Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Blues Time Machine Takes Us Back to November 1976

This is my blues column from the November 1976 Buffalo Jazz Report which had Dexter Gordon on the cover to promote his appearance at the Tralfamadore Cafe in November. As I noted the first 58 issues of Buffalo Jazz Report (now Jazz & Blues Report) have been digitized and can be downloaded from the University of Buffalo Library system. The website for these archived issues is: http://digital.lib.buffalo.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/BuffJazz.

Albert King is one of the best known contemporary guitarist-singers in the blues and his new Utopia album Albert (BULI- 1731) is an attempt to present a commercially successful album. Albert King's recordings have always manifested a funkiness and when he was with Stax he had Booker T., and the Stax crew providing sometimes sympathetic and sometimes ridiculous music (Albert King sings Elvis). Despite disco touches on some tracks, and a girl chorus on others this is pretty direct music, and blues with a funky touch. 
Albert sings and plays straight forwardly, but is burdened by overkill in the back up as he is drowned in a large band setting. The music isn't bad or slick, just too busy. Also a couple of Willie Dixon tunes I'm Ready and My Babe suffer from the arrangements and the fact that Albert can't convey the aggressiveness of Muddy Waters on I'm Ready, nor the Iittle boy charm of LittIe Walter on My Babe. Stoll its not a bad album as Albert does play with fire, but better material and a more laid back playing would lead to a more satisfying session of blues. But would a more satisfying set sell better? I don't know. 

The Finest of Folk Bluesmen is a mistitled anthology as only the John Lee Hooker tracks on this Bethlehem (BCP-6017) anthology are country blues, the rest being mostly urban and jazz oriented performances. Among those included are Eddie 'Cieanhead' Vinson, Jimmy Rushing, Lonnie Johnson and Memphis Slim and this is a very enJoyable set of mostly uptown music from the late 1940s and the early 1950s. 

Great Bluesmen/Newport (Vanguard VSD 17/78) is a collection of country blues recorded lve at various Newport Folk Festivals and is recommended especially for those who don't have many blues records as it provides idroduction to a number of fine artists including Robert Pete Williams, Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, and Skip James. John Lee Hooker and Lightnin' Hopkins are not heard at their best though Robert Pete WiIIiams' Levee Camp Blues, Skip James' Hard Time Killing Floor Blues and Son Souse's Son's Blues are especially compelling.

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