There are few things that can brighten my day like opening my post office box and finding inside a package of CDs from Fedora Records. Regardless of the artists included in the box, I know that it's going to contain high quality, traditional blues from obscure but deserving blues artists from around the country. This latest batch, with CDs from Bennie Smith, Iceman Robinson and Ollie Watkins is no exception. You say you never heard of any of these artists? Don't worry about that, because it's all tough, raw blues that will please every serious fan. The first disc, Shook Up, comes from St. Louis session veteran Bennie Smith. I really like this CD. Smith has a genuine, affecting style, both vocally and on guitar. He proves his skill in the latter area on the jumpin' instrumental "Buddah-Ba," as he works in a lot of riffs from other songs. This number alone makes Smith the newest entrant on my list of guitar heroes. But then he completely blows my mind on an extended version of Ray Charles' "Drown In My Own Tears," beginning with a few chords from the National Anthem (kind of like Hendrix jammin' with Charles!) before launching into an intense slow blues. There's also a great sax solo from Harry Simon. "Fancy" is another good guitar instrumental; this tune has kind of a "sophisticated rawness," if you understand what I mean. In looking ahead at the song list, I noticed that Smith does a cover of Gatemouth Brown's classic "Okie Dokie Stomp." This is one of my all-time favorite blues guitar workouts, and Smith doesn't disappoint. It's very different from the original, done as more of a shuffle with a hypnotic rhythmic drum beat, with Smith's guitar playing being more staccato. Shook Up is now on my Top Ten list for the year, and I don't foresee it losing that position in the next seven months.
The second new Fedora release comes from Chicago guitarist Iceman Robinson. On I've Never Been Loved, we see an artist who has honed his craft in many nights in rough and tumble blues clubs around the Windy City. This is back alley blues in the same style of Magic Slim, Hound Dog Taylor and Lil' Ed. The uptempo blues shuffle "Chicago Lakefront" is so true to the Chicago style that I could feel the lake wind-chill all the way down here in Arizona. Robinson's guitar sounds best when he's playing it with his slide, as on the Elmore James-inspired instrumental "Robinson's Rock." "Baby How Long" is similar to Wolf's version of the same song, but Robinson's voice is cleaner than Wolf's. The only other covers on I've Never Been Loved are a pair of Hound Dog Taylor numbers, "My Baby's Comin' Home" and "Sadie," both which again show off Robinson's mastery with the slide. Listening to this CD might inspire me to hop the next flight to Chicago for the kind of blues that you just can't get anywhere else in the world.
Our final Fedora album from this set is a real gem. Fedora chief Chris Millar bought a bunch of old, long lost acetate master discs a few years back. He was disappointed with most of the stuff until he started listening to a couple of early 1960s sessions from the very obscure Fresno street musician Ollie Watkins. Most of what Millar was able to learn about Watkins and how he came to record these dozen songs came from the between-song studio chatter, some of which is included on this album, Used To Keep Me Worried. This is raw, Texas-style blues in the style of Blind Lemon Jefferson and Frankie Lee Sims, played on what is suspected to be a battered old Sears & Roebuck guitar. The better numbers are the gospel songs, including the crude, haunting and dirge like à capella spiritual "Let Me Go" and the backwoods-sounding "Lord I Want To Go Through." While not a great guitarist, he shows nice dexterity on another spiritual, "Precious Lord." Just so you know that Watkins played a lot of Saturday nights, too, he does a raucous raw blues, "Woman I've Been Knowin'." Since much of Watkins' work was done on street corners, he had to do a wide variety of music, so we get to hear two versions of "California Blues (Blue Yodel Number 4)." I'd like to thank Chris Millar for salvaging the Used To Keep Me Worried sessions for all of us to finally hear the blues of Ollie Watkins.
Born To Play The Blues is an appropriate title for the newest CD from 43-year-old Chris Beard, as the Rochester, NY-based guitarist is the son of Joe Beard, whose last several albums have been reviewed here in Blues Bytes. This release on JSP Records shows the younger Beard as a strong, contemporary, "no nonsense" blues guy, a nice vocalist and red hot guitarist. Born To Play The Blues gets a fresh, strong jolt from a pair of 18-year-old backing musicians in sax player Quinn Lawrence and keyboardist J.J. Moscato. The highlights here are the slow, late night blues original "Somebody's Sleeping," with a solid foundation laid down by Moscato's piano and organ, and the funky Albert Collins-style shuffle, "Born To Play The Blues." Beard's best vocal work is heard on another slow tune, "I Still Owe You," as his voice takes on a rich soulful tone. I hope someone takes this band and sends them on a cross-country tour; I'll be waiting in line to see these cats hit the stage.
Matt "Guitar" Murphy needs no introduction to most Blues Bytes readers, as casual blues fans know him from his appearances in the Blues Brothers movies, while more serious blues lovers are hip to his earlier work with artists like Memphis Slim and James Cotton. Murphy has always been regarded as a "guitar player's" guitar player and practically a pioneer in the use of electric guitar in the blues, but never noted as a singer. Murphy realizes his limitations and only sings on two of the 11 numbers on Lucky Charm (Roesch Records), sharing the vocals with Leon Pendarvis, David Foster and Howard Eldridge. This album also serves as a showcase for Pendarvis' excellent keyboard work ... don't miss his excellent piano playing on the slow blues "Time To Move On" and his organ work on the instrumental "J.F.A." My favorite cut is the uptempo shuffle "Willie Mae," with strong vocals from Eldridge and hot guitar licks from Murphy. My only complaint with the album is that Murphy's guitar playing is not out front as much as expected for a Matt "Guitar" Murphy CD. Leon Pendarvis should really get equally billing here, as he gets as much, if not more solo time. But that's a small gripe, as overall I like the material here.
An independent release that really pleasantly surprised me comes from Colorado artist Otis Taylor. White African (Northern Blues Music) features Taylor's brand of traditional blues and creative, introspective songwriting, but with a modern-day, 21st century feel to the music. Taylor is an adept multi-instrumentalist, playing very nice fingerpickin' guitar, banjo, harmonica and mandolin. He gives his music a real primal feel on "Resurrection Blues," with African-style guitar riffs in the intro before launching into a talking blues with lyrics like "...we all got to die, but some people have to suffer before they die..." For the spirited, raw blues sound of "Round and Round," Taylor provides accompaniment for his shouting vocals by playing some mean Sonny Terry-style harmonica. For an older blues style Taylor picks up the banjo and plays some frantic licks on the intense "Momma Don't You Do It." "Saint Martha Blues" tells the story of Taylor's great grandmother and the adversities she faced after the lynching of her husband in Louisiana. Taylor also covers topics like the death of a child due to lack of medical care, the framing of a hobo for a murder he didn't commit, and a Navajo man who drank so much he lost his horse. White African is not something you'll want to play at your next party. But for a dose of the real blues, it doesn't get much better than this. You can find more info on Otis Taylor and this CD at www.otis-taylor.com or www.northernblues.com.
It's hard to categorize the music put out by the Funky Blues Messiahs ... it's got heavy elements of New Orleans-style funk with an "alt" edge, a little gospel and soul, and even a small touch of blues. Lost In Mississippi (Trackspotting Records) won't be for everyone, but it's a wild ride for listeners wanting something different. "Uptown Groove" is a Neville Brothers-style funk with a Blues Traveller-like harmonica solo ... just don't expect Neville quality on the vocals. If you're looking for better vocal work, then check out the handclappin' gospel number "Trouble," with a hot female chorus. The foot tapping-est song is the bawdy "Louisiana Red House," with good piano and organ from bandleader Doug Bare. The music of Funky Blues Messiahs is an interesting trip if you care to take it. More info can be found at www.trackspotting.com.
I was real skeptical about a blues album from a singer calling herself Peach. Blues singers are supposed to have names like 'Big Mama' or something like that. The word 'peach' just doesn't evoke any blues memories for most people. As expected, the music on the self-released EP The Cure For You sounds a little sterile and not raw enough for the blues, although Peach has a nice, pleasant voice. But it shouldn't be overlooked, as there's some interesting stuff here. Peach gives a more nasally quality to her voice on the title cut, and an effective horn section blasts out over the midtempo funky beat. "I'm On Your Side" is a good blues shuffle that just needs a little more kick to be a top-notch tune. The closing cut, "I Wanna Roll With You," is the most interesting number here, with its street corner band sound. Long time Bonnie Raitt band member Freebo plays tuba here, while Arlan Schierbaum contributes good accordion. This last cut makes the whole disc, so there's potential for more good stuff from Peach. Check her out at www.peachmusic.com.
Drunk Man's Dream (Maple Island Records) is a good independent release from acoustic singer/songwriter Tom Feldmann. At first, I didn't think this one was anything special. But it grows on you as you keep listening. Feldmann strikes me as a bit of a "poor man's John Prine," and I mean that as a compliment. He's not a flashy guitarist or a great singer, but it all comes together well on his original numbers, which represent 11 of the 12 cuts here. The title cut is a good example of Feldmann's creative songwriting skills, while "Until I See You Again" and "Angel" demonstrate his fine fingerpickin' guitar talents. For info on this disk, contact Tom Feldmann at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We stay here in the desert for one last independent review from Arizona acoustic guitarist The Fat Cat - Todd Lorenz. His album, Reflections, shows Lorenz to be an above average guitarist, and a better instrumentalist than vocalist. I like his slide work on his signature "FatCat Blues," and he also plays well on the instrumental "Knock It Down!" You can listen for yourself at www.mp3.com/FatCatBlues.
--- Bill Mitchell
Jenkins, whose first two albums were released 26 years apart, has suddenly become Mr. Prolific, with two releases in less than a year.
All In Good Time, his second release from Mean Old World Records, is a collection of soul and blues covers that have obviously made an impact on Jenkins' music. Of the ten tracks included, nine are covers ("Big Bad Wolf" is a remake of one of his Volt singles from the
60s). They range from Booker T.'s "Green Onions," Sam Cooke's "Having a
Party" and Slim Harpo's "Scratch My Back" (complete with flubbed opening line). Jenkins is in pretty good voice and his guitar work is as strong and gritty as ever. The band, the same musicians as on his previous release,
Handle With Care, is great, and they all really get a chance to stretch on the surging instrumental, "Honky Tonk" (which features some of Jenkins' best guitar). The CD also includes three traditional hymns handed down by the late Reverend Pearly Brown, a street minstrel in Macon, GA during the turbulent
1960s (whose "Mean Old World" was the inspiration for the naming of the Mean Old World label). Jenkins also does an emotional reading of William Bell's "Tribute to a
King," which Bell wrote in memory of Otis Redding, who got his start in Jenkins' band, the Pinetoppers.
All In Good Time sounds like the participants just got together and started playing the music that they grew up listening to, and had a ball doing it. It's available from
www.cdstreet.com, or from
www.cdbaby.com. Look for another release from Johnny later this year. He's making up for lost time.
If your type of blues is the urban kind with a dash of Memphis soul, then Fred Sanders' Long Time Comin' (Mempho Records) might be what you're looking for. Sanders, at one time the house guitarist at the famous Club Paradise in Memphis, has brought forth a wonderful disc that will leave you wondering how this could be his first solo effort. Born in Memphis in 1939, Sanders joined the military and migrated to Texas, where he honed his craft until 1968 when he returned to Memphis. According to the liner notes, Sanders has over the years played with many notables, including Bobby Bland, Albert King, Johnnie Taylor, Duke Ellington's Orchestra, and Count Basie's Band, as well as touring with the Memphis Blues Caravan. In addition, he can be seen just about every day of the week playing at Handy Park. Though he sports an acoustic guitar on the CD cover, this set is electric blues, in more ways than one. Sanders wrote, or co-wrote, ten of the 12 tracks (the two covers are Albert King's "Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven" and B.B. King's "Who Are You"). While all the songs are good, the standout tracks include the shuffles "I Got A Feeling" and "Light Bulb," the funky instrumental "Big Bad Wolf," the Jimmy Reed-influenced "Hey Baby," and "Hello Baby" (where his Texas influence is displayed). The soul-drenched "House Is Not A Home" is also a highlight. Sanders is solid in the vocal department and plays a lean, mean guitar style that sounds like it could have been recorded in the 60s, yet still has a modern edge to it. The band is great, capturing that Memphis sound perfectly with its sturdy rhythm section (with co-producer Brad Webb and David Dunn on bass and Tony Adams on drums) and some noteworthy B-3 work from Russell Wheeler. The production is seamless, but not slick, making you feel as if you are at the Club Paradise watching Sanders perform. This is an outstanding CD with a lot to offer for fans of blues, R&B, and soul.
--- Graham Clarke
Train Don't Leave Me
(Arhoolie) is a live recording from the first annual Sacred Steel Convention held in Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida in March/April 2000, and it is the
sixth CD in Arhoolie's Sacred Steel series. It is bang full of great blues with a gospel slant
and some really rocking guitar from people of whom I had mainly never heard.
When the CD arrived and I read through the titles of the tracks, I wasn't sure that this was going to be for
me. But I can't stop playing it!
For someone just starting a blues collection, Pure Blues (UTV Records) is a superb compilation CD to get it under way, although most dedicated blues fans will already have the majority of these tracks. There's a good mix of old and new, with one or two unusual additions that might make it interesting for non-beginners --- tracks such as Kenny Wayne Shepherd's "Shame Shame Shame" and Jonny Lang's "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl," a couple of old standards brought bang up-to-date by young and fast rising blues men. For beginners, the inclusion of Luther Allison ("Little Red Rooster"), Buddy Guy ("Let Me Love You Baby"), Howling Wolf ("Spoonful") and Albert King ("Born Under A Bad Sign"), amongst others, gets any collection off to a flying start --- and there's also some nice notes and potted histories of the artists. As far as I can see, there's about 50 years of blues included in the 20 tracks featured on this CD, and that's no bad thing --- with a mix of old and new, from Muddy Waters to Susan Tedeschi, calling in at Eric Clapton, The Allman Brothers and Robert Cray on the way through. A really good start for new blues fans.
--- Terry Clear
Deep Detroit by Harmonica Shah is distributed in the U.S by South Side Records, but owned by Bluetrack Records in England. It is Shah first solo CD, recorded live in the studio. The CD kicks off with Shah stating his admiration for two of the greatest bluesmen, Junior Wells and Buddy Guy, and then leads into one of the best tracks on this CD entitled "Dun Made My Getaway." This track is a straight-forward, no-nonsense Chicago Blues via Detroit that would make Junior and Buddy very proud, with simmering guitar and harmonica work by Howard Glazer and Shah. "Flat Down On My Back" starts off with a great groove that it never loses or changes, staying in the groove for a smash mouth, in your face blues. The next song is a cover of Lazy Lester's "Bloodstains Upside The Wall" that stays true to the original, but allows Shah to put his own touch on it. Up next is a cover of the Willie Dixon tune "Mellow Down Easy," which Shah turns into his own. As he says at the end, "that tune's been around for a while but no one plays it like that." "What's On Your Mind" is a cover of a Jimmy Reed song, taken really slow, and has some wonderful guitar by Howard Glazer. "Woman Let It Groove" is an instrumental with Glazer and Shah showing off their talents on their instruments. After "Don't Kick Me To The Curb" comes a cover of Sonny Boy Williamson I's "Born Blind," done exceptionally well by the band. The last three songs are all Shah originals, "Do You Remember," "Once Upon A Time" and "Repo Man," with "Once Upon A Time" the better of these with a some great harmonica and guitar work by Shah and Glazer. This CD is full of straight-forward Detroit blues, very solid with no standout tracks or no disappointing songs, either.
Raising Hell (South Side Records), the follow up to South Side Slim's debut, Five Steps, really ups the ante for what to expect next from this young artist. Slim goes through many genres of the blues on this disc and all of them work well, which is usually hard to say for someone who covers so much ground on one CD. Slim starts off the CD with three songs more in the rock vein without losing any power of the blues. On "Blues For Sure," Slim shows off his incredible talent on the guitar and melding lyrics from a Talking Heads song. "Roadblock" starts off with some screaming guitar licks and a backing of sax, organ, bass, and drums locking into each other with a non-stop rhythm that drives the song along. "8 O'Clock In The Morning" is a tale of a daydreaming person in their car in a traffic jam wishing for a vacation and to become rich. "Young Man" shows Slim knows how to add a jazzy, swing feel to his music and not lose any of the edge in his music. "Comin' To Your House" has a great shuffle feel, while "Almost Daylight" is a simmering heartbreaking slow blues tune. "Raisin' Hell" is a scorching blues song with great guitar and band work, while "Another Lonely Night" keeps up the fast pace with incredible guitar and vocal work, making this track the highlight of the CD. "You Can Never Tell" is another shuffle tune that is moved along by the guitar of Slim. The one minor problem with this disc is the next song, "Kitchen Floor," which would have fit perfectly on "Five Steps." Although not a bad song, it seems to interrupt the flow the CD has had. The disc ends on two good but unspectacular songs, "Big Money" and "I Wish I Was Blind," the latter a slow blues in the mold of "Almost Daylight" and just as good. Slim has improved since the release of "Five Steps," and it is great to hear something this fresh, exciting, and unique from a young up-and-coming bluesman. I hope to hear more from him in the future.
--- Kris Handel
John Hammond is a gifted guitar and harp player with pleasant, earthy vocal
talents, but not a songwriter. In contrast, Tom Waits is a fairly decent
guitar player with a rough gravely voice that die hard Waits fans (like
myself) find mesmerizing, but most other listeners tolerate because of his
second-to-none ability to weave an absorbing tale of life's ups and downs
in the space of five minutes or less. The collaboration of these two talents
comes together in an elegant yet off beat union for an album that is sure to
strike a nerve by everyone who listens to it. The release of Hammond's Wicked
Grin (Pointblank/Virgin) may signify one of the greatest musical
you halfways" the music world has born witness to since Ella Fitzgerald sang
everyone's songbook. Translation --- Hammond covers 12 Waits tunes out of a
total of 13 with similar arrangements remaining faithful to the
originals, yet somehow managing to wring a bit more heartfelt emotion from
them. "Heartattack And Vine" and "Jockey Full of Bourbon" are two tales of
the seedy side of urban life that best illustrates this. Hammond's vocals are
somewhat atypical, leaning on the gruff soulful side this time out. But make no
mistake, it works perfectly in a surreal gloomy sort of fashion. I feel it
only fair to mention at this point that the producer and second guitarist on
this stunning recording is none other than Tom Waits himself, who adds his
whiskey soaked vocals for the finale, the traditional gospel number "I Know I've
Been Changed." "16 Shells From A Thirty-Ought Six" and "Big Black Mariah"
would probably be considered the two most upbeat numbers of the collection
with their take charge pounding arrangements. The somber "Murder In The Red
Barn" is Waits' storytelling at its optimum, painstakingly realized by
Hammond's colorful moody vocals. From a musical standpoint the supporting
musicians just don't get any better than those found here. The great piano
and organ of Tex-Mex legend Auggie Myers is present throughout with a foray
or two on accordion. Two gentleman that are no strangers to recording Waits
material due to their sessions with him are the incomparable Larry Taylor on
bass and the satiny percussive splendor of Stephen Hodges, whose cymbal-less
approach to these sessions is a tad eerie but utterly fascinating. Charlie
Musselwhite's sleek harp work graces "Clap Hands," "Get Behind The Mule" and
"Big Black Mariah," adding a little bit of extra spit and polish to these
numbers. Over the years writers of album/CD reviews have tended to
overanalyze Tom Waits' lyrics for hidden personal connections or double
entendre meanings into life's mysteries, and end up sounding like complete
blowhards. When I sat down to write this review I vowed I would try to do as
little of that as possible and let the music on this destined to be a classic
speak for itself. Hammond's vocal and guitar phrasings are superb, the
supporting band is incredible, and the material ingenuously written from the
heart and soul of one of greatest songwriters of the modern era. But be forewarned
--- this is not a blues record for the weak of heart. It's dark,
moody, dreary and downright depressing at times. Hardcore John Hammond fans
and blues traditionalists will in all likelihood hate it. But for those of
you who are looking for something a little bit different and off the beaten
formulated blues path, this album is sure to leave you with a Wicked Grin.
This one is going to be remembered for years to come.
--- Steve Hinrichsen
Another fine effort by a blues lady, Spontaneous Combustion, is the latest from Nashville-born, Japan-bred, Canadian resident
Ellen McIlwaine. Though she's been performing regularly since the late
60s, Ms. McIlwaine remains a relative unknown in North American blues circles, though she's apparently experienced newfound popularity in Europe. Tradition &
Moderne, a German company, seems to be her recording home for
now. This is her second effort for T&M, following the "Live in
Germany" Women in Emotion. This is my first (aural) encounter with Ellen
McIlwaine, and I must say I am very impressed. She is an excellent slide guitarist; she's got a clear and strong
voice, and best of all, she's not afraid to explore different sonic territories. I love those who play the blues, but I also approve of those who play WITH the
blues. On this recent outing, backed by bassist Bill Rich and drummer Kester Smith (both alumni of various Taj Mahal bands), McIlwaine brings elements of funk, reggae, and even Arabic and Indian music into the mix, and the results should please blues fans and world music lovers alike. Particularly impressive (jaw-dropping is more accurate) is her acoustic slide playing on her own "Dead End
Street." I have no idea how she does that, but her guitar (a dobro?) sounds almost exactly like an Indian sitar. The illusion is even better on
"Sidu (Grandmother)," with Smith's congas assuming the role of the
tablas, though McIlwaine's improvised singing recalls some Middle Eastern chant. More American-sounding are her versions of
Howlin' Wolf's "Sitting on Top of the
World," solo at the piano, and her a capella duet with Taj Mahal on the traditional "Bid You
Goodnight." Her melodramatic ballad, "Say a Single Word," meanwhile, could easily be redone into a hit country tune. Throw in funky covers of Al Green's "Take Me to the River" and Jimi Hendrix' "Up from the
Skies," and a couple of reggae-flavored tunes (including another duet with Taj
Mahal, on the classic "Mockingbird"), and this sends this CD very near the top of my list of Best Surprises.
Apparently, Bonnie Raitt is not the only redhead playing a mean slide.
There's nothing like jump blues to make me dust off my dancing shoes. Raoul and The Big Time is a Toronto-based outfit, fronted by actor/singer and harmonica player Raoul
Bhaneja, that specializes in good times blues and jump, with Bhaneja writing new material that somehow sounds like it's the
50s again. You can get an idea of where the band comes from by looking at the classics they cover on their first, self-produced album,
Big Time Blues (see www.raoulandthebigtime.com for
details). Wynonie Harris' "All She Wants to Do is Rock" is the opening track, and then there are Cleanhead Vinson's "Back Door
Blues," Billy Boy Arnold's "Been Gone Too Long" and Johnny Guitar Watson's "Too Tired", along with
"Who," a tune written by Bernard Roth that was included on the Harp Attack! album a few years back. With
Ka-Cheong Liu's big booming acoustic bass and Bhaneja's chromatic harp, and a fine ear from co-producers Alec Fraser and Terry Wilkins, the original material blends perfectly with the classics, even when they get away from the usual verse/chorus pattern, as in the
six-minute long "Bad Things." Given that Bhaneja is not yet 30, it is safe to say that there are many more fine moments to come our way from this band. In the mean time, it was voted Best Unsigned Band in last year's Maple Blues Awards, the Canadian equivalent to the Handy awards. Don't be surprised if their next CD gets some label's
My Ojibway Experience: Strength & Hope is Billy Joe Green's first album in over 30 years of playing music (and a few more of hard living), so it makes sense that this Western Canadian guitarist shows just what he can do right from the start. The first track, the instrumental "Experience, Strength and Hope," is a blistering guitar workout showing that Green has learned all the right lessons from Jimi Hendrix, but also from Carlos Santana. Then comes a country blues, the acoustic-based "Nightmare Blues," followed by a power-slide rendition of Robert Johnson's "Stop Breakin' Down" and then a totally forgettable ballad (suffice it to say that compared to that stuff, what Engelbert Humperdinck does is downright heavy). Well, three out of four ain't bad, and the rest of the CD follows this pattern. But you must give this to Green --- he really puts his heart into what he's doing. This independent release is truly a labor of love, but also the work of a man with deep spiritual strength who's doing his best to help others. "Nightmare Blues," for example, is a classic tale of one man's travels and travails on the road, but in this case it is linked to his leaving school too young. Recognizing the importance for other kids to stay in school, Green has chosen to help by supporting an inner city breakfast program called the Aboriginal Youth & Family Well-being and Education Society. Green is also a very generous man --- one track on his CD, "Styling," showcases a group of young Ojibway singers and drummers called The Lake of the Woods Singers. It gives a whole new meaning to the word "guest" on an album. This track was taken from the Singers' cassette-only album Honouring Our Elders (Arbor Records), and it leads into the final track, where Green does his bit to honor an elder who greatly influenced him, Jeff Beck, in a slightly over-produced version of "Greensleeves." With its tough blues-rock and soulful classic blues, with some other stuff (ballads and Ojibway chants) thrown in, Billy Joe Green's first album is the absolute antithesis to routine. Recommended for open-minded listeners everywhere. Check it out at www.billyjoegreen.com.
--- Benoît Brière
"Where I come from the word
'reptile' is a term of endearment.......," writes Eric Clapton at the beginning of his
liner notes for his new release Reptile on the Reprise label. For anyone who's a fan of Clapton's music, a virtual history of rock, blues and pop spanning from the early
60s grouping with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers to his most recent collaboration with B.B. King, his latest offering is certainly a term of endearment which will please any core of fans that have been picked up on the way through the years. Clapton is actually referring to his uncle Adrian, whom he credits his taste in all things cultural and musical. In Clapton's tribute we get a solid mix of sounds and styles that easily translate to everyone's taste, and most important every tune could find
its way to any radio programmer's playlist, which could certainly power Reptile to the top of the charts. Armed with the core band that was used during the sessions with B.B. King,
Reptile flourishes with a superior batch of tunes. Starting things off is the title track, a bit of a rarity for
Clapton being a jazzy high-spirited instrumental. As expected we get treated to Clapton's take on the blues with songs like "Got You on My Mind" and Ray Charles's "Come Back
Baby." Clapton struts his soulful self on a version of James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely
Tonight." Clapton's long running adoration with anything by J.J. Cale continues with a wonderful take on "Traveling
Light," featuring the background stylings of the Impressions (who accompany Clapton on most of the remaining tunes). An old style boogie/ballad is thrown in for good measure with "Find
Myself." A beautiful acoustic tune wraps up all the musical ties our ears have been graced with in the
song "Son and Sylvia," lovingly titled after his uncle Adrian (nicknamed Son) and wife. A guest appearance by Billy Preston
surprises us with his choice of instrument on this number, usually piano or keyboards, in this case harmonica. Another wonderful outing by the man most people claim is a
"guitar God." I tend to agree.
--- Bruce Coen
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Revised: April 30, 2001 - Version 1.00
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