Here's a sparkling new addition for fans of lowdown, righteous, in-your-face, Mississippi saxophone. Clocking in at 55 minutes, featuring 18 tracks, with some startling rarities thrown in for good measure, Fuel 2000 adds another winner to their catalog. Sound quality is stellar compared to earlier vinyl examples of many of these tracks, some outstripping cuts that have shown up on various CD's in recent years. Compiled by Bill Dahl, who also penned the liner notes that make for excellent reading while you make your way through this prime set of blues, there are great cuts at every turn.
Louis Myers kickstarts the disc with his 1956 Abco waxing, "Just Whaling," a prime contender for unheralded harp genius. Backed by brother Dave Myers and Syl Johnson on guitars, Willie Dixon's bass, and the incredible shuffling of Eugene Lounge on drums, this cut alone is worth the price of admission (but one wonders if the track should have originally been titled "Just Wailing," as there aren't many seaports near Chicago where one can go whale hunting)! Snooky Pryor steps up with a JOB cut from 1950, "Boogy Fool," featuring simple, yet effective harp and Baby Face Leroy Foster's pocket-tight rhythm guitar. Sonny Boy Williamson was a Chess label heavyweight, but surreptitiously cut a pair for Eli Toscano's Cobra imprint in 1958 with help from Willie Dixon, who was an A&R man for that label during a hiatus from Leonard and Phil Chess' interest. Williamson's "Steady Rollin' Man" bristles with a relaxed swing and includes a classic line, "I rolled for you darlin', and your mother was standin' right by my side." Punctuated with Sonny Boy's spot-perfect timing for harp fills, this is another gem. Frank Frost adds the title track, a rippling instrumental laced with his harmonica, plus Arthur Williams' as well, and Sam Carr's backbeats. Jimmy Reed is joined by longtime guitarist and friend, Eddie Taylor, for "I Got To Keep Rolling," while Junior Wells contributes the primal "Come On In This House," from the Profile label. Jerry McCain rides through with the fine instrumental, "728 Texas," from the Jewel vaults and steps aside for Big Walter Horton's "Need My Baby," joined by an all-star cast, while Sam Myers delivers "What's Wrong, What's Wrong?" with Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets in tow. Wild Child Butler forwards "Jelly Jam" from a 1966 Jewel release, and while obviously in on the party, Big Walter Horton's harp is omitted from the session details. John Lee Henley, a little-recorded artist, hits on all cylinders for "Rhythm Rockin' Boogie," another rarity from the JOB files with Robert Jr. Lockwood adding some of his deft six-string rhythmic backing. Louis Myers returns for "Bluesy," the flip side of Abco 104, and shows he was closer than most as Little Walter's match. Little Willie Foster stirs things up with a violently powerful "Little Girl," yet another diamond from the Cobra catalog, correctly crediting Foster as the vocalist (on another recent harp compilation of mine in these pages, liner notes incorrectly listed the vocalist as Floyd Jones). Things quiet down a bit for Sonny Terry's "Blowing The Fuses," which finds him in the company of Brownie McGhee's guitar, then, stalwart Snooky Pryor rears back for a stumbling and ridiculously rewarding "Stop The Train Conductor," complete with out-of-tune guitar and sloppily-on-the-mark backbeats from an unknown crew of assassins. Junior Wells steps back in with a Chief side from 1957, "Cha Cha Cha In Blue (Cut My Toe Nail)" and makes way for Sonny Boy Williamson's lowdown reading of "Keep Your Hand Out Of My Pocket." This rare session for Cobra resulted in a pair of superb tracks, one with Harold Burrage adding fine piano; and easily matches some of Sonny Boy's finest work. The set closes out with one of Walter Horton's crowning moments as a sideman, a role in which he always managed his best work. Joining Johnny Shines' mind-numbing vocal pipes for the crushing 1953 JOB side, "Evening Sun," Horton's tone is massive as he flourishes brilliantly for two-and-a-half minutes.
Every track here is as vital as its predecessor, and leaves the listener wanting much more when the music subsides. Bill Dahl is to be commended for his commitment to excellence in coordinating the sides released on the Fuel 2000 label, also boasting sets by Otis Rush, Magic Sam, and others. Now, if someone can get Mr. Dahl to release all of Baby Face Leroy Foster's work alongside more rarities like these...
This review is copyright © 2001 by Craig Ruskey, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.