Friday, June 22, 2012

James Cotton in 1967 Seems Like Yesterday

The Canadian Just a Memory label continues its documentation of live blues performances in Montreal in the late 1960s. The latest release, Seems Like Yesterday is by James Cotton from a September 28, 1967 appearance at the New Penelope Cafe, which was around the time when this writer saw Cotton at La Cave in Cleveland. I do not believe Cotton had the same band when I saw him. I believe that Alberto Gianquinto, who is on piano, had left Cotton, being replaced by a saxophonist, but I definitely recall the late, highly underrated Luther Tucker on guitar, drummer Francis Clay and bassist Bobby Anderson backing James at La Cave.

Musically, this release mixes the blues and soul repertoire that characterized Cotton’s first Verve-Forecast album with renditions of songs from James Brown (I Feel Good); Big Jay McNeely (There is Something on Your Mind, although Cotton’s vocal is based on Bobby Marchan’s hit version, not McNeely’s original with Sonny Warner on vocals); and Bobby Bland (Good Time Charlie), along with classic Chicago Blues themes from Willie Mabon (I Don’t Know) and Little Walter (It Ain’t Right).

Likely recorded from the soundboard, this may not be high fidelity, but one can hear what is going on. In addition to his first-rate harp, Cotton was in strong voice back then and sounds particularly convincing on Stormy Monday on which Tucker plays in an especially striking fashion. Cotton’s openness to a variety of sources is shown by his rendition of Nat Adderly’s Work Song. This may have been inspired by Paul Butterfield’s famous recording of the tune.

Because of the less than perfect sound, casual listeners may pass on this. Others who remember this particular band, or are fans of Cotton will want this for historical and other reasons.

This review appeared originally in the July-August 1998 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 233) and I probably received a review copy from a publicist or the label. Here is James Cotton from 1969 in a low-fidelity and slightly washed out video.

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