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