I'd hazard a guess that most visitors to Blues On Stage are familiar with Bob Margolin's name. He gained fame with a lengthy stint in the final incarnation of the Muddy Waters Band, and has since honoured Muddy's legacy with a consistently fine body of work that places equal emphasis on a healthy respect for tradition and an innovative approach that keeps the music fresh and alive. If there's been a single weakness to his previous outings it's been Bob's own vocals. Gruff, grizzled, and real, there's simply no escaping the fact that he's really not much of a singer.
This time around Bob leaves the vocal chores to others, on a program that mixes standards like Little Walter's "Juke" and strong originals. The tracks were taken from a variety of sessions, though that implies a more formal recording process than that which captured these performances. These are all more or less impromptu jams, each presumably a single-take run-through, with locations varying from intimate live venues to Bob's own living room.
Bob travels in heady company indeed; the band here is a veritable who's who of Chicago blues, whose collective resumes virtually define the genre. There's Carey Bell on harp, Pinetop Perkins on piano (he also contributes his inimitable drawl to "Sweet Little Angel"), and Hubert Sumlin (long-time associate of Muddy's greatest rival, Howlin' Wolf) on guitar. Willie 'Big Eyes' Smith once again proves himself an absolute master of the shuffle, while bassist Mookie Wilson handles most of the vocal chores. (His straightforward take on the Bobby 'Blue' Bland classic, "I'll Take Care Of You," doesn't exactly supersede the original, but does show him a fine, soulful singer). Jimmy D. Lane, son of former Muddy sideman Jimmy Rogers, guests on Bob's "Mean Old Chicago," a touching tribute to his father; it's a nice moment.
With so much experience (think about it - both Pinetop and Hubert have been doing some of these songs for over seventy years!), there's always the chance that some performances will be phoned in. When you can do it, and do it perfectly, in your sleep, it's gotta be hard to get very excited about yet another twelve-bar grinder; not surprisingly, there isn't much youthful exuberance here. And yes, things are very relaxed indeed. But every note comes from the heart. These aren't scheduled sessions where everyone plays by the clock. These are veterans making music because it has been and remains the single greatest source of joy in their lives.
"All Star Blues Jam" is just that. And it's the real deal, in my mind Margolin's finest yet. Yup, you've heard much of it before. But the intimacy and the forthright honesty of these performances is positively breathtaking. Combined with Telarc's usual stellar sound (equally breathtaking), the results are nothing short of revelatory; these men live and breathe these songs, and there's never any question they absolutely own them. They all have strong, distinctive musical personalities that colour every note they play, yet egos are far behind them, and each works within the seamless blue tapestry they weave together.
An absolutely definitive recording. Miss it at your peril!
23307 Commerce Park Road, Cleveland, OH 44122 USA
Your purchase through this Amazon.com link helps to support this website.
Simply click on the cover at left or the Amazon buy button (if there is one) to order this CD now!
"This review is copyright © 2003 by John Taylor, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without permission."
Copyright reuse notice: If you would like to reprint or use this review please include the above copyright notice, contained within the quotation marks, PLUS this statement: "Used with permission." Then send an email to Ray at: firstname.lastname@example.org indicating how you are using the review or the website page address it will be appearing on. Thanks!
You can help support this blues website by making a contribution (click on the banner below for details).
Or mail a donation to: Ray Stiles % Blues On Stage, PO Box 582983, Mpls, MN 55458. Thanks!
Web Design SPECIAL, get your own website for just $50.
Web Hosting & Design:
Web Hosting & Design.
Most affordable web hosting and design services available.
Find out how you can host your current site at Blues On Stage, or how I can help you design your own website!
If you would like your CD reviewed, please send TWO (2) copies, along with promotional material to:
Blues On Stage
PO Box 582983
Minneapolis, MN 55458-2983
E-mail Ray Stiles @ email@example.com with any questions.