It is a minor miracle that Rockin' Johnny Band (RJB) ever found time to record "Man's Temptation." The RJB are one of the hardest working bands around, and can usually be found plying their trade in the Chicago clubs several nights a week. Bandleader Rockin' Johnny Burgin' also somehow finds time to play on other people's albums, and even do a spot of producing. A quick run down the list of acts they have worked with (Pinetop Perkins, Jimmy Dawkins, Eddie Campbell etc.) gives some indication of the esteem in which they are held.
"Twist With Me Annie" which opens the album offers a pretty good insight into where the RJB are at. If you do not like Chicago blues, then you have come to the wrong place. The band, built on the rock solid foundations of drummer Kenny Smith (son of Willie) and bassist Sho Komiya, is tight and very much together right from the off.
The album is a blend of originals and covers, and the band attack them all with the equal energy and gusto. As well as being a good tunesmith, Burgin is a talented guitarist. He puts his Rickenbacker to good use throughout the album, without ever trying to overpower the rest of the band. In tandem with Martin Lang's harp he weaves together a strand of uptempo numbers that were made for dancing, with a strand of slower numbers which allow you to sit back and appreciate the quality that permeates the whole of the band. The album's highlights come from both strands, in the shape of "Twist With Me Annie," the instrumental "In The Groove"," and Jimmy Reed's "Little Rain."
The album closes with a rather low key version of Lonnie Johnson's "Tomorrow Night" which is delivered almost as a jazz crooner's lullaby. Burgin carries it off well on his own, and the style suits his relatively lightweight vocals, which remind this reviewer's ears of John Mayall.
"Man's Temptation" is a good album, and shows that RJB are more than capable of rocking up a storm. Apart from the last track it is pretty much Chicago blues all the way with harp and guitar very much to the fore. Burgin's "artful chaos" approach means that the album comes close to what the band must sound like live, so make a note to check them out next time you are in the windy city. On the basis of "Man's Temptation" you will not be disappointed.
This review is copyright © 2000 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.