Jazz Gillum, a fine harp player and expressive singer, isn't brought up often in discussions of blues artists who bridged the gap between the pre-war years and on toward the end of the 1940's. Much like his life was by choice, clear of the limelight, he preferred to play his music for himself and those wishing to have some fun. This new disc from Indigo (IGOCD 2132) "It Sure Had A Kick," is 70 minutes of Jazz Gillum and his sidemen laying down a steady dose of blues. Part of the Bluebird stable, Gillum's accompanists include some of the finest around; including Big Bill Broonzy, Leonard Caston, or Willie Lacy, playing stellar guitar. Piano duties are split between Blind John Davis, Big Maceo Merriweather and a few others, while the bass chores are divided among Alfred Elkins and Ransom Knowling. Sounding quite like his half-brother, Washboard Sam, Gillum was a relaxed vocalist who seems to have rehearsed his phrasing until near-perfect. His harmonica playing was more than competent, and there's plenty of it here, whether he was reworking the songs of Robert Jr. Lockwood, Bumble Bee Slim, and others, or recording his equally fine written pieces. Sound quality is crisp and clear on this 24 track, 70 minute disc covering sides from 1938 to 1949, and liner notes by Neil Slaven give plenty of background on this quiet, but excellent artist.
Willie Dixon and Jimmy Reed sharing the billing on a CD may seem like an odd pairing, and it certainly is, but the parallels are that both recordings are 'live' and from the same venue; Liberty Hall, in Houston. Dixon's are from 1971, his 'Blues Allstars' period, and find him joined by Walter Horton's incredible harmonica, Lee Jackson's trusty guitar, and Clifton James' rock steady drumming. As a songwriter, Dixon was one of the finest, having few peers, as evidenced here by "Spoonful," which has roots back to Charley Patton, or perhaps Willie's finest moments with the favorite "I Just Want To Make Love To You." Lee Jackson sounds remarkably like Earl Hooker throughout the Dixon cuts and as an added bonus, Johnny Winter blazes through "Tore Down" in his unique style, although the sound is less than pristine here, while "Roach Stew," sounds like a warm-up for Dixon's band. The Jimmy Reed tracks date from 1972, and show him in decent form, but in his waning years. The four tracks are well-worn, but favorites among his legion of fans. "Big Boss Man" kicks off the Reed set, and is followed by "Stop Light," with Johnny Winter playing rhythm behind the boss' guitar and racked harmonica. "You Don't Have To Go" plods along at a slower clip than usual, as does the closer, "Bright Lights Big City." Winter is unobtrusive, stepping in to add some fills now and again, while Reed drags out his vocals with that lazy style. Sound on the second half of "Big Boss Men" (IGOXCD 543) is a little rougher, and while not necessary for all, completists will want this hour-long disc.
Peter Green's years at the helm of Fleetwood Mac showed a band with a serious love for blues, but also more apt to play up the possibilities of combining roots with the coming age of jam music. "Show-Biz Blues" Volume 2 (RDPCD 15) is an incredible two-disc companion to "The Vaudeville Years," 1998's greatly appreciated double-CD offering from Receiver Records, a subsidiary of Trojan Sales Ltd.
Disc One begins with Green joining Peter B's Looners, from 1966. It was while with keyboardist, Bardens, that Green and Mick Fleetwood began a very fruitful relationship. "Soul Dressing" is a fine few moments of early Peter Green, and shows a genius in his formative stages. The other two tracks from the Looners are closer to lounge music but lead into the more than two hours of Fleetwood Mac, consisting of all unissued takes, and some songs never heard by the band in any form. While the group as a whole was the absolute cream of the crop of British Blues, it was the dynamic and soulful Green who took center stage, a position he never wanted. As a guitarist, forceful and restrained at the same time, Green was without equal. His use of space, touch, tone, and phrasing, remain something to marvel at, while as a vocalist, he showed more natural ability than any of his peers; Clapton, Mayall, et al. Standouts are many on the first CD, including the three riveting versions of what became the title track for this set. Alone and playing compelling acoustic slide, Green was simply at the top of his game. The slow and gripping "Fast Talkin' Woman Blues" appeared as a different version on "Vaudeville," while "Leaving Town Blues" finds Peter joined by Nick Pickett's violin.
Disc Two begins with two unissued 'live' performances from the Boston Tea Party in 1970. "Black Magic Woman" sizzles during its near seven minute reading with Green's amazingly effective vocals, while Duster Bennett's "Jumpin' At Shadows," gets great treatment. From a London show, "Rattlesnake Shake," is an ode to masturbation, and becomes "Underway," a smoldering 10-plus minute ride combining blues and intense jamming. "Green Manalishi" rumbles along for 15 minutes with Peter's work as a testament to his astounding abilities. His lengthy solo on the six-string bass is tasteful and determined, while Danny Kirwan adds considerably to the proceedings with his "Coming Your Way," a stellar seven minutes of incredible guitar with great communication among everyone.
This is a perfectly-done package including 52 pages of rare pictures and detailed liner notes by 'Jet' Martin Celmins, author of "Peter Green - Founder of Fleetwood Mac." Everything here is worth serious listening time, from Jeremy Spencer's fun with 50's rock and roll impersonations, or his Elmore-like slide workouts, to Danny Kirwan's perfect blending with Green. They were surely 'in the zone' with this lineup, and it becomes a sort of sad reminder of what could have been, had Green not become fed up with the trials that came with stardom. He certainly was a star during his time with Fleetwood Mac and you can be pretty sure even Peter himself wonders what happened to his vision, as Fleetwood Mac took a detour towards pop and financial security, and never returned. With many clamoring over the supposed brilliance of today's kid-blues superstars, grab this and find out what it's all about; Peter Green was a young British master who had a firm grasp that no one in the UK had before him, and no one since has matched his brilliance and understanding of playing pure blues. These discs should all be available by late June and www.trojan-records.com will help with more information.
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.
Click button to join
our mailing list!