At the time of this recording, John Primer had already established himself on the whoís who list of Chicago blues. He had finished a long stint with Muddy Waters and was in the middle of a 14 year stay as guitarist for Magic Slim and the Teardrops. This CD is John's fourth for Wolf Records and his very first full-length live album. It was recorded in the 1980s at the Zoo Bar in Lincoln, Nebraska as John and fellow Teardrops Nick Holt and Michael Scott warmed up the crowd for the big man. John chooses to mix traditional with contemporary Chicago blues and adds a touch of soul. The result is an exceptional diverse repertoire reflecting songs by Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed to songs by Little Milton and Bobby Bland.
The 13 tracks included on the CD come in at just under 70 minutes of playing time. Even though there is only one John Primer original tune amongst the cover tunes, the band delivers 100% Chicago blues. Primer establishes himself as a West Side Chicago blues force. The influence of West Side legend Magic Sam can be heard on 3 songs commonly associated with him: "Easy Baby", "Thatís All I Need", and "I Need You So Bad". On "Walkiní Thru The Park", John lays down some 50s style lead with the Teardrops backing his every move. Things get a little funky with "Thatís What Love Will Make You Do". The band does a fine job on "Rocking Daddy". Solid support from Holt and Scott allow Primer to jam the blues and take the song to new heights. You know John is having the time of his life on stage. Throughout this tune, the smiles on his face can be heard in his voice. The only Primer original, "My Babyís Gone", is a traditional blues groove and you donít get more authentic Chicago blues than with "Iíve Got A Problem".
I contacted Johnís agent Lisa Becker to get the inside scoop on the recordings that appear on Easy Baby. Here is what John recalls. "We recorded for one week straight and Wolf choose the songs for the CD. I didn't plan the songs, I kept it spontaneous and exciting. Magic Slim encouraged me to master my style and do the songs I wanted to do. The crowd at the Zoo Bar is wild and they love the blues with passion. This is the only album so far that I have done live and it is one of my favorites. You can really feel the passion in my heart for what I am singing on this CD and you can tell the crowd feels it too. "
John provides all the vocal and guitar work found on the CD. His voice doesnít have a lot of range but it is strong and from the heart. The liner notes provide a good overview of Johnís impressive career along with some excellent on-stage pictures. Producer Phil Hammar was successful in capturing the feel at the Zoo Bar.
Although John Primer hadn't yet come into his own as a songwriter at the time of these recordings, what we have here is Chicago blues at its finest. Primer was no longer Magic Slimís apprentice, he had moved on and developed his own style. These recording prove John was capable of being a successful solo artist long before he struck out on his own. Congratulations to Wolf Records for releasing another Chicago blues masterpiece.
For CD information, write to: Wolf Records USA Inc., PO Box 6066, Chicago, IL 60680-6066 Tel (312) 492-6141 Fax (312) 492-6142. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.wolfrec.com
For booking information, contact Lisa Becker, 2155 Wolpers Rd., Park Forest, IL 60466
Fax/Phone: (708) 481-6178
This review is copyright © 2000 by Tim Holek, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.