Juke Logan is the King of Southern California blues. All due respect to James Harman, Rod Piazza and the slew of other world class players out of the Southland – Juke is the Man. He writes great tunes, has a strong vocal presence, blows an impressive harp, and bangs a rockin’ piano and a greasy organ. And he’s always been the man on the front lines, not getting’ the glory, just getting’ the job done better than most. He’s got presence with a capital P. This re-issue of his first recording, which originally saw the light in 1992, is loaded with talent – not just Juke’s, but that of Denny Freeman, Junior Watson, David Hidalgo and Conrad Lozano of Los Lobos, Rick Holmstrom, Freebo, backing vocalists Janiva Magness and Brenda Burns, and local stars like Billy Bacon, Mario Moreno and Lil Chubby from the great Forbidden Pigs, King Cotton, Mike Tempo of the killer Bonedaddys and more. Juke’s original liners and updated (exhaustive, informative and enjoyable) notes make for great reads and background info. (Remember why we all cried when CDs came out? No liners. That’s not a problem here).
Highlights abound. “Play Tha’ Blues” is a favorite for it’s hook for the uninitiated, the calling card for what makes this music so moving for those of us who have the virus deep in our bones – “You say you want a soul message,” he sings, “You say you want a healthy dose of the musical truth, with some groove-grease/Blue is a feeling, not a color/Blues is about respectin’ one another/You search & you search & you search for the musical truth/Come around and pay attention to the blues.” Part preacher, part rapper, Juke is wholly heartfelt here.
The tunes with the Forbidden Pigs, are highlights. “She’s Cool People,” the recording that started the whole thing off lo those many years ago, is the standout. The Pigs are here and rockin’. Add a Bonedaddy, Cotton and Brenda Burns and it’s a hepcat rumba extravaganza. The opening “Fan the Flame,” later covered by John Mayall, “Young and Wired,” on which Juke channels Chuck Berry with a rockin’ Los Lobos backdoor groove, the instrumental “Rumblin’ Reeds,” with Lobos on board again, the cooler than cool “Hustler,” with Junior Watson’s sweet jazzy/bluesy guitar work, the New Orleans-flavored “Bayou Diamond Ring,” on which a largely unknown Janiva Magness adds to the backing vocal chorus and on which Freebo gives second line kick, the bar band themed “If the Money’s Alright,” and the title cut, with David Hildalgo sharing the vocals, and Juke blowing a cool echoharp are cooler than most of the music that I’ve heard this year from scores of other “name bands.” Juke was cool in ’92. He’s just as much now. One of the standout re-issues of the past few years.