Albert King – Live ’69

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Recorded at a single show on May 29, 1969, in Madison, WI’s 400-seat club The Cue, these tapes were first released in 2003. The performance finds Albert King, who had just turned 46, arguably at his career peak. Even though there are just five tracks, it’s enough to understand why he remains one of electric postwar blues’ most seminal figures. Since this shares no songs with Live Wire/Blues Power, which was recorded a year earlier, and features concert versions of “Crosscut Saw,” “Personal Manager,” and “As the Years Go Passing By” from his legendary Born Under a Bad Sign album, it’s an important document. King’s in excellent form too, ripping into the tunes with edgy energy, even if many of his solos and licks will be familiar to blues listeners. The well-written liner notes neglect to mention who is in his backing band, but the group fades into the background anyway through a poor mix that relegates the drums to sounding like trash cans. Thankfully King is front and center, and although the audio is inferior to the Fillmore West shows documented on the Live Wire and Wednesday/Thursday Night In San Francisco albums, it’s clear enough to get a feel for how powerful the guitarist could be, even in front of a small crowd. At over 17 minutes, “Please Come Back to Me” is the set’s longest and most intense track as King pulls out all of his tricks on a rare rendition of a song found on only a few discs. It alone is worth the price of this album, which, with crisper sound, would be the guitarist’s best live show from this period. Even with its abbreviated length, a few bum notes, and a barely audible band, this is prime King and an essential acquisition for all fans.

The Black Heart Procession- Six

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7th release since 1998 from San Diego band who play melancholic dirges of brooding beauty.These are haunting, dark & soul-searching, percussively rhythmic ballads of unusual power and grace. Recalls artists such as Firewater, Gutter Twins, Devastations, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits. Members from Three Mile Pilot, Mr. Tube & the Flying Objects, Album Le .

Otis Taylor – Clovis People Vol.3

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Otis Taylor digs the past. Whether it’s the songs he wrote a decade ago, or ancient civilizations that lived more than 10,000 years ago, he’s drawn to stories from another time, and he’s compelled to retell them in a way that’s relevant in the modern day. On Clovis People, Vol. 3, Taylor writes his own history. It’s the ideal project for the architect of a sparse and hypnotic style that has come to be known as “trance blues.” Taylor has spent his career crafting songs that are wide open to interpretation — thematically as well as structurally. “I give people a starting point, and then they can take it where they want to take it,” he explains. “That’s true for the people playing my music as well as the people listening to it. That’s how art should be. A person looking at a painting should be able to interpret it in whatever way he wants. The more words you put into a song, the less freedom the listener has to decide what it means.” The album title is inspired by a recent scientific discovery very close to Taylor’s home in Boulder, Colorado. Barely 100 yards from the edge of his property, archeologists dug up a cache of tools and other implements belonging to a civilization known as the Clovis people, who walked the earth briefly about 13,000 years ago and then mysteriously disappeared. “I just thought it was a cool title,” says Taylor. “I went back to my musical past with these songs. That’s why I called it Volume 3. There really is no Volume 1 or 2. My music only goes back about ten years, but there’s something about reaching back to an earlier time and revisiting the stories of the past from a new perspective that I find compelling.”

Gimme Shelter – Kaleidoscopic Funk Collision

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Just as Harmless’s Make Music showcases the style of music from the early `70s when laid-back hippie folk intermingled with soul and funk, Gimme Shelter (and its follow-up, Paint It Black) showcases songs from the early `70s when acid rock and psychedelia were applied to soul and funk.
There’s Merry Clayton’s scorching version of “Gimme Shelter” (she sang back-up on the Rolling Stones original); the Rotary Connection’s hazily psychedelic “I am the Black Gold of the Sun;” the Isley Brothers provide the best track on the CD with their storming combo of Neil Young’s “Ohio” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun;” and Rare Earth take psychedelic soul to its jamming max on their remake of “I Know I’m Losing You.”
Just about every track is a standout example of this exciting music hybrid, though I don’t understand why any Temptations songs from this era weren’t included. Their “Papa was a Rollin’ Stone” and “Unite This Land” are perfect examples of the type of music Gimme Shelter seeks to promote. (Listeners who want to hear these Temptations masterworks should just pick up the excellent UK compilation “Psychedelic Soul.”) Regardless, Gimme Shelter should definitely be checked out by any fan of Harmless’s other compilations.

Curtis Mayfield – The Very Best

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From his classic early work with the Impressions to his subsequent solo career, singer-writer-producer-guitarist Curtis Mayfield is one of the key figures in American rhythm and blues, pushing musical and lyrical boundaries while maintaining deep ties to gospel roots and emotional thrust. His large and varied body of work contains a wealth of magnificent music, much of it collected on Rhino’s three-CD box People Get Ready: The Curtis Mayfield Story. This 16-track single disc is a good introduction for beginners, with the familiar crossover hits “Superfly,” “Freddie’s Dead,” and “Move On Up,” along with equally impressive (if less well-known to pop audiences) numbers like “(Don’t Worry) If There’s A Hell Below We’re All Going to Go,” “We Got to Have Peace,” and “Future Shock.”

Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears-Tell Em What Your Name Is

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This major-label debut from Austin-based retro soul man Black Joe Lewis is reminiscent of the ’60s R&B albums he so clearly adores, right down to its 30-minute playing time. Only one song breaks the four-minute barrier, with the rest at three and some just over two. Fans of the J. Geils Band’s initial handful of releases will recognize the same “nuthin’ but a house party” influences at work here, with perhaps less blues and more high-octane soul shouting. Lewis’ snappy guitar peppers these tunes, but it’s the eight-piece horn-enhanced Honeybears that provide the grease for these musical wheels. That’s especially true on the instrumental “Humpin’,” a succulent slice of Stax-styled funk. This is hardcore, raw, unvarnished music that aims straight for the pelvis. Throw James Brown, Sam & Dave, and Wilson Pickett into a deep fryer and you’re close to Lewis’ knockout vocal attack. Jim Eno’s production stays hands-off, like it should be, letting this tightly knit ensemble do what it does naturally with no interference. This is so authentic that if slipped into a mix of likeminded ’60s R&B, only a handful would peg it as a 2009 release as opposed to one from four decades earlier. The band is as adept at laying down the steamy, slow funk stew of “I’m Broke” as it is the peppy call-and-response singalong “Big Booty Woman.” Based on that title and others such as “Master Sold My Baby” (an unusual deep Southern serving of R.L. Burnside/Junior Kimbrough blues), Lewis won’t win any awards from women’s rights organizations, but this music is so vibrant and uplifting that few will care. Fun, frisky, lascivious, and impossible to stay seated to, Black Joe Lewis has successfully tapped into a hip-shaking old-school groove that never seems forced and is completely contagious.

John the Revelator – Wild blues

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John The Revelator is an obscure Dutch ensemble, at least I’d never heard anything at all about them until Pseudonym reissued their only album last month or so. Originally released back in September 1970 on Decca it has, in part, all the hallmarks of a really great record; although in fairness I should also say it would’ve been an even greater sounding disc had Phonogram engineer Gerard Beckers (and producers Tony Vos, and Hans Van Hemert) thought to give a bit more metre to the lead guitar, and slide guitar, respectively, as they both tend to lie pretty low in the mix most of the time. That said it’s not too off-putting, and there’s still lots of great stuff here to get your teeth into, with various saxophones, piano (and occasional mellotron too) adding some extra colour and shade here and there. Indeed, the whole group (JTR were a seven-piece outfit) work well together and present a strong blend of instrumental texture and depth, while their basic rhythm ‘n’ blues sensibility sees them really work up their material, even managing – at times – to come over like perhaps a not so guttural version of some of those stellar outfits from an earlier time that also called the Netherlands home: Cuby+Blizzards, Bintangs and, yes, even the mighty Q65 too. You can hear that John The Revelator professes allegiance to many of the great vintage blues cats, and chief among their influences are the sounds of Elmore James, BB King, and Son House, the man behind the song whose title also begat the group’s moniker and which, in a truncated, introductory version, is also the title that begins John The Revelator’s Wild Blues.
I love the effect that the distant, echoey guitar gives to some of the tracks; strategically placed so as not to render everything totally in your face the way some loud ‘n heavy guitar scenesters make it, and this brings a rather nice balance with subtle touches that really benefits the group. Contrastingly, the last two tracks on the second side, ‘Homework’ (the first song the band laid down) and ‘Yeah’ (an outtake from the LP), reverse the trend and feature the group with a more prominent guitar sound which lends the songs a decidedly more 60s beat-blues feel. This in turn seems to also make lead vocalist (and bassist) Tom Huissen work that little bit harder, and the end results make for a particularly palatable listen.
So there you have it, and if you like the Dutch blues trip of the late 60s and early 70s,then I urge you to seek out this newly re-released John The Revelator platter, you’ll be sure glad you did.