CD and DVD Reviews

Your chance to write big-time blues reviews. Only two rules: First, if you're connected to the band or artist, go to Shameless Promotion; Second, don't write a book -- keep it relatively short and simple, no 1,000+ word epics.

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CD and DVD Reviews

Postby b dub » Wed Dec 22, 2004 6:37 pm

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Dec-22-04 AT 03:27 PM (EST)]KIRK FLETCHER
Shades Of Blue
Delta Groove (2004) CCD DGPCD 101

http://cover6.cduniverse.com/MuzeAudioA ... 537218.jpg

17 tracks, 71 minutes. Exceptional. By now, there isn't much that hasn't already been said about Kirk Fletcher, but whether or not you've heard his name and his playing, rest assured that modern blues does not get any better than this. Fletcher has been making a name for himself for a handful of years by running across the country with Kim Wilson and Charlie Musselwhite, as well as roaming up and down the West Coast with various blues outfits, and he recently joined Wilson as a member of The Fabulous Thunderbirds. As a guitar player, Kirk understands the less-is-more rule as much as knowing that tone coloration adds more to a project than pyrotechnic ability. There's little doubt that Fletcher has firmly planted himself in the upper-echelon of today's blues guitarists, and that lofty status comes from knowing what to play, when to play, and where to step forward for maximum effect. With Kim Wilson, Finis Tasby, and Janiva Magness all joining in to offer stunning vocals, Fletcher turns in the perfect sideman performance with his guitar - he lays back adding brilliant old-school touches, and when the time comes to step out, he makes fully-matured musical statements by building solos laced with passion and closes them with an intensity that lingers. Wilson's harp and gripping vocals feature on Bad Boy, My Home Is A Prison, Country Girl and Stranded, Finis Tasby delivers a storming Welfare Blues, Down Home Woman, and a powerfully potent take on The River's Invitation, and Janiva Magness handles Don't Go No Further, That's Why I'm Cryin' plus a smoldering Little By Little. Although this disc is under Fletcher's name, it's not a platform for his playing as much as a fully-realized group effort with some of the finest names in blues today. This newly-released domestic issue from the Delta Groove label also adds three bonus tracks not available on the original Crosscut version; B.B. King's You Don't Know plus alternate takes of Club Zanzibar and Don't Go No Further. Whether it's a grinding slow blues, a fuse-blowing shuffle, or a rumbling Chicago stomp, Kirk Fletcher knows how to settle back and simmer, but when he steps out to leave his mark, he's doing some of the most serious blues guitar talking heard in years. Lord have mercy!

http://www.deltagrooveproductions.com/

John Brim
1950-1953
Classics (2004) 5086

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22 tracks, 64 minutes. Highly recommended. The name John Brim is sadly all too uncommon due to his small catalog of recordings in the 1950s, but what he contributed still places his name in the upper echelon of Chicago Blues. Born in Kentucky in 1922, Brim relocated to Indianapolis by 1941 and headed for Chicago by the mid-forties where he found work with John Lee Williamson and other established artists. Of the twenty tracks on this set, the lead pairing of Strange Man and Mean Man Blues were recorded in Detroit in 1950, fronted by Brim's wife Grace on vocals and harp while assisted by her husband's guitar and the piano of Big Maceo Merriweather. By 1951, Brim had signed to the Random label producing four sides with Roosevelt Sykes on piano, Brim himself taking the vocals on Dark Clouds and Lonesome Man Blues while his wife took singing chores on Going Down The Line and Leaving Daddy Blues. By September of '51 Brim was inked with Joe Brown's Chicago JOB imprint where he recorded four sides joined by Sunnyland Slim on piano and Moody Jones on bass. While Young And Wild and I Love My Baby went unissued for years, Trouble In The Morning and Humming Blues were issued making a small amount of noise. Two more sessions in 1952 found Sunnyland Slim returning in addition to Eddie Taylor where Man Around My Door and Hospitality Blues had Grace taking the vocals. Brim's own Hard Pill To Swallow went unissued although Drinking Woman went out to record stores with a flip side featuring Slim's vocal. Don't Leave Me and Moonlight Blues feature a larger band with Ernest Cotton on sax, Slim again at the piano, Pete Franklin's guitar, and rhythmic support from Big Crawford and Alfred Wallace. John signed with the Chess brothers and in 1953 recorded Rattlesnake backed with It Was A Dream, both finding tough support from Little Walter's harp, the Myers brothers on guitars, and Fred Below's drumming. Disappointment ensued when the superb sides were pulled for fear of a lawsuit from Don Robey since Rattlesnake was a takeoff on Big Mama Thortnton's Hound Dog. Also shelved were Lifetime Baby and Ice Cream Man, both from May of 1953, but support on this pairing is still discussed as some reissues list personnel as Little Walter, Eddie Taylor, and Elgin Edmonds while others credit James and W.C. Dalton along with Grace Brim. The final two recordings on this set (Tough Times/Gary Stomp) are from a session in late 1953 for Parrot with Jimmy Reed on harp, Eddie Taylor's guitar, and Grace Brim handling drums. Although John recorded again for Chess in 1955 and 1956, sadly those four tracks weren't included here but can be found elsewhere. His career was an up-and-down affair as he worked outside of music for a good portion of his life, and though he remains a minor name in the history of blues recording in Chicago, John Brim's work is still regarded as top-shelf by collectors, and definitely worthy of wider recognition.


John Lee Hooker
Come And See About Me
Eagle Eye Media (2004) DVD

http://cover6.cduniverse.com/MuzeVideoArt/37/225537.jpg

120 minutes. Recommended. John Lee Hooker's importance will be felt and heard for decades to come as musicians return to his fearless boogie guitar patterns; to learn from them, to influence their own ideas, and to carry his music to future generations. There are few artists in the blues canon who recorded as prolifically as Hooker did - he amassed hundreds of studio dates - and as this program shows, plenty of performances that were captured on film. There are three vintage songs in black-and-white that make for stellar viewing - Maudie from 1960, Hobo Blues from 1965, and It Serves Me Right To Suffer from 1969, and each manages to convey Hooker's depth as a blues artist while the remainder of the film is in mostly high-quality color. A wide variety of guests appear throughout; Foghat and Paul Butterfield accompany him on Crawlin' Kingsnake, Van Morrison for Baby Please Don't Go, Bonnie Raitt duets on I'm In The Mood, John Hammond for Bottle Up And Go, and The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton doing a fine reworking with Hooker on Boogie Chillen, as well as Ry Cooder on Hobo Blues and Carlos Santana for The Healer. There's also plenty of Hooker with his Coast-To-Coast Blues Band, a performance from a Blue Monday Party hosted by Mark Naftalin with Charlie Musselwhite on harp, and Hooker's solo delivery of I'm Bad Like Jesse James from 1986 is thoroughly captivating. The musical performances are broken up nicely with commentary from Hooker himself on his career, his regard for fellow man, and his love for musicians who noticed his work and drew from it. The bonus footage includes a discography (although hardly complete), another interview segment with John Lee, and a lengthy interview with his daughter Zakiya who speaks about her earliest memories of her father as well as the very private side of a man few of us ever knew. Come And See About Me is solid blues viewing and a worthwhile addition to any personal music library.

http://www.eaglerockent.com/

Various Artists
A Tribute To Muddy Waters - King Of The Blues
Hybrid (2004) DVD

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90 minutes. Very good. Two decades after the death of Muddy Waters, round table blues conversationalists still debate who the undisputed king of Chicago Blues was - and it's generally between Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters. This tribute does capture portions of Muddy's historic importance and influence, but if you're interested in his legacy and story, search for I Can't Be Satisfied on DVD. Hosted by Billy Dee Williams, the presentation consists of reworkings of a fair array of Muddy's songs by a good cast of artists, but it does seem rather pale in comparison to his own work. Those who graced the Kennedy Center in honor of Muddy in Washington, DC, in October of 1997 were impressive - Big Bill Morganfield, Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, Mem Shannon, Nick Gravenites, Charlie Musselwhite, Robert Lockwood, and others are strong, but as with many tribute projects, it loses something in the translation. And as potent as these artists are, there are a few that seem slightly out-of-place; Peter Wolf, John Hiatt, and Phoebe Snow are each engaging and entertaining, but not earthshattering. The stage band is led by G.E. Smith, who is certainly a quality musician, but there's also a somewhat antiseptic quality to the backing, and why Bob Margolin (who played next to Muddy for years) is only on stage for a few performances is another oddity. Margolin would seemingly have a much better grasp on the subtle nuances of Muddy's music (as shown to good effect with his slide playing), but he's left out of much of this, however, Johnny Johnson's piano work shimmers. The song selection is some of the cream Muddy managed over his career; I'm Ready, Hoochie Coochie Man, She's 19 Years Old, Long Distance Call and others, but it's doubtful that many would prefer watching this over an entire performance by Muddy Waters himself, and that comes in the bonus footage of him tearing through a rousing version of Got My Mojo Working from Europe in 1968. The tribute does have its musical high points and it is worthwhile viewing considering the low suggested retail price plus the bonus audio CD that now accompanies the DVD.

http://www.hybridrecordings.com/


Junior Wells
Don't Start Me Talkin' - The Junior Wells Story
Legacy (2004) DVD

http://cover6.cduniverse.com/MuzeVideoArt/92/223492.jpg

90 minutes. Highly recommended. When it comes to Post-war Chicago Blues and the countless harmonica players that made the city their home, Junior Wells was a mainstay, and a powerful one at that. From his earliest recordings on the States label in the 1950s, through his landmark works for Delmark and Vanguard in the 1960s, as well as his many outings with Buddy Guy, Junior Wells' career was a lengthy one with a large catalog of top-shelf recordings to his credit. This 90-minute DVD covers that career quite well through interview segments, musical performances, and memories from such luminaries as Dick Waterman and Bob Koester (both who worked closely with Junior for long periods), Buddy Guy, Carlos Santana, B.B. King, Jimmie Vaughan, and others. While most of the 'live' performance footage shown is from Wells' later years, it easily conveys what this artist had in spades; vocal power, command of the harmonica, and natural stage presence. Many who witnessed Junior performing with Buddy Guy will perhaps recall some of the apparent animosity the pair had for each other, and while it's somewhat masked through carefully spoken commentary from Buddy himself, it's still evident that they had their problems, and problems that continued during some of the filming of this material. Junior's performances are scattered throughout the DVD and interspersed with further commentary from other high-ranking musicians from various styles of music, and although the occasional narration from Frank Pellegrino is interesting, it sounds as if he were reading from flash cards. That itself is perhaps the only minor quibble, and in the end, the historical importance of Junior Wells shines through brightly. He was a man worth his weight in gold for his many contributions to blues, his unerring sense of rhythmic ability, and his unending desire to make it to the top. For those who never had the chance to see this man in action, Don't Start Me Talkin' is a superb way to see what you missed and learn more about him and his deserved status as one Chicago's premier bluesmen.

http://app2.sonymusic.com/DVDTranslator ... &genre=ALL

© 2004 by Craig Ruskey
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RE: Reviews

Postby ricochet » Wed Dec 22, 2004 6:47 pm

Great to see you back at it here, BW! Thanks!
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RE: Reviews

Postby b dub » Wed Dec 22, 2004 7:59 pm

Thanks Ric... I even found the Roy Rogers 'Live' CD that Pappy sent me some time ago - I reviewed it, posted it elsewhere, and neglected to load it here. My apologies!
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RE: Reviews

Postby bosco » Mon Dec 27, 2004 7:09 pm

Thanks B-Dub-

Your reviews cut to the chase so I can cherry pick what I want (the Fletcher and Wells releases) and invest more of my time in actually playing music. I for one, do not take your reviewing skills for granted...thanks, bro!

Bosco

"In the school of the blues, there is no graduation day."
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RE: Reviews

Postby blueswriter » Mon Dec 27, 2004 9:09 pm

Thanks Bosco! It's good to be back posting reviews on the Big Road forum, but the term "reviewing skills" might be a little suspect.
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RE: Reviews

Postby bosco » Tue Dec 28, 2004 3:01 pm

I see you got your Charter member status back with the post total. You must have remembered your original password or Pappy hooked you up. Either way things are starting to feel normal around here again.

I'm diggin' it...
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RE: Reviews

Postby blueswriter » Tue Dec 28, 2004 6:41 pm

I dropped Pappy a message so we could change my password and get me back on the right foot. I felt a little naked posting as B-Dub and noticing that I only had a handful of contributions here. Nice to have my clothes back on...
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RE: Reviews

Postby ricochet » Tue Dec 28, 2004 10:41 pm

>Nice to have my clothes back on...

Yeah, that's a good thing, BW!
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