Sunday, February 06, 2011

Billy Boy Arnold's Comeback Album

Alligator is celebrating 40 years of houserockin’ blues and roots music. They have built a diverse catalog of artists that are clearly associated with the label such as Hound Dog Taylor, Son Seals, Koko Taylor, and Lonnie Brooks. The Alligator recordings by these artists helped establish the general status as significant blues artists. Alligator has also played a significant role in helping revive some careers and one of those is Billy Boy Arnold. The following review (which has been mildly tweaked, of Billy Boy’s Back Where I Belong appeared in the December 1993 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 187).

Best known for his influential Vee-Jay recordings such as I Wish You Would, and Prisoner’s Plea, Billy Boy Arnold has returned with an impressive new album on Alligator, Back Where I Belong. This is his first album in over a decade, and he is ably backed by the California band, The Taildraggers.

Arnold’s harp was shaped by the original Sonny Boy Williamson, and he turns in a fine rendition of his mentor’s Shake That Boogie. His style contrasts with the swooping sax-like sounds of Little Walter and most harp players that followed. Producer Randy Chortkoff adds his own Walter styled harp on his Young and Evil. Material ranges from excellent new versions of I Wish You Would and Prisoner’s Plea, a rocking cover of Slim Harpo’s Shake Your Hips, and Big Maceo’s Worried Life Blues, and originals like Whiskey, Beer and Reefer, and Fool For You.

All said, this is an excellent recording that shows Billy Boy more than capable of relighting the bright blues flame of his mid-fifties Vee-Jay recordings.

Rereading this review, I note Randy Chortkoff’s role in producing this disc as well as adding his own harp on a track. Randy, as some of you will be aware, is the main force behind the excellent Delta Groove label these days. In any event, this is still in print and should be relatively easy to find.

I likely received a review copy from Alligator.

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