Damn Right, Buddy Guy Still Got The Blues

81-year-old Chicago blues legend shined at New York’s B.B. King Blues Club & Grill

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Boy, had I been full of anticipation of this show, and Wednesday night it finally happened – Buddy Guy at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in the heart of New York City. It was just as amazing if not even better as the first time I had seen the Chicago blues legend at New Jersey’s PNC Bank Arts Center in July 2016. Undoubtedly, one factor was the more intimate club setting where I was seated much closer to the stage. And then, of course, there was the man himself, who at age 81 still delivers the blues with a Jimi Hendrix-like intensity.

From the very beginning with the excellent opener Damn Right, I Got The Blues, Guy left no doubt why he had come to the Big Apple. As I usually do, I didn’t take any videos with my smart phone. Instead, I’m relying on YouTube clips to recreate some of the show’s highlights with the caveat that the footage was captured at different gigs. Written by Guy, Damn Right, I Got The Blues is the title track of his seventh studio album from 1991. Here’s a nice clip of the blues rocker from 2016.

Guy followed up his set’s fiery start with a 12-minute-plus version of the classic I’m A Hoochie Coochie Man combined with She’s Nineteen Years Old. Both tunes were recorded by Muddy Waters, who became a major influence on Guy after he had moved from his native Louisiana to the windy city of Chicago in 1957. The following clip from a concert earlier this month nicely illustrates the onstage persona of Guy who likes to tease his audience by cursing like a sailor. It also showcases his killer piano player Marty Sammon.

Another highlight of the set was Five Long Years, which Guy also recorded for his Damn Right, I Got The Blues album. The tune was written and first recorded by blues pianist Eddie Boyd, who scored a no. 1 hit with it on the Billboard R&B Chart in 1952. Guy’s rendition featured more hilarious cursing and a crazy solo by his guitarist Ric Jaz Hall, who mostly played rhythm but proved he can shred as well, if given the opportunity. The following clip from July 2017 nicely illustrates all of that. Check out Hall’s solo starting at about 2:25 minutes into the tune.

Yet another great moment occurred when Guy performed Skin Deep, the title track of his 14th studio album from 2008. He was joined on stage by his long-time producer Tom Hambridge who co-wrote the beautiful ballad with Guy and Gary Nicholson. I just loved Guy’s soulful singing in that tune.

Apart from singing and playing great blues tracks like the above, Guy also credited white British blues artists, especially his friend Eric Clapton, with introducing black blues artists to broader, white audiences. He also threw in a bit of Hendrix. Here’s a cool clip of a medley including Voodoo Chile and Cream’s Sunshine Of Your Love.

A few words about Guy’s excellent backing musicians, The Damn Right Blues Band. In addition to Sammon and Hall, the members include Orlando Wright (bass) and Tim Awesome Austin (drums). All of these artists are veterans of the Chicago blues scene and have been touring with Guy for more than a decade.

Also, the show had an excellent opening act, The Ben Miller Band. I had never heard of these guys before, who have been around since 2005. They play a dynamite mix of blues, country and bluegrass, using homemade instruments and other unusual equipment. Among others, this includes a one-string washtub bass played by Scott Leeper who is also the band’s drummer. In addition to a standard microphone, lead vocalist and guitarist Ben Miller uses a microphone from an old telephone that creates a unique distorted sound. Rachel Ammons (violin, cello, guitar) and Bob Lewis (bass, guitar, percussion) are also part of the current line-up.

I was very intrigued by this band and plan to check them out more closely. One of the tunes they played last night was a cool cover of Black Betty. Probably the best known version of this traditional African-American work song was released in 1977 by American one-hit rock band Ram Jam.

Finally, this post wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging the sad fact that Wednesday night’s concert was one of the final shows at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill. After 18 years, the place is closing down at the end of the month. Guy will return to headline the final show on April 29. A note “To Our Valued Patrons” stated, “As a result of escalating rent, we are being forced to close our doors at the end of April” – what a shame! It was added the club is in the process to select a new location in Manhattan, so at least there appears to be a silver lining here.

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube

Jimi Hendrix’s “Both Sides Of The Sky” Is Fully Released

Last album in trilogy of posthumous records

While I’m not a Jimi Hendrix expert, I don’t detect any no new revelations on Both Sides Of The Sky. In fact, if anything, I’d say it pretty much reflects what I’ve heard from Hendrix before. And that’s quite alright with me. After all, we’re talking about possibly the best rock guitarist who has ever walked the planet. So more of the same really means more of the same brilliance. In my book that’s not a reason to complain. Plus, I have to say, this album also provides a nice occasion to rediscover Hendrix.

The record, which was fully released yesterday (March 9), is the third in a trilogy of posthumous albums after Valleys Of Neptune (2010) and People, Hell and Angels (2013). It captures studio recordings Hendrix made between 1968 and 1970. All three albums were co-produced by Eddie Kramer, Hendrix’s go-to recording engineer for all records that appeared during his lifetime. The full release was preceded by three upfront singles: The Muddy Waters tune Mannish Boy, as well as the Hendrix compositions Hear My Train A Comin’ and Lover Man, which I covered in previous posts.

Here are clips of Mannish Boy, a nice take of the Waters classic, and Lover Man, which Hendrix modeled after B.B. King’s Rock Me Baby.

“He used the studio as a rehearsal place,” Kramer told NPR, commenting on the transitional period for Hendrix this collection from the vault captures. These recordings happened shortly after the final album by The Jimi Hendrix Experience Electric Ladyland had appeared and before he would record his last and only album with Band Of Gypsies at Fillmore East in January 1970. “Thank goodness that was happening because the tape was running, and he would bring in different musicians to try to figure out what he was gonna do with his musical direction.”

These different artists included Stephen Stills, Johnny Winter and saxophonist Lonnie Youngblood, who appear on different tracks of the album. The collaborations with Stills include his original tune $20 Fine and a great pre-Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young  recording of Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock. Winter joins Hendrix on Things I Used To Do, a great electric slide guitar blues. Youngblood provides strong vocals and a killer saxophone solo on Georgia Blues. On that tune, I also dig what sounds like a Hammond in the background – no idea who was playing it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find YouTube clips for any of these tunes, but the entire album is still available for free streaming on NPR here. It’s also on regular streaming platforms, including Apple Music/iTunes and Spotify.

Eddie Kramer

“Sometimes, a song would take him nine months to bring to completion, and a lot of these songs are that,” Kramer explained during the above NPR interview. “They are the takes prior to it being completed, which makes them very exciting.” The NPR segment further reported that according to Kramer, the Hendrix vault has pretty much been exhausted when it comes to unreleased studio recordings but still includes plenty of additional live material. Some 47 years after Hendrix’s death, one does indeed wonder how much unreleased material could possibly be left.

Asked whether working on Hendrix music is still meaningful to him, Kramer said, “Oh my goodness, yes, I love working on this stuff. I get so excited just putting the tapes up and hearing his voice. I wanna keep doing Jimi Hendrix for the rest of time.”

Sources: Wikipedia, NPR, YouTube

New Jimi Hendrix Album Exclusively Available At NPR For Streaming

Earlier this evening, I saw on Facebook that Both Sides Of The Sky, the forthcoming posthumous album by Jimi Hendrix, is now available exclusively at NPR for streaming. I’m currently listening to the collection of tracks recorded in 1968 and 1969, and definitely like what I’m hearing. The first three tunes, Mannish Boy, Lover Man and Hear My Train A Coming, already were officially released over the past six weeks. I previously wrote about them here, here and here.

Based on what I’ve heard so far, I think the lead to NPR’s accompanying review hits the nail on the head: “At this point, some 47 years after Jimi Hendrix’s death, it’s probably unrealistic to expect that a set of deep-vault studio tracks can expand the guitarist’s legacy in any meaningful way. This no doubt dismays the Hendrix obsessives, who pine for the long-whispered-about radical experiments they believe Hendrix squirreled away in some Electric Ladyland broom closet. For the rest of us, the arrival of any sort of Hendrix material, especially if it’s captured in the studio, is a chance to be awed, all over again and in surprising ways, by this human’s freakish powers of musical persuasion.”

Thus far, my favorite tunes include Mannish Boy, $20 Fine (a Stephen Stills tune with him on vocals), Things I Used To Do (nice slide guitar shredder with Johnny Winter), Georgia Blues (slow blues featuring Lonnie Youngblood on saxophone) and the Joni Mitchell classic Woodstock, another song featuring Stills. While the last track is “missing” the magic vocal harmonies of Crosby, Still, Nash & Young, I still dig this version, which features Hendrix jamming on bass and superb organ work.

Both Sides Of The Sky is set for release on March 9.

Sources: Tom Moon, NPR: First Listen: Jimi Hendrix, ‘Both Sides Of The Sky’

Clips & Pix: Jimi Hendrix/Lover Man

This previously unreleased version of Lover Man by Jimi Hendrix is the third track from his upcoming posthumous album Both Sides Of The Sky, scheduled for release on March 9. According to Ultimate Classic Rock, Hendrix recorded this take of the blues rock tune in December 1969 with future Band Of Gypsys members Billy Cox (bass) and Buddy Miles (drums). This was less than a month before that band recorded their eponymous debut album, the last Hendrix studio record that appeared prior his death.

Written by Hendrix, Lover Man was modeled after Rock Me Baby by BB King, per Songfacts. Other versions of the tune can be heard on Valleys Of Neptune, a 2010 posthumous Hendrix album, the second of the trilogy that is concluded with Both Sides Of The Sky, as well as Isle Of Wright, a posthumous live album from 1971.

“Jimi loved the blues,” Eddie Kramer told Ultimate Classic Rock recently. “So did Billy, so did Buddy,” added Kramer, Hendrix’s recording engineer on all of his albums recorded during his lifetime and co-producer of the upcoming record. “Billy was always this wonderful counterpart. He did these fantastic runs, these lovely loping figures. Jimi was so happy to have that bouncy feeling beneath what he was doing. And you can’t have a record like this without the famous cement mixer. That’s what Mitch Mitchell used to say about Buddy — ‘He’s a bit of a cement mixer.’ No kidding. I mean, he was just the most amazing funk/R&B drummer, and I just love the way that Jimi’s solo just rips into that far-out distortion. It just shreds. I mean, that’s the ultimate shred solo.”

Sources: Ultimate Classic Rock, Songfacts, YouTube

Clips & Pix: Jimi Hendrix/Hear My Train A Coming

The above clip is the second tune released yesterday (February 15) in advance of Both Sides Of The Sky, a posthumous album by Jimi Hendrix, set to come out March 9. Written by Hendrix and first recorded in London in 1967, Hear My Train A Coming became a staple during Hendrix live shows but didn’t appear on any of his albums until now.

According to a USA Today story, this version of the blues shredder was recorded in New York in April 1969 and was partially inspired by Muddy Waters, one Hendrix’s influences. It is one of the last songs recorded by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, which in addition to Hendrix included bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Michell.

“I love the feeling of being life in the studio ,” commented Eddie Kramer, recording engineer for every Hendrix album during the guitarist’s life, during a video interview posted on the official Hendrix Facebook page. “This is an absolutely right-on performance from Jimi,” added Kramer who co-produced the record with John McDermott and Jimi’s sister and Janie Hendrix, head of the Hendrix estate. See clip below for entire interview.

While this new tune is cool, I think I prefer the previous upfront release of Mannish Boy. The forthcoming record also features various collaborations that sound intriguing, including with Stephen Stills on the Joni Mitchell tune Woodstock, and Johnny Winter on Things I Used to Do, a blues track written and released by New Orleans blues guitarist Guitar Slim in 1953.

Sources: Wikipedia, USA Today, Jimi Hendrix Facebook page, Rolling Stone, YouTube

Clips & Pix: Jimi Hendrix/Mannish Boy

The above version of Mannish Boy is from an upcoming Jimi Hendrix album called Both Sides Of The Sky, which will appear on March 9. I love the uptempo and funky take of the blues classic credited to Muddy Waters, Mel London and Bo Diddley.

The cool thing is Both Sides Of The Sky is not some ordinary sampler but a compilation of previously unreleased material from Hendrix’s vaults. According to a Rolling Stone story, since the mid-nineties, Hendrix’s key recording engineer Eddie Kramer has worked with the guitar wizard’s estate to unearth previously unreleased tracks.

In addition to Mannish Boy, the 13 studio tracks Hendrix recorded between 1968 and 1970 include intriguing collaborations with Johnny Winter, Stephen Stills and Lonnie Youngblood. This album is the third and last in a trilogy of such unearthed gems. The previous two are Valleys Of Neptune (2010) and People, Hell and Angeles (2013).

Based on how great Mannish Boy sounds, it appears Kramer who was a recording engineer for every Jimi Hendrix album during the guitarist’s lifetime did an outstanding job. He co-produced the new record with John McDermott and Janie Hendrix, Jimi’s sister who also heads Experience Hendrix, the company that manages the estate. Looking forward to that one!

Sources: Rolling Stone, Jimi Hendrix website, YouTube

Chuck Berry Classics Performed By Other Artists

A list of covers from AC/DC to The Yardbirds

A few days ago, I coincidentally came across a previously created iTunes playlist I had completely forgotten about: Covers of Chuck Berry classics performed by other music artists. I thought it would be fun to develop a post around this theme.

While no one artist can claim they created an entire genre of music, there is a reason why Berry was known as Mr. Rock & Roll. In any case, the number of other artists who covered his tunes sure as heck is impressive.

Maybelline/Foghat

English blues and boogie rock band Foghat included a killer version of Maybelline on their 1972 eponymous album. The tune was written and recorded by Berry in 1955, and first released as a single in July that year. It also appeared on his 1959 iconic third study album Berry Is On Top, which also included many of his other major hits. Here’s a great clip of the tune from a Foghead live performance.

School Days/AC/DC

AC/DC recorded a cool cover of School Days for their second Australian studio album T.N.T., which appeared in December 1975. Originally, Berry released the song as a single in March 1957, two months ahead of his debut studio album After School Session.

Too Much Monkey Business/The Yardbirds

Too Much Monkey Business is the first track on Five Live Yardbirds, the band’s terrific debut live album from 1964. Berry released the song as his fifth single in September 1956. It was also included on the After School Session album.

Sweet Little Sixteen/John Lennon

John Lennon recorded a nice Memphis soul-style cover of Sweet Little Sixteen for Rock ‘n’ Roll, his sixth studio album from 1975. Berry released the track as a single in January 1958. It was also included on his second studio album One Dozen Berries, which appeared in March 1958.

Rock & Roll Music/The Beatles

Rock & Roll Music is among my favorite rock & roll covers from The Beatles. They included it on their 1964 fourth studio album Beatles For Sale. Berry initially released the tune as a single in September 1957. It also appeared on the One Dozen Berrys studio album. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a clip of the Beatles’ studio version, so here is a live performance captured from a 1965 performance in Paris.

Carol/The Rolling Stones

I’ve always loved the cover of the song The Rolling Stones recorded. Initially, they included it on their 1964 eponymous debut album, but my favorite version appeared on the fantastic 1970 live record Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out. First released in 1958 as a single, Carol is also one of the gems from Chuck Berry Is On Top. Here’s a great clip of the Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out version.

Johnny B. Goode/Jimi Hendrix

If I only had one classic rock & roll tune to choose, it would be Berry’s 1958 gem Johnny B. Goode, which first appeared as a single in March that year and is yet another highlight from Chuck Berry Is On Top. Who could possibly do a better cover of it than Jimi Hendrix? Here is a great clip of Hendrix absolutely killing it live – not sure whether it is the same performance that was also captured on Hendrix in the West, a 1972 posthumous live album.

Little Queenie/The Kentucky Headhunters with Johnnie Johnson

Frankly, I do not quite remember how I came across this cover of Little Queenie when I put together the above iTunes playlist, but I find it pretty awesome. It’s performed by country and southern rock band The Kentucky Headhunters featuring Johnnie Johnson, a jazz, blues and rock & roll pianist, and was included on a 2015 release titled Meet Me In Bluesland. Originally, Berry released Little Queenie as a single in 1959, another tune from Chuck Berry Is On Top.

Roll Over Beethoven/Electric Light Orchestra

It’s safe to say this is one of the most unique covers of the track performed by Electric Light Orchestra. Blending elements of classical music with rock & roll and other styles of rock, ELO is one of the weirdest ’70s bands, in my opinion. While most of their productions were bombastic and completely over the top, I still have to admit there is something intriguing about their music. Their 8-minute-plus cover of Roll Over Beethoven was included on their eponymous second studio album, which was released in 1972. Berry first recorded the tune as a single in May 1956. It also appeared on Chuck Berry Is On Top. The following clip is an abbreviated live version of the song, captured from a 1973 performance on The Midnight Special, an American late-night music variety show that aired during the 1970’s and early ’80s.

Memphis/The Hollies

This cover from The Hollies was included on the band’s debut album Stay With The Hollies, which appeared in the U.K. in January 1964. The track was also included on the U.S. version of the album titled Here I Go Again, released in June that year. Berry first recorded Memphis as a single in 1959.

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube