Monday, April 09, 2012

Son Seals Spontaneous Blues Combustion

I miss Son Seals. Has it been 7 years since he passed in December 2004. To my mind, he was the single most important artist Alligator discovered. As strong a musician, he was a great person. Here is a 15 year old review of one of his live Alligator recordings that originally appeared in the December 1996 DC Blues Calendar and the February 1997 Jazz and Blues Report (Issue 218). I believe this was the last album he recorded for Alligator which issued a compilation of Son later. Alligator sent me the review copy back then.

Live-Spontaneous Combustion was the second live album Son Seals on Alligator. His Live and Burning album is a classic, and featured what was arguably Son’s best band with Lacy Gibson on rhythm guitar, A.C. Reed on saxophone, Snapper Mitchum on bass and Tony Gooden on drums. This is not to dismiss his present band which is a fine group, with Red Groenzinger’s saxophones and flute being particularly outstanding.

For this live recording at Buddy Guy’s Legends, Seals and Red are joined by, among others, Johnny B. Gayden on bass, Sid Wingfield on keyboards and trumpeter Dan Rabinovitz. The horns add some punchy riffs, although their voices are somewhat predictable. The individual playing by the horns are more arresting, such as Rabinovitz’s wide open trumpet on Mother Blues.

Son’s approach to the blues has always been straight ahead without any mannerisms or artifice. He sings the songs and plays without false theatrics, investing each song with all the passion he can muster. Son revisits several of the blues that helped establish his reputation as a no B.S. bluesman, No, No Baby, Sitting Here Thinking, and You’re Love is Like a Cancer. He gives his own distinctive treatment to Harold Burrage’s Crying For My Baby, and Lowell Fulson’s Trouble, Trouble. The closing, rocking rendition of Tampa Red’s Don’t Lie to Me provides a fitting conclusion to the one hour-plus of first-rate Son Seals.

It may not burn quite as much as his earlier live album, but this one burns pretty hot on its own terms.

Here is Son Seals performing one of his blues live.

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