These 'all-stars' are mostly the sidemen of another generation's all-stars. Guitarist Bob Margolin himself, pianist Pinetop Perkins and drummer Willie 'Big Eyes' Smith all have extensive experience as members of Muddy Waters' band and Hubert Sumlin was of course Howlin' Wolf's right-hand man for decades.
But while you might expect this album to be straight-ahead Chicago blues redolent of the old Chess masters, there is a surprising number of different styles on show here. Some tracks clearly show the inescapability of those massive influences, but others sound more like a slightly more countrified Elmore James ("Always On My Mind"), Sonny and Brownie ("Last Time") or even an out-take from a Mose Allison session ("Maybe The Hippies Were Right").
Like the artists, many songs - "Sweet Little/Black Angel" (by Robert Nighthawk, popularised by B. B. King), "I'll Take Care Of You" (Bobby Bland), "Juke" (Little Walter), "Last Time" (Jimmy Rogers), "Country Boy" (Muddy Waters), "Goin' Down Slow" (St. Louis Jimmy, Muddy and particularly Howlin' Wolf) - remind one of absent friends. Not all of these versions obliterate memories of the originals, but none of them are bad and some are very good.
For me, the less hackneyed songs work best. Johnny Shines' "Brutal-Hearted Woman" starts the album like a bona fide 50s Chess track and Pinetop Perkins closes it beautifully with a instrumental take of "Just A Closer Walk With Thee". "Mean Old Chicago", which Margolin wrote going to Jimmy Rogers' funeral and performs here with Rogers' son, Jimmy D. Lane, is very touching and Carey Bell's features "One Day You're Gonna Get Lucky" and "Easy To Love You" stand up well.
The lineup changes from track to track and the spotlight falls in different places. For instance the first five tracks feature in turn the vocals of Margolin, Perkins, Bell and bassist Mookie Brill, and the harp-playing of Smith. This means you will like some tracks more than others but there will almost certainly be something to press your button.The sound is excellent and Margolin's sleevenotes are informative, chatty and full of interesting background. This is an album which gives a few veteran sidemen the chance to move centre stage, and they make good use of their time in the limelight.
More information is available at
23307 Commerce Park Road, Cleveland, OH 44122 USA
Bob Margin's own site at http://www.bobmargolin.com/ is also well worth a look.
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