Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Vintage West Side Lonnie Brooks

Below is an older review of Lonnie Brooks that originally appeared in the June 1996 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 212). I likely received a review copy from the label at time.

While Lonnie Brooks is quite popular with his fusion of blues and swamp rock evidenced on his Alligator albums, a Black Top release, Live At Pepper’s 1968, showcases the Brooks who was holding forth for the predominantly black audience at Pepper’s Lounge on Chicago’s West Side at the time. Recorded by George Adins, the pioneering Belgium blues researcher on a relatively simple reel-to-reel deck, this may not be digital sound, but the music’s power and the audience response is clearly evident. 

Despite his previous regional success in Louisiana as Guitar Junior with The Crawl, the music here is mostly directed to the black audience with Brooks’ impassioned singing standing out on his intense covers of Sweet Little Angel on which he talks about his woman wrapping her legs (“oh I mean wings”) around him, along with Little Walter’s Can’t Hold Out Much Longer, where his guitar solo alludes at different times to Muddy, T-Bone and B.B. King. He occasionally ribs Earl Hooker, whose band he is using, as well as turns in some funky renditions of hits including Johnny Taylor’s monster hit, Who’s Making Love. An original, Shakin’ Little Mama is in a Chuck Berry Groove, and The Train and the Horse (with more ribbing of Earl Hooker) finds his guitar creating train and horse sounds before he launches the band into a heavy rocking groove. 

With retention of his audience raps, plenty of hot guitar including a nice Hideaway with Brooks providing his own twists to what was then a standard Chicago set opener, this has been a favorite of mine since I purchased it on vinyl as an import many years ago. Finally issued in the US, despite its less-than-ideal sound this serves as a document of how powerful Lonnie Brooks was before his evolution in the bayou blues rocker of today.

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