Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Johnnie Taylor Took Care of Homework at the Summit Club

Originally supposed to appear at the Watts Summer Festival that was memorialized in WattStax: The Living Word, Johnnie Taylor was recorded a couple days later at a Los Angeles club that has been just issued on Stax, Live at the Summit Club. While three of the performances had been previously issued, there are six previously unissued selections.

As Lee Hillebrand notes, Taylor had put much of his blues repertoire in mothballs after the 1968 success of Who’s Making Love, but as Rufus Thomas notes in his intro of Taylor, “When you speak of blues, this is a man who knows ‘em from the letter A to the Letter Z.” And despite band miscues at the start and plenty of ragged edges, Taylor opens with a storming rendition of Take Care of Your Homework, where he advises men to take care of things at home ‘before your good thing is gone,’ followed by one of Taylor’s two classic Stax blues, Little Bluebird, where Taylor demonstrates what a great blues singer he was, and followed by a ragged intro of the great blues ballad, Steal Away, as Taylor says “we’re gonna set this groove here.”

I Don’t Want to Lose You is a terrific love ballad, followed by Who’s Making Love, where he gets the audience involved in a call and refrain. Hurry Sundown is another signature Taylor slow blues with great lyrics and followed by a stronger rendition of Steal Away. The album closes with Taylor’s hot soul workout on Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone, ending over an hour of hot buttered soul-blues.

A very welcome that is part of the celebration of Stax’s 50th Anniversary and the labels reactivation.

This review originally appeared in the April 2007 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 292). I received a review copy from a publicist for the label.

Here is Johnnie performing Little Bluebird a few years before he passed away.

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