28 January 2010

The Holy Muddy Trinity

Countless compilations of Muddy Waters singles have been released and they're all fun (especially early sides). But, after you've heard first Muddy singles, it's time to dig a little bit deeper. Let me present the Holy Trinity of Muddy Waters LPs, three definitive and absolutely essential blues albums that I've listened to about a hundred times each ;-)

Without doubt, the finest Muddy's live album with his biggest hits and lesser-known songs. Classic sound and a great lineup, also worthy of note is wild audience full of screaming girls :)

On this LP Muddy covers songs by delta blues legend, songwriter, singer and guitar player, Big Bill Broonzy. "Feel So Good" and "Mopper's Blues" deserve Grammys. Or something.

Finally, this is late session, recorded for Chess in 1964. All-acoustic work with Buddy Guy on some kind of rhythm guitar. It is as good as that sounds!


27 January 2010

Happy birthday Elmore!

I'm not turning this blog into a birthday calendar but anyway... This is the final reason you have to get a drink of cold whiskey today. On 27th January 1918 (wow, the very year my country became independent after more than a hundred years of vanishing from the maps... ancient times, really) the King Of Slide Guitar was born: Elmore Brooks. We all know him better as Elmore James :)

This is the time to dust yer brooms and see how the sky's crying ;) Elmore started his career in the 30s and died waaay to early in 1963. Let's raise your glasses to the definitive bottleneck guitar player. I love him. Everybody in the slide business played his tunes, from Hound Dog Taylor to Duane Allman. Listen to some of his standards: "One Way Out", "It Hurts Me Too", "Shake Your Money Maker"... They're priceless.

Eric Burdon recorded a tribute song to James called "No More Elmore" (live here). A goooood one ;-)

25 January 2010

Etta James' birthday

Etta James turned 72 today. Happy birthday to one of the greatest blues singers of all time! With career lasting more than 50 years she's a true legend. Now's the time to listen to "At Last" one more time... ;-) My favorite tune is "All I Could Do Was Cry", though.

You just got to see two of her 1986 performances with Chuck Berry and Keith Richards: "Rock and Roll Music" and Hoochie Coochie Gal. That's the blues... ;-) Hail hail Etta James.

Oliver Nelson - The Blues and the Abstract Truth

While the last reviewed jazz record by me - Lou Donaldson's "Blues Walk" - had a very polished and gentle sound, this would be a kind of nasty and out of control record. It's still the same nice sound of bebop but it's louder and totally unpredictable. It's "The Blues and the Abstract Truth" by arranger and saxophone player Oliver Nelson.

It all starts with "Stolen Moments", one of my favorite jazz compositions ever. Beautiful melody and catchy riffs, long solos by Nelson, wild Eric Dolphy, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and pianist Bill Evans, that track became one of the most popular post-50s jazz standards. It's almost nine minutes of pure magic, way more than words can say: you can like jazz or not, this one is for everybody.

Another outstanding tracks are "Hoe-Down" and "Yearnin'". All compositions are by Nelson and he plays main role here, but his side men are doing fabulous job: they are all jazz greats: Eric Dolphy, George Barrow, Freddie Hubbard and rhythm section: Bill Evans, Paul Chambers and Roy Haynes. "Butch & Butch" is another speeding tune on the album, and "Cascades" is what only a couple of months ago I'd simply call a typical jazz composition: now I find a great joy in listening to those raves.

This record - totally unlike most of the others! - makes me want not to play instruments and perform, but rather write jazz compositions. Nelson's works are imaginative: so simple yet so complex, you just gotta hear it to understand. Do yourself a favor! ;-)

24 January 2010

Lou Donaldson - Blues Walk

Blues is not only connected with black folks with guitars and whisky down in Mississippi singing about women and the devil, it's also a musical form that's fairly often used by jazz musicians. While I'm terribly lame at reviewing jazz records, I can't help myself but write a few words about some of them. In recent months I've been really into 50s and 60s jazz, especially hard bop and it's predecessor, bebop. Basically it was the music invented by black folks that white musicians couldn't steal from them or even understand by that time ;-)

I'm gonna start with tasty, bluesy and quite cheerful, easy to listen to album by alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson. It's called "Blues Walk" and the title rather accurately describes album contents.

It's a set of six tunes, a couple of uptempo tracks and at least two ballads. The sound is amazingly warm which makes it perfect background music - on the other hand playing is magnificent and solos kinda complex. My favorite tunes are Donaldson's own "Blues Walk" which became a classic, fast "Move" and two beautiful riffs in "Play Ray" (nananana ;)) and "Callin' All Cats".

The band consists of five members: Lou Donaldson on alto saxophone, Peck Morrison on bass, Dave Bailey on drums, Ray Barretto on congas (many say it's him who made this albums sound so different) and Herman Foster on piano, who played some nice solos.

That's a good album to start your jazz collection with if you're into blues and look for some brighter and lighter music to enjoy ;)

17 January 2010

VA - Chicago Blues: A Living History

"Chicago Blues: A Living History" is released in 2009 newly recorded tribute album to Chicago blues and its greats. Local performers (Billy Boy Arnold, John Primer, Billy Branch and Lurrie Bell) took part and gave us fine two discs of modern takes on 50s and 60s classics. Covered are Muddy Waters, Big Bill Broonzy, Jimmy Reed, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker et cetera.

I like the disc, it sounds modern yet it's still traditional brand of blues we all know so well. "Can't Stand to See You Go" is my favorite track, or at least one of the best 'cause it's very hard to choose, and it's performed almost exactly the way it was played by Jimmy Reed decades ago. It lacks magic of those times - it's not overproduced, but it does not sound as warm as it could. "Chicago Blues" is a very fine effort but I guess I won't be putting it on too often.

This album surely got me interested in contemporary Chicago blues musicians: John Primer played some mean slide guitar on "Feel Like Going Home", Billy Boy Arnold surprised me with "Memphis Slim, USA" :), Billy Branch rocked the place with "One More Mike" and Lurrie Bell kind of let me down with his three songs, of which the best was "I Believe" in the vein of Hound Dog Taylor.

If you live in Chicago or are particularly interested in Chicago blues, get this because it's worth 18 bucks on Amazon. :) Y'all can also see a special Facebook page.

13 January 2010

New Hendrix album to be released

New album of twelve unreleased tracks by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, called Valleys Of Neptune, is to be released in March by Sony. There's gonna be a lot of tasty blues licks here and there with "Red House", "Bleeding Heart" (originally by slide guitar master, Elmore James) and Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love" (also briefly covered by Jimi on his awesome BBC Sessions). Tracks come from 1969 sessions.

It is another in a long series of Jimi's posthumous albums. If you have none of them, see First Rays Of the New Rising Son, the Cry Of Love and Rainbow Bridge first. They're all worth it! I'm sure most of electric blues enthusiasts enjoy and appreciate virtuosity of probably one of the best guitar players that stepped on Earth ever. :)

11 January 2010

King's lines...

Some people say that blues is played to make everybody else feel as down and out as you are, others just want to complain a little... Today I've been shuffling through good old B.B. King's tracks and found two ones that can't contrast more yet they are still classic B.B.'s lines:

Nobody loves me but my mother and she could be jivin' too
I say noody loves me but my mother... and she could be jivin' too!

It's a song called Nobody Loves Me But My Mother. Well, what could be more depressing? Certainly not this:

If we make a little love from the very start...
What a lovely way to get to know someone!

It's his "Makin' Love Is Good for You" from 2000, unfortunately not on YouTube. Happy listening :)

04 January 2010

Best blues albums of 2009

What are the best blues albums of 2009? It's hard for me to say, really, I haven't heard too many of them. Still. The blues ain't dead, but it might be a little asleep: it seems like a very weak year. There are no great, standout albums from popular artists like in 2008, when two magnificent albums were released by legends, Buddy Guy and B.B. King. There are many not-so-well-known-here-in-Europe bands that are worth checking out, so I'm gonna point ya in the right direction.

The most interesting lists: blues and blues-rock by About.com, blues by NPR.org and custom, automatically generated chart by RYM.com.

When it comes to big names... Bob Dylan released bluesy "Together Through Life" and Eric Clapton with Steve Winwood released an archival live album recorded in 2007 at Madison Square Garden. Just because the boys are touring together again. Setlist is good, on the other hand, and so is the playing. But beware, it might get... lifeless... at times. It's Clapton, after all - a guitar player and singer as great as boring.

More views of mine? Bonamassa sucks and plays progressive shit rather than blues (but the guy is mighty, listen to his North Sea Jazz Fest performance). Derek Trucks is a virtuoso guitarist and his records are certainly very good, but they lack the groove. There ain't no swinging, no matter if it's a ballad or uptempo tune. Listen at your own risk ;)

I will make... 3 lists: of best archival records, blues and blues-rock albums. Promise. Not sooner than next month though. And I hope next year I will get enough jazz bebop albums to make another list ;) Cheers. Hope it helps.

02 January 2010

It Might Get Loud

"It Might Get Loud" by Davis Guggenheim is a film about electric guitar. Or, in other words, a complete disaster. Three famous guitarists (the Edge, Jimmy Page and Jack White) gather to talk and play a little. It got pretty good reviews from professional critics (70 on MetaCritic and 78% on RottenTomatoes) but the movie bore the hell out of me. Now come on, I hate U2/the Edge (and anyone who calls himself like that) and Jimmy Page is a nice guy, sure, but my dishwasher has more interesting stories to tell. Those guys gather in a room and have totally nothing to say to each other! And it could really be a marvellous movie.

Page played stunning things in 1973 and made Led Zeppelin the 2nd greatest blues-rock band in the world. But he's so boring, really... Fortunately, they've shown some archival footage of him playing skiffle and it was priceless. On the other hand, you can see that on YouTube. Another nice clip was Jimmy playing his favorite records on a gramophone and playing air guitar, but it seemed awfully staged and far from natural anyway. I can't even comment on the Edge.

However, that's enough of complaining, because Jack White stood up to the task. And I don't adore any of his bands that much. And he's got weird style of playing. Anyway... I totally fell in love with his attitude. A magnificent opposite of that guy from U2. Tradition blah blah blues blah blah hard work ;) He even played Son House and called "Grinnin' In Your Face" his favorite record. And it was plain to see he was really enjoying playing and life in general. Nice to see.

Don't waste your time, folks.