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50 Great British Blues Recordings – Part 4

16) Long John Baldry – John Baldry Boogie Woogie – The Warner Bros. Recordings (1971-1972/2005)
This fantastic 2-CD set includes both of Long John Baldry’s LPs for Warner Bros, supplemented by 10 bonus tracks and 3 radio spots. Rod Stewart and Elton John each produced a side per album, calling in a great group of musicians to make these two sets of sessions truly remarkable. The best blues tracks IMHO are “Black Girl”, “I’m Ready”, “Going Down Slow”, “Love in Vain”, “Midnight Hour Blues”, “Seventh Son” and “You Can’t Judge a Book”.

17) Arthur Brown with Jimmy Carl Black – Brown, Black & Blue (1988/1991)
This is a wonderful straight-ahead blues and R&B set from Arthur Brown (the God of Hellfire) backed by (ex-Mothers of Invention) Jimmy Carl Black (“the Indian of the group”) on drums and a passel of damn good Austin, Texas musicians. There’s nary a bum track on the set. The blues tracks include “”Got My Mojo Working”, “Smokestack Lightnin’” and “Help Me”. I just wish it also included Arthur’s phenomenal take on “I Put a Spell on You”.

For that, you’ll have to pick up The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (1968/2010).

You can find earlier CD versions of the album but the 2010 deluxe 2-CD edition expands the original LP with 12 bonus tracks and an audio interview.

18) The John Dummer Blues Band – Cabal (1969/2003)
The first John Dummer Blues Band LP captures them when they not only had T.S. McPhee, Dave Kelly and ex-Savoy Brown John O’Leary in the group but Bob Hall (piano) and the great Jo Ann Kelly (vocals) helping out as well. Top tracks: “I Need Love”, “Just a Feeling”, “No Chance With You”, “Low Down Santa Fe”, “Welfare Blues” and “After Hours”. The CD includes both sides of their first single as bonus tracks

19) Foghat – Anthology (2000)
This collection combines their first (and bluesiest) LP, Foghat (1972), with their greatest rock hits (and a few blues cuts) from the 1970s.

Standout tracks include their killer version of “Just Want to Make Love to You”, plus “Maybelline”, “Drivin’ Wheel”, “Honey Hush”, “My Babe” and “Highway (Killing Me)”.

Five albums are available on Foghat: Original Album Series, which collects Foghat (1972), Energized (1974), Fool for the City (1975), Foghat Live (1977) and Tight Shoes (1980) into a 5-CD box set.

If you just want blues, there’s Covered by Foghat, a decent 2006 compilation of 11 blues numbers from their back catalogue.

20) The Groundhogs – Thank Christ for the Groundhogs: The Liberty Years 1968–1972 (2010)
This was a tough one: Choose the earlier box set with more blues or the later set with much better sound? I went for the early set because it also shows The Groundhogs’ transformation from classic blues to progressive blues to progressive rock. The ’68-‘72 3-CD box set collects the first five albums — with bonus tracks — by Tony McPhee and the Groundhogs at a great price. There’s something dark and musty about this compelling British blues band. Best tracks: “Rocking Chair”, “Early in the Morning”, “No More Doggin’”, “Still a Fool” and “B.D.D.”.

Unfortunately, one of my favorite Groundhogs LPs, Solid (1974/1993), isn’t on this set (but is available on CD).

That, and McPhee’s solo CD The Two Sides of Tony (T.S.) McPhee, recorded around the same time, make a great set.

There’s also the later 3-CD set: The Groundhogs: The United Artists Years (1972-1976), containing four of their LPs (three studio LPs, including Hogwash, one of their best, and their BBC In Concert double LP) and one bonus track.

The band eventually circled back to the blues but not before they recorded a series of wild and aggressive Piedmont-drone-blues-in-outer-space type songs. Favorite tracks: “I Love Miss Ogyny”, “3744 James Road”, “”Mr. Hooker, Sir John”, “Crosscut Saw” and “Mean Mistreater”.

The BGO CDs of Hogwash (1972/1991) and Scratching the Surface (1968/1990) have four great classic blues bonus tracks each and are well worth picking up.

Keep on Bluesin’!

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50 GREAT BRITISH BLUES RECORDINGS – Part 3

11) The Spencer Davis Group – Eight Gigs a Week – The Steve Winwood Years
(1996)
This 2-CD set collects nearly everything the Steve Winwood-era (1964-1967) Spencer Davis Group ever recorded. It’s not all blues — there’s plenty of R&B and some pop as well — but nearly everything Stevie &company recorded was choice. Best blues tracks: “Dimples”, “Here Right Now”, “Midnight Train”, ”I’ll Drown in My Own Tears”, “This Hammer”, “Let Me Down Easy”, “Watch Your Step”, ”Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”, “Stevie’s Blues” and “Goodbye Stevie”. Best non-blues tracks: “I Can’t Stand It”, “Look Away”, “Keep On Running”, “Somebody Help Me”, “Gimme Some Lovin’”, “I’m a Man” and “I Can’t Get Enough of It”.

12) Fleetwood Mac – The Complete Blue Horizons Sessions 1967–1969 (1999)
6 CDs collect all of Fleetwood Mac’s Blue Horizon label recordings (released and unreleased) and outtakes, including their double CD set recorded with blues legends from Chicago for a whopping total of 99 tracks. That’s a lot of great Peter Green recordings for what was once a bargain price (the original release price was an amazing $20; it’s probably much higher now). Best tracks include “Need Your Love So Bad”, “Albatross”, “Black Magic Woman”, “Homework”, “Drifting”, “One Sunny Day”, “Without You”, “Stop Messin’ Round”, “Trying So Hard to Forget”, “Long Grey Mare”, “Shake Your Moneymaker” and “I Loved Another Woman”.

In 1991 Castle Communications put out The Original Fleetwood Mac – The Blues Years, a 3-CD, 50 track box set, a great collection of early Fleetwood Mac that also includes a few related tracks like Christine Perfect’s (McVie’s) version of “I’d Rather Go Blind” backed by Chicken Shack.

13) Fleetwood Mac – Then Play On (1969/2013)

A masterpiece (every track is great) of progressive blues, the 2013 deluxe expanded edition contains all the tracks from both the UK and American versions of the album, plus a single released at the time. The cream of the cream: “Show-Biz Blues”, “One Sunny Day”, “Rattlesnake Shake”, “Oh Well”, “Before the Beginning” and “The Green Manalishi (with the Two Prong Crown)”, plus some of the most inspired blues jamming ever recorded on “Fighting for Madge” and “Searching for Madge”. British blues doesn’t get better than this. Strange cover, though, for a blues album.

14) Free – Tons of Sobs (1968/2001)
Although their second LP, Free (1969), is my favorite album by Free, their first, Tons of Sobs is the most bluesy. The 2001 CD was expanded with 8 bonus tracks. Sit back and enjoy “Over the Green Hills”, “I’m a Mover”, “Goin’ Down Slow”, “The Hunter”, “Walk in My Shadow”, “Waitin’ On You” and “Moonshine”.

15) Rory Gallagher – Collection (2012)
This 2-disc CD boasts the best cuts from 15 Rory Gallagher albums. The live CD Irish Tour is a good sample of Rory as well, and perhaps an even better introduction to his music. Recommended: “Laundromat”, “Who’s That Coming”, “In Your Town”, “Cradle Rock”, “Walk on Hot Coals”, “I Could’ve Had Religion” and “Bullfrog Blues”. The live versions are generally better than their studio counterparts (not so with Taste).

Try to find an old 2-CD version of Irish Tour.., as it seems to be the only version with all 11 tracks (the others leave off either “Just A Little Bit” or “Maritime”).

The Best of Taste featuring Rory Gallagher (1994) is an excellent collection of his early recordings. Try “Railway and Gun”, “Leaving Blues”, “Same Old Story” and “Catfish”. It’s a shame that “Eat My Words” and “Morning Sun” weren’t included.

More Soon…

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50 GREAT BRITISH BLUES RECORDINGS – Part 2

6) Eric Clapton – Sessions for Robert J (2004)
Eric Clapton’s second tribute to Robert Johnson is vastly superior to his first one, Me and Mr. Johnson (also from 2004) — and it comes with a DVD. I think Eric’s best here are “Milkcow Calf’s Blues”, “If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day” and “Stop Breakin’ Down Blues”.

7) Climax Chicago Blues Band – A Lot of Bottle (1970/2013)
The Climax Chicago Blues Band’s third LP was a solid return to their blues roots, recorded years prior to their breakthrough mainstream hit (as the Climax Blues Band), “Couldn’t Get It Right”. The 2013 CD adds 4 appropriate cuts to the original album. Check out “Country Hat”, “Every Day”, “Brief Case”, “Alright Blue?” and “Seventh Son”.

8) (This should be an “8“; I don’t know how to disable these damn emoticons) Kevin Coyne – Dandelion Years 1969–1972 (2007)
This box set collects Kevin Coyne’s two Siren LPs and one solo LP (plus 5 bonus tracks) by this unique, eccentric blues artist:

Siren (1969)…

Strange Locomotion (1971)…

…and Case History (1972). In some ways Coyne became a kind of Captain Beefheart of the UK. Try “Get Right Church”, “Rock Me Baby”, “Wasting My Time”, “Some Dark Day”, “Lonesome Ride”, “Evil Island Home” and “Araby”.

9) Cream – Disraeli Gears (1967/2004)
A progressive blues classic, the 2004 Deluxe Edition is a 2-CD set with 30 tracks. My favorite blues tracks: “Strange Brew”, “Sunshine of Your Love”, ”Outside Woman Blues” and “We’re Going Wrong”.

10) Cream – Fresh Cream (1966/1976)
Cream’s first LP is nearly all blues. The mono version is far superior to the stereo mix (especially “I Feel Free”). The 1976 13-track Polygram (mono) CD includes all the tracks from both the UK and American versions of the LP. Best track: “I Feel Free”. Best blues tracks: “Sleepy Time Time”, “Spoonful”, “Cat’s Squirrel”, “Four Until Late”, “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” and “I’m So Glad”.

More To Come…

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50 GREAT BRITISH BLUES RECORDINGS – Part One

50 GREAT BRITISH BLUES RECORDINGS – Part One

I am hard at work on my sequel to Legends of the Blues (available signed on this webite and unsigned at Amazon and bookstores everywhere. HEY! The holidays are coming! Legends of the Blues is the perfect gift for your blues-loving spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, musician friend, parent, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, niece or nephew! Until Christmas, all orders from this site will go out within 24 hours of ordering), Legends of the British Blues. I am getting close to completion on this second massive labor of love. It was the Brits who turned me on to the blues. Please allow me to turn you on to some of my favorite music of theirs.

The original release year is listed first; the preferred CD version’s year is listed second.

1) The Animals – Animalism & Bonus Hits (1966/1995)
Released only in the U. S., Animalism maintains the most consistent mood and quality of any Animals record. Eric Burdon‘s vocals here are some of his best. The track “All Night Long” was produced by Frank Zappa and features members of the Mothers of Invention. My favorite cuts are “Hey Gyp” (great drumming from the Nashville TeensBarry Jenkins), “Hit the Road, Jack”, “Smokestack Lightning” and “Shake”. The 1995 CD includes 12 bonus tracks (a few hits and BBC recordings). If you can’t locate a copy of this particular CD, here’s another slightly shorter edition:

It has the cover of the original LP and has 8 bonus tracks.

2) Jeff Beck – Truth (1968/2005)
Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart (Ron Wood plays bass; Micky Waller is on drums) were at their rawest and bluesiest on Jeff’s first solo LP. Try to find the 2005 expanded 18 track version. My favorite songs include their reworking of The Yardbirds“Shapes of Things”, “Let Me Love You”, “Morning Dew”, “You Shook Me” (this pre-dates Led Zeppelin‘s version), “Rock My Plimsoul” (“Rock Me Baby” by any other band), Howlin’ Wolf’s “I Ain’t Superstitious” and “Beck’s Bolero” (featuring Jeff, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Nicky Hopkins and Keith Moon — “Whoa!” as Keanu would say).

3) Blodwyn Pig – Ahead Rings Out (1969/2006)
Ace blues guitarist Mick Abrahams, fresh from Jethro Tull, created one of the finest British blues albums ever recorded. The 16-track 2006 CD includes all of the songs on both the UK and American versions of the LP, plus bonus single sides as well. Mick’s superb songwriting, guitar and vocals come to the fore on just about every track, but especially on the bolero “See My Way”, “It’s Only Love” and “The Change Song”.

4) The Blues Band – The Blues Band Box (2005)
This 4-CD set provides a good intro to Paul Jones (Manfred Mann, Eric Clapton & The Powerhouse) and his fellow blues legends, Tom McGuinness (Manfred Mann, McGuinness Flint), Dave Kelly (John Dummer Blues Band, Tramp), Gary Fletcher (Wild Turkey), Rob Townsend (Family, Medicine Head) and Hughie Flint (John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, McGuinness Flint). This box set covers their 1979-2002 output. My favorite tracks include “Two Bones and a Pick”, “Maggie’s Farm” — and just about anything else sung by Jones.

If you want just one CD, then go for their first: The Official Blues Band Bootleg Album (1980; pictured above). Best tracks: “Flatfoot Sam”, “Two Bones and a Pick” and “Diddy Wah Diddy”.

5) Chicken Shack – The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions (1967-1970/2005) is a 2005 3-disc set that collects their first four LPs, plus related 1967-1970 recordings. The humorously charismatic leader of the band, Stan Webb (a kind of an English Elvin Bishop), was the group’s singer and lead guitarist. The band’s other singer, keyboard player Christine Perfect, became much better known after she married John McVie, joined Fleetwood Mac and took on John’s last name as Christine McVie.

More to Come, Blues Fans…

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The TARMAN is BACK!

I am very happy to report that I just got a huge new shipment of my TarMan action figures from AmokTime. They are back in stock now and available on this website’s Store/Bazaar page.

Different packaging from the original edition but the same sculpture, paint job and sculpted details (like the bitten brain and TarMan-in-his-cannister). The first edition of this figure sold out within weeks. Get yours NOW!

Only $25 plus shipping — and it’s SIGNED! Halloween and Christmas are coming! Now’s your chance! Shop early!

Note: If you tried to order this and weren’t successful, please try again. I forgot to change the “Quantity” available. It’s fixed now.

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World Boogie Is Coming!

I can’t let another day go by without singing the praises of the new CD by the North Mississippi Allstars, World Boogie Is Coming.

I think it’s their best recording yet; it pushes all of my blues buttons. The music is a terrific, creative combination of the old and new. The North Mississippi Allstars are primarily the brain child of the Dickinson brothers, Luther and Cody. They produced the CD and invited all the guest performers.

And their guest performers are extraordinary.

Robert Plant‘s harmonica wails on the opening tracks, “JR” and “Goat Meat”. Big heaps of sludgy fuzz bass guitar and a booming bass drum form the foundation for their version of “Rollin ‘n Tumblin”. Junior Parker‘s “Feelin’ Good” gets re-energized here as “Boogie”. A dirty, grungy slide snakes through “Shimmy”.

Fife and drums blues (a form of proto-blues dating back to the Civil War) master Otha Turner shows up on “That Dog After That Rabbit”, “Shimmy” and “Granny, Does Your Dog Bite”, as well as popping up here and there on other tracks. Alvin Youngblood Hart adds to the fun. The old Willie Dixon blues chestnut “My Babe” gets a fantastic and surprising reworking.

The NMA also cover songs by RL Burnside (with Burnside samples), Junior Kimbrough, Bukka White, Sleepy John Estes and Furry Lewis.

They all blend well with the inspired NMA originals.

There are 17 tracks in all, plus a download card that lets you access five bonus tracks (including a cover of Mississippi Fred McDowell‘s “Crazy Bout You”) and an assortment of fine videos.

My only complaint is that I wish there were detailed personnel listing for all the songs in the illustrated liner notes. Who plays that great funky snare drum shuffle throughout the record?

In my humble opinion (oh, hell — my opinion is rarely humble!), this is the NMA’s Revolver. Can their blues equivalent of a Sgt. Pepper be far behind?

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Great Time at GrandCon!

I just had the best time at GrandCon in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was hard to believe it was their first show, it was so well organized. It was devoted to comics and gaming (primarily gaming) and the attendance exceeded all expectations.

I got to hang out with my pal, the talented and jovial Mark Nelson and great fans from around the area like Matt Mulford.
Thanks, Mark and Brian for a wonderful show! See you next year!

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Record Collector #418

Heads up! The current issue of the great UK magazine Record Collector (#418; September 2013) has a beautifully well-illustrated four page full color article on Yours Truly and my bootleg days (or should that be “daze”…?). There is also a four star review of my book Legends of the Blues.

The feedback I’ve been getting on my blues book has been running like this:

“I initially bought the book for the pictures, Bill — but I fell in love with it because of the stories.”

Thanks, everyone, for making Legends of the Blues #10 on the Indy Books bestseller list!