Night Long, All Night Wrong," with killer T-Bone Walker-style guitar, alerting the listener that this album is going to be a keeper. Tucker sings about what he and his companion are going to be doing that night. The tempo changes on the slow blues "There's A Time For Love," with Ramos again sounding very T-Bone-ish with his tasteful guitar playing. Both Leyland and Corritore step up on the next slow number, "If You Ever Love Me," bringing a strong dose of Louisiana swamp to the recording.

The mid-tempo blues shuffle "Can't You See" features Corritore blowing the upper registers of his harmonica around Tucker's rough and ready vocals. Man, this is the blues! We then head from Chicago to New Orleans for "What's The Matter," with a Crescent City bounce that brings the horn section to the front of the stage.

Ramos' guitar leads bring to mind the best work of Magic Sam on the mid-tempo blues number, "Treat Me Good," before Tucker takes a break and the band launches into an instrumental number that sounds like Ramos wants to be just like Albert Collins. Dziubla jumps in midway through the number with a strong sax solo. Leyland helps increase the tempo on "What's On My Mind" with a boogie woogie piano intro and then just keeps it up throughout. This raucous tune suits Tucker's voice just right, and Corritore sneaks in later with a healthy harmonica solo.

The other instrumental number, "Hookline," follows, but this time with a slower tempo that gives Ramos the opportunity to showcase his skills with the slide guitar. Leyland and Corritore both also get the chance to jump in with solos. An Elmore James guitar riff opens the next song, "Dance like I Should," a mid-tempo blues shuffle that is one of the highlights of the album. Equally strong is a slower blues, "Have A Good Time Tonight," with Ramos putting a touch of echo into his guitar and Tucker showing that he's still got it at 75.

Closing this very fine album is a blues, "Gotta Do It One Time," that wraps in a touch of horn-driven soul while also keeping Ramos' guitar in Chicago. Tucker really packs a lot of emotion into this song, although to be honest I could say that about any lyric coming out of this man's vocal chords.

75 And Alive should be a cherished addition to every blues fans library. Thanks to everyone involved in putting together this album, especially Auerbach and Ramos for getting their vision into the studio. But let's also give credit to the man who put his heart and soul into the songs here. Johnny Tucker, we appreciate you and hope to hear more from you real, real soon.

--- Bill Mitchell

 

 

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