R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax
VOICES Notes and news on R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax releases
12 AUG 13 DAVID SHANNON
Move It On Over, George Thorogood's second studio album, released on Rounder Records in 1978, is an all-covers affair that brought renewed attention to Bo Diddley's classic "Who Do You Love?" and the title track, written by Hank Williams. The tendency for Thorogood to cover blues classics started on his first album, George Thorogood & The Destroyers, which features three Thorogood originals as well as tunes by Diddley, Elmore James, Robert Johnson, and John Lee Hooker. In this sense, Thorogood seems to live up to his namesake, thoroughly exploring the blues while giving standard songs an authentic feel.
Move It On Over contains a slew of other well-known covers, including James' "The Sky Is Crying," T.J. Arnall's "Cocaine Blues," and Chuck Berry's "It Wasn't Me," but it's Thorogood's guitar that imbues the album with authority. His '50s-era Chicago, electric blues style of playing perfectly suits the covers on the album and channels greats of the past like Diddley, Willie Dixon, and Jimmy Dawkins.
There will be a few surprises on the album for those who haven't heard it in its entirety, such as the last track, a take on James' "New Hawaiian Boogie," which allows Thorogood to dig into the frets with some dirty blues leads. In addition, Thorogood's cover of James Moore's "I'm Just Your Good Thing" dials back the volume and energy for an interlude of swaying, slowly swinging Chicago blues.
19 JUL 13 DAVID SHANNON
Albert King is synonymous with sound of Stax blues, having joined the label in 1966 and recorded much of his best-known work during that period backed by the Stax house band Booker T. & the MGs, charting hits like "Born Under A Bad Sign," which became a blues-rock standard. Perhaps lesser known is his body of work for Stax that coincided with the emergence of funk in the early 1970s, some of which was compiled by the label in 1991 for Roadhouse Blues, a selection of King's unique brand of blues-soul.
The compilation opens with an edited version of "I'll Play the Blues for You," on which King and the band rein in their typical exuberance a bit and slip into a slightly more subdued but noticeably slicker blues. King's guitar sounds cleaner than usual and the band somehow more refined, with a decidedly funky pulse and the emphasis more on production than raw blues. The same can be said of the following song, "I Can't Hear Nothing But the Blues." A few later tracks on the album lean more towards King's signature sound, such as "Answer to the Laundromat Blues," "Dust My Broom," and a live version of the title track. Still, King dips back to this newer sound on tunes like "Bay Area Blues," and even manages to make "Hound Dog" sound like a forgotten funk B-side.
The biggest surprise on the release, however, is a live version of "Match Box Blues," a jammed-out boogie-woogie that sounds like the foundation for the Allman Brothers entire live catalog. Even when he's testing new musical languages, King always hews to the mother tongue.
15 JUL 13 ANNE FARNSWORTH
Blues singer Mildred Anderson had a smoky contralto voice and sang with a knowing awareness of the pitfalls of romance. In 1960, she recorded two albums for Bluesville, a Prestige label, which are considered the high points of her career. No More In Life is a solid set of jazzy blues, featuring an organ trio and legendary tenor saxophonist Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis.
Anderson grew up singing in the church and went on to perform with Hot Lips Page and boogie-woogie king Albert Ammons. She made her recording debut in 1953 with Bill Doggett, one of the first Hammond B-3 men. She worked in a lot of organ trio situations and, as in this release. Her smoky, alto voice is a great counterpoint to the B-3's timbre.
On this session another Hammond trailblazer, Shirley Scott, known as "Queen of the Organ," joins Anderson. Scott worked frequently with "Lockjaw" through the '50s and their familiarity is evident in the tight fills they play together behind Anderson's vocals. Both artists were early leaders in the hard bop genre and their funky, no-frills approach to their lines are hallmarks of that sub-style of jazz.
Anderson includes some of own her compositions on this set, like the opener, "Everybody's Got Somebody But Me," a 12-bar blues that grooves at a slow burn in 12/8 time. The bad luck themes of "Hard Times" and another Anderson original, "Mistreater," are lightened with bouncy arrangements of humorous blues classics like Count Basie's "I Ain't Mad At You" and "Roll 'Em Pete," which was a huge hit for Big Joe Turner and Pete Johnson.
09 JUL 13 CHRIS SLAWECKI
Booker T. Jones' new Sound The Alarm is certainly worth announcing. Any solo album by the definitive rhythm and soul Hammond B-3 organ player and frontman for arguably the greatest rhythm section in history (Booker T. & the MGs) is an event. But Sound The Alarm, which is also available on vinyl, heralds Jones' reunion with Stax Records and his first new music (he wrote or co-wrote every tune) for the label in nearly 40 years.
The opening, title track begins with stuttering samples of Stax mainstay Albert King welcoming Booker to the bandstand, introducing Mayer Hawthorne's vocal which swirls with Jones' soulful organ into its melody like a deep whirlpool. Although many tracks with vocals seem to aim at Motown sophistication, it's the instrumentals that inform Jones' new music with Stax Records' trademark, deep and earthy rhythm and blues sound.
"Fun," which puts the sound of The Bar-Kays' hit instrumental "Soul Finger" to a hand-clapping beat, is precisely that, and Jones helps kick the jack-swing groove that will sure 'nuff make you "Feel Good." In "Austin City Blues," Jones' organ sweetly considers Tennessee bourbon and Memphis BBQ, while Clark's guitar sings of toothsome slabs of tangy barbecued Texas blues guitar. Afterwards, Booker leads Poncho Sanchez and Sheila E. on a funky yet stylish cruise through an urban barrio in his "66 Impala."
Even if Sound The Alarm won't make you forget Jones' stellar history with Booker T. & the MGs, it might help you to remember.
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