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The Prodigal Son
(Own label - no issue number © 2004)
Review Date: December 2008
by Norman Darwen
Direct links to the pre-Second World War Memphis blues sound are becoming harder
and harder to find but Memphis Gold can be numbered among that small, select
band who learned first-hand from the veterans. Memphis Gold's tutor in gospel
music when he was a youngster was none other than Reverend Robert Wilkins, who
recorded blues in the twenties and thirties, and incidentally wrote 'Prodigal
Son' covered by The Rolling Stones on their 1968 album 'Beggar's Banquet'. It is
a little misleading though to overstate the Wilkins connection as the track
called 'Prodigal Son' on this album is a Memphis Gold original, with an
excellent classic gospel-styled introduction that leads into a piano-driven
blues a little reminiscent of Howling Wolf's version of '44 Blues'.
Memphis Gold - real name Chester Chandler - is now based in Washington DC and
uses, among others, local musicians such as bassists Willie Hicks or Larry Self,
harmonica players Phil Wiggins and the great and under-rated Charlie Sayles, and
Nighthawks' drummer Pete Raguso to establish his soulful sound (and DC legend
Bobby Parker is credited with 'special assistance). The opener reminds me a
little of BB King's 'Never Make Your Move Too Soon' and sports a lovely, clean
guitar break by Gold himself (as do most of the numbers here). Next up is the
solid, up tempo blues of 'Don't Let Her Ride', with Gold and the band firing on
all cylinders, and the remainder of the set stays in a blues bag, sometimes
funky, occasionally getting relatively down-home - try 'Big Leg Woman' or '3's
Tonic' which brings to mind his stint with Big Lucky Carter - or just fun pure
and simple, like the good old-fashioned R&B instrumental 'Chicken It'.
Gold's attention to detail and slightly idiosyncratic vocals make him well worth
listening to. Despite the occasional soul and funk trappings,this is in some
ways a 'deep blues' set - but then what else would you expect from one of the
last men around to have picked cotton on both Dockery's and Stovall's
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