On the heels of their second batch of Original Blues Classics, Fantasy (under the guidance of Lee Hildebrand) has delved into the vaults of Stax Records to issue five albums of blues, soul and gospel. Of these Jammed Together (Stax MPS-8544) by Steve Cropper, Pops Staples and Albert King, is the only one that falls within Cadence’s coverage. Originally released (I believe) around 1970, this represented Stax’s attempt to hype their artists with a "Super Session’ type album combining three of the more noteworthy guitarists on their label on a bluesy program. (What’d I Say/ Tupelo/ Opus de Soul/ Baby What You Want Me To Do/ Big Bird/ Homer’s Theme/ Trashy Dog/ Don’t Turn Your Heater Down/ Water/ Knock on Wood) (40:16).
Three of the ten tracks are vocals with Aibert King taking a pleasant yocal on the opening Ray Charles classic, Pops Staples aptly handles the honors on John Lee Hooker ’s brooding “Tupelo” about floods in the Tupelo, Mississippi area, and Steve Cropper (best remembered for his associations with Otis Redding and Booker T.) sings (surprisingly well) on the soulful “Water." On these three selections as well as the other numbers, much space is given for the three guitarists to solo and trade licks. Like Super-Session and most albums of that ilk, this was directed at the “hard rock” audience that liked lots of flashy playing. Like most of those records, nothing here that is particularly memorable. A lot of flash, but little substance.
Even those Cadence readers with only a modest interest in blues will surely have heard of “Going Down Slow”, one of the most recorded blues songs of the past forty years. It was authored by James Oden who as St. Louis Jimmy recorded and performed extensively in the forties and early fifties with the likes of Roosevelt Sykes, Big Bill Broonzy, Sunnyland Slim and Muddy Waters. A car crash in 1957 left him with a stiff leg and his performing career slackened in the last years of his life. He did make an odd recording here and there, the most notable being a part of Otis Spann’s Candid sessions (originally issued on the Barnaby album Walking the Blues and more recently made available on Crosscut records), but otherwise was not as prominent as he had been.
Dog House Blues on Dutch AGB records (AGB 1701) collects 16 of his recordings (Going Down Slow/ Monkey Face Blues/ Poor Boy Blues/ Back on My Feet Again/ Nothing But Blues/ Soon Forgot You/ Strange Woman Blues/ One More Break/ Bad Condition/ Dog House Blues/ Biscuit Roller / I'm Sorry Now/ Shame On You Baby/ 1°11 Never Be Satisfied/ Drinkin’ Woman/ Why Work) and range from his first 1941 coupling of “Going Down Slow” to the wry Monkey Faced Blues” to "Why work” from 1953. With the exception of “Shame on You Baby" and “I’ll Never Be Satisfied”, which feature Sunnyland Slim, Roosevelt Sykes is the pianist. Big Bill Broonzy contributes some nice electric guitar to “Poor Boy Blues, “Back on My Feet Again”,
“Nothing But Blues” and Soon Forgot You”, while J.T. Brown is on alto saxophone and Willie Dixon is on bass on the title track, and Eddie Chamblee’s tenor is present on “Biscuit Roller” and “I’m Sorry Now".
Oden was a pleasing, somewhat nasal blues vocalist He was an exceptional writer of blues lyrics and he phrased his singing to give proper emphasis to his well crafted lyrics. The songs here include some real classics and provide numerous illustrations of Oden’s skill in turning out songs whose lyrics stick in one’s mind.
In addition to Oden, this album provides a generous helping of Roosevelt Sykes’ piano. Sykes was one of the greatest blues pianists and is heard here on many marvelous accompaniments. His relaxed two fisted down in the alley playing is the perfect backdrop for Oden’s singing. Given the quality of the playing and the material, there is much for the blues fan to discover here.
This album, like many recent European reissues of pre-war blues, presents songs chronologically. Often, this doesn’t make for a completely listenable blues reissue. Even though much of the album is in either a slow or a medium tempo, Sykes splendid, piano and the varying instrumentation on the tracks provides enough contrast so that listening isn’t tedious. Packaging is functional, with the liner notes taken from the comments of Oden and Sykes in Paul Oliver's book, Conversation With the Blues In summary, there is some very fine blues to be heard here.