Some Random Texas Blues

Never been to Texas. Dead honestly, i could probably die happy without ever going there. Nothing against it, i just don’t get on with hot weather and flat landscapes. But they sure can do some blues. Must be something in the water.

Stumbled on the Janis Joplin track on the tube of you. No idea where this version is from. But she sure doesn’t like her hometown (Port Arthur). There’s a version of Ego Rock on the In Concert Album, this one isn’t it. There’s a bootleg out with Johnny Winter (Beaumont) on guitar from a concert in Boston, this isn’t it. There’s another version with Johnny Winter on a compiliation called Blow All My Blues Away. This might be it. Johnny also joined her onstage at a concert at MSG a week after the Boston concert. Maybe this is it, and maybe the one on that compiliation album. That’s all the info i can find. But anyhoo, the tune is awesome.

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JOE TURNER ‘THE BOSS OF THE BLUES’.

In 1956 I was living in Suffolk; I had subscriptions to both the MM and the NME and one of them reviewed an LP by Joe Turner, it was titled ‘The Boss of the Blues’ on the Atlantic label. It was such a rave review that I immediately bought a copy and it was indeed as good/great as the reviewer said it was. If I had to choose a top 10 from my entire collection of records this one would definitely be in there.

 A little background: When the ban on American musicians performing in England was lifted in the early 50′s the Count Basie band was a regular visitor, they probably came at least once a year, sometimes twice. I loved the Basie band and went to see them whenever possible, consequently I was familiar with all of the musicians. It turned out that the backing band on the Joe Turner album were almost all Basie-ites so for me that was a double treat, the king of Kansas City blues plus all those guys I’d come to love. 

 Just a word re. Kansas City; when the US Navy shut down the brothels in Storyville in New Orleans in 1917 they eliminated the places where all the jazz musicians worked, hence they all hit the road, highway 61 heading north for NY, Chicago, LA and Kansas City. Each city absorbed them and there they evolved different styles of jazz in each, Kansas City being perhaps the most unique. Kansas City jazz is more blues based and more swing oriented than any of the others and it has the longest list of superstar musicians who started life there; they include, Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Count Basie, Jimmy Lunceford, Pete Johnson, Ben Webster and dozens more, it was the most fertile jazz source in the country and in 1936 Columbia record producer John H. Hammond launched his career by discovering Kansas City talent starting with Count Basie who he heard on a radio broadcast from a KC club.

 Another side note, Robert Altman was a fierce Kansas City jazz fan, in 1996 he produced and directed a great film which is totally based on the KC jazz scene of the 30′s, well worth seeing, it’s title, ‘Kansas City’. It was nominated for a Palme d’Or. Plus In 1979 there was  a documentary film starring Basie and  Big Joe Turner, and featuring many performers from the original era. It’s titled ‘The Last of the Blue Devils’. If you haven’t guessed by now, Kansas City jazz is the style I’m most addicted to and what much of my vinyl jazz is comprised of.

 So when I departed England for Los Angeles in 1958 I packed just a few personal belongings, my LP’s and about a dozen books on the subject of jazz plus whatever clothes I had. Boss of the Blues was absolutely included and it’s still played fairly regularly and the books are still on my bookshelf.  Many years later, possibly in the early 80′s, I met Joe Turner and I asked him to autograph my album, he did so with a black felt tip, right across the cover BIG JOE TURNER FROM KC. He died in LA in 1985 and I went to his funeral as did several thousand others.

 It came as a huge surprise to recently find several cuts from the album on youtube, though as the poster commented it is very rare and almost impossible to find so rather than my usual post of one cut I’ll post three.

 Here’s Joe Turner, The Boss of the Blues and here he sings Kansas City Jazz.

The personnel are:

 

 

 

 

 

IT TAKES A LOT TO LAUGH, IT TAKES A TRAIN TO CRY. – DYLAN.

Here’s another from my 1960′s vinyl collection, I assume that everyone has  heard this perhaps dozens of time as I have but I wanted a cut that was representative of that period Dylan. Like a Rolling Stone and Desolation Row were both first choices but there are dozens/hundreds more, all wonderful so I poked around with ‘Freewheelin’, ‘ a Changin’, ‘Bringing it all Back Home’ and ultimately I settled on ‘Highway 61 Revisited’. If you were not there you can’t imagine the effect that the release of this album had, it was unlike anything that you see today, the times were indeed a changin’.  It contains so many great songs, all recorded right after the fiasco at the Newport Folk Festival where he ‘went electric’, it contains both of my initial choices, it starts with ‘Stone’ and finishes with ‘Desolation’ but I decided to choose another favorite, “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry”, a real slow country blues that relates directly to the album’s title, Highway 61. That’s the highway that runs from Minnesota to New Orleans running parallel to the Mississippi much of the way; there’s a lot of blues connections on Highway 61, it’s also the route that many black Americans took to escape the poverty of the Delta and how jazz migrated from New Orleans to Chicago. 

 Musically, “It Takes a Lot to Laugh” has a lazy tempo driven by session drummer Bobby Gregg, a barrelhouse piano part played by Paul Griffin, a raunchy bass part played by Harvey Brooks, an electric guitar part played by Mike Bloomfield and a harmonica part by Dylan.

By 1965 Dylan was into his sixth album, a huge archive of great music but here I wanted to select just one cut to epitomize that era, an impossible task: which cut would you have chosen?

 

THE PAUL BUTTERFIELD BLUES BAND, EAST – WEST.

A few years ago I did occasional posts of some of my favorite albums from my vinyl collection, generally they were from the 1960′s/70′s. The advent of so much great music on YouTube prompts me to try again, this time with a single YouTube selection which will hopefully point you towards more offerings at YouTube or to Spottify if you want more. I have several on my desktop so if this works I’ll keep it going with a rather diverse set of selections, all favorites from long ago. 

The first is a showcase for one of my all-time favorite guitarists who sadly didn’t stay very long, another victim of the needle at an early age, his name, Michael Bloomfield, he’s joined by Elvin Bishop and the the album is East West by the Paul Butterfield Blues band. 

The title cut East-West is a remarkable oddity. On the one hand, it was a ’60s pop-music hybrid, combining the disparate musical styles of blues, jazz, modal and Eastern musics in a way that appealed to rock listeners. On the other, it was a virtuoso display that challenged the very notion of “popular” and pushed the limits of how pop music was heard. In some ways it bears comparison to the Miles Davis album, Kinda Blue and Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, both of which challenged standard musical ideas. 

The piece was recorded in the summer of 1966 in Chicago at Chess Studios, the personnel were: 

Paul Butterfield — vocals, harmonicaMike Bloomfield — electric guitarElvin Bishop — electric guitar, Mark Naftalin — piano, organJerome Arnold — bass and Billy Davenport — drums

 Here’s East West, enjoy.

New Vintage Stones

Prompted by Zala’s call for extra special earworms, i figured it might be time to check out the new tunes on the Some Girls re-release. Had no expectations, as i was generally underwhelmed by the bonus tunes on the Exile re-release. Well blow me down, some of the tunes are fucking great. (And seem to lack the tinny sound of the Exile remasters too). Now i can maybe see why they didn’t include these on Some Girls – they didn’t fit with the disco / punk aesthetic the Stones seemed to be shooting for, and maybe they wanted to look forward musically instead of back. But guys, if it ain’t broke, no need to fix it. Lotta baby got tossed out with the bathwater there.

Keep Up Blues, Petrol Blues, and the (Ron Wood penned) When You’re Gone are wonderfully sleazy little blues numbers. Tallahassie Lassie is a Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon cover which trumps the original, imho. And a pair of country covers to round off this little sampler – Hank Williams’ You Win Again, and Waylon Jennings’ We Had It All (sounds like Keith on vocals). Enjoy.

1. Keep Up Blues
2. Tallahassie Lassie
3. Petrol Blues
4. You Win Again
5. When You’re Gone
6. We Had It All

Best Cover Band Ever? (Pt. 2)

Ok, just to get the answer out of the way first – no. Gov’t Mule is not a contender for the best cover band ever. I’d put them in roughly the same category as the Dead (and they do tend to play together, amusingly covering a Metallica tune together, and Sugaree) as cover artists – jam band, excellent covers. But unlike the Ramones, Nirvana, etc – not really definitive or radical re-interpretations that give pause to the originals. (Chris – feel free to disagree and make your case.) Continue reading