Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Good But Not Great Mighty Joe Young Reissue

Back three decades ago, Samuel Charters produced a series of blues lps for the Swedish Sonet label, The Legacy of the Blues, along with some other blues recordings. Charters is known as both a blues author (The Country Blues, The Poetry of the Blues, Bluesmen) as well as a producer of blues recordings, including the classic Chicago, The Blues Today! and albums by Junior Wells and Buddy Guy to name a few of the artists he recorded. Universal Music, through its Verve imprint issued several years ago seven of the Sonet lps for reissue in a series, The Sonet Blues Story. Six of these were from The Legacy of the Blues series. This is the first in several postings of reviews from that series that originally appeared in the June 2006 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 283).

The late Chicago singer-guitarist, Mighty Joe Young was a fine purveyor of soul-laced blues in a mellow mode like his good friend Fenton Robinson. This writer had the pleasure to see Young while a senior at Case Western Reserve University and in fact he came on my WRUW blues show while playing The Kove in Kent, Ohio. He was promoting his Delmark album, Blues With a Touch of Soul at the time and was accompanied on the trip by a Delmark employee, Bruce Iglauer, who was a year or so from issuing the first album on Alligator Records. The Delmark album is my favorite of the various discs Young recorded with band with horns providing a tight backing for his extended blues performances. Young explained to me several years later that he dropped the horns because as he got booked increasingly on the then college market, horns were not viewed as blues instruments. Sonet has released a session with his then working band that included horns with a few overly familiar songs like Rock Me as well as then not overly recorded numbers like Percy Mayfield’s Baby Please and an original, Early in the Morning, which is an original that seems inspired by the Louis Jordan classic but with different lyrics. There is a nice mix of soul into his blues stew, but despite the fine piano of Bob Riedy and bassist Sylvester Boines, the session doesn’t fully jell and while Young sings and plays well, it is overshadowed by the earlier Delmark release.

It should be noted that on the Sonet reissues (including the Mighty Joe Young), the playing time is somewhat short. Even those with extra tracks, do not exceed 45 minutes. Still there is some really good music to be heard on these and if not essential releases, these are welcome additions to available blues.

This CD may be out-of-print but is available from various sellers and is available as mp3 files. Blues With a Touch of Soul is still in print. I received my review copy from the publication.

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