"Man's Temptation" is the latest recording by The Rockin' Johnny Band. Over the past eight years, Rockin' Johnny Burgin has made a name for himself on the Chicago blues scene, playing with a multitude of blues "giants," including Tail Dragger, Sam Lay, Dave Myers, Jimmy Dawkins, Pinetop Perkins, Billy Boy Arnold and many others. Burgin is ably backed-up on the CD by long time associates Rick Kreher on rhythm guitar; Sho Komiya on bass; Martin Lang on harp and Kenny Smith on drums. On two songs, Billy Flynn's "I'd Like To Have A Girl Like You" and the original, "Deal Me Some Love," additional instrumentation is provided on piano by Donny Nichilo.
The CD offers fourteen songs, all representing a straight-ahead Chicago blues sound, right out of post-World War II Chicago. As I listened to the CD, I was struck by the fact that many of the songs on the recording even had the feel of early Chicago blues recordings, with a "live in the studio" sound. Having seen The Rockin' Johnny Band live, I can attest to the fact that what you will hear on the CD is the same sound you will hear in a live performance. Through the training and influence some of Chicago's finest guitarists, Rockin' Johnny offers some fine guitar licks on the recording, especially on the originals, including the title tune, "Man's Temptation," "Desperate," and "Deal Me Some Love."
On "My Heart Aches For You," Burgin's vocals are well-supported by the excellent harmonica work of Martin Lang, who co-wrote the song with Burgin. The following tune, "Down Here On The Ground," another Burgin original, includes more fine harp by Lang intermixed with more clean, crisp guitar by Burgin. On the Jimmy Reed tune, "Little Rain," Burgin and Lang invoke the spirit of the late Reed in their fine cover version.
While the first half of the CD is dominated by original material; the second half is predominantly covers. Among the best of the cover tunes is John Lee Hooker's, "This Is Hip," offers some great interplay between Burgin's guitar and Lang's harp. Lang's harp work is especially entertaining on the instrumental, "Midnight Special," followed by an equally enthusiastic extended guitar solo by Rockin' Johnny. Seemingly paying his respects to Maxwell Street legend, Jimmie Lee Robinson, the band offers an excellent version of Robinson's, "Twist It Baby." Burgin played guitar on the original version of this song on Jimmie Lee Robinson's recording entitled "The Lonely Traveler" (Delmark DC-665).
The CD ends with Rockin' Johnny Burgin soloing on a song entitled "Tomorrow Night." While Burgin's guitar is very well done the song, it would probably have sounded better with some additional instrumentation.
Overall, this is a well-done CD, very reminiscent of the early Chicago sound. The sound has a definite live quality, while maintaining enough studio strength to make the sound clean and clear. I recommend that you give it serious listen.
This review is copyright © 1999 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.