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50 Great British Blues Recordings – Part 6

26) Killing Floor – Killing Floor (1970/2007)
Killing Floor’s first LP was a raw, high energy effort, kind of garage band-bluesy in its sound. When I first heard it back in the early 1970s, I didn’t like it. It sounded too raw and unpolished for my young ears. In the passing years, however, it’s grown on me. I really like their version of “Woman You Need Love” (Willie Dixon’s song for Muddy Waters was originally titled “You Need Love”; most folks know it as Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”). I also like “Come Home Baby”, “My Mind Can Ride Easy”, “Keep On Walking” and “Lou’s Blues”.

Keyboardist Lou Martin later joined Rory Gallagher’s back-up band. Guitarist Michael (Mick) Clarke continues to play and record the blues. He has released a slew of solid blues CDs as the Mick Clarke Band.

27) Led Zeppelin – The Complete Studio Recordings (1993)
Blues classics get majestically transformed on vocal and instrumental workouts from Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John “Bonzo” Bonham on nearly every Led Zeppelin LP. Don’t pick up any Led Zeppelin CD issued prior to Jimmy Page’s 1993 remastering.

On Led Zeppelin (1969) the band excels on Willie Dixon’s “You Shook Me” (a Muddy Waters hit) and “I Can’t Quit You Baby” (Otis Rush’s signature blues tune), as well as Howlin’ Wolf’s “No Place to Go” (reworked by Zeppelin as “ “How Many More Times” with a bit of Albert King’s “The Hunter” — written by Booker T & The MGs — thrown in for good measure, along with bits of The Weavers’ “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine”). The musical structure of “How Many More Times” evolved out of the Page-era Yardbirds’ live version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning”.

On Led Zeppelin II (1969) there are more great reworking of blues classics, including “The Lemon Song” (Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor”) and “Whole Lotta Love” (Willie Dixon’s “You Need Love”) and Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Bring It On Home”.

Led Zeppelin III (1970) has the Zep blues original “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and a cover of Lead Belly’s “Gallows Pole”. “Hats Off to Roy Harper” was obviously inspired by Mr. Harper but also includes lyrics from Bukka White’s “Shake ‘Em On Down”. “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” was also recorded by Zeppelin as “Jennings Farm Blues”.

On Led Zeppelin IV they cover Memphis Minnie’s “When the Levee Breaks”. Some of “Black Dog” was inspired by Peter Green’s and Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”.

No blues really on Houses of the Holy (1973) but on Physical Graffiti (1975) they cover Josh White’s “In My Time of Dying” which White originally recorded as “Jesus Gonna Make Up My Dying Bed”, previously recorded by Charlie Patton as “Jesus Is A-Dying Bed Maker”. The song was first released by Blind Willie Johnson as “Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed”. The original recorded (but never released) version was by Reverend J. C. Burnett as “Jesus Is Going to Make Up Your Dying Bed”. Bob Dylan recorded “In My Time of Dyin’” on his first LP (1962). “Boogie With Stu” began as Ritchie Valens’ “Ooh, My Head”. “Custard Pie” has lyrics from “Drop Down Mama” by Sleepy John Estes, “Shake ‘Em on Down” by Bukka White and “I Want Some Of Your Pie” by Blind Boy Fuller. “Trampled Underfoot” was inspired by Robert Johnson’s “Terraplane Blues”. Plant’s original title for “Black Country Woman” was “Never Ending Doubting Woman Blues”.

Presence (1976) contains the slow blues epic “Tea For One” and Blind Willie Johnson’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”. The blues influence in In Through the Out Door (1979) is extremely limited.

The Led Zep grab bag Coda (1982) opens with “We’re Gonna Groove”, a version of Ben E. King’s “Groovin’” (also covered by Manfred Mann). There’s a live version of the Willie Dixon-penned Otis Rush hit “I Can’t Quit You Baby” on Coda as well.

A final reminder: don’t pick up any Led Zep CD issued prior to Jimmy Page’s 1993 remastering.

28) Love Sculpture – Blues Helping (1968/1991)
The first Love Sculpture LP showcased classic blues tracks as played by Dave Edmunds and friends. Their take on Freddie King’s “The Stumble” and Willie Dixon’s hit for Koko Taylor, “Wang Dang Doodle”, are highlights.

The Early Edmunds (front cover)

The Early Edmunds (1991) is a 2-disc 40-track set that contains all of Dave’s 1967–1971 recordings, including his two Love Sculpture LPs, his first solo album and several rare singles. Other recommended blues cuts: Slim Harpo‘s “Shake Your Hips”, Edmunds’ “Blues Helping”, Lazy Lester‘s “(I Am) A Lover Not a Fighter” and Bob Dylan’s “Outlaw Blues”.

29) Manfred Man – Down The Road Apiece – Their EMI Recordings 1963–1966 (2007)
This 4-CD set includes all the cuts from their earthy 1964 blues masterpiece, The Five Faces of Manfred Mann (which is also available by itself on CD).

If you just want their first album, the Japanese version of Five Faces is best, as it has all of the American and UK tracks of the LP in mono and stereo, plus bonus tracks for a total of 27 songs on one great CD. I consider this one of the greatest British blues LPs ever recorded. Their version of “Smokestack Lightning” is my favorite version of that Howlin’ Wolf song. Other standouts from Five Faces include “Down the Road Apiece” (a hit for both the Will Bradley Trio and Amos Milburn), Muddy Waters‘ “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man” and “I’ve Got My Mojo Working”, Bo Diddley‘s “Bring It to Jerome”, Paul Jones‘ “Don’t Ask Me What I Say” and the band composition “What You Gonna Do”.

The band cut way back on their blues numbers after that first LP but don’t miss their versions of Bobby Parker‘s “Watch Your Step”, T-Bone Walker‘s “Stormy Monday Blues” and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins‘ “I Put a Spell on You” from their later LPs.

30) Steve Marriott & The DTs – Sing The Blues Live (2000)
This late career live recording by Steve Marriott is a decent representation of his pub rocking blues band days near the end of his life. Besides his raw, unmistakable (and, by now, fried; his high range burnt out from decades of pushing himself to the limit. “All or Nothing”, indeed!) vocals, savor his crisp, crunchy and spare-but-powerful Steve Cropper-ish guitar work. Stevie excels on Bobby Parker‘s “Watch Your Step”, “My Baby” (Little Walter‘s “My Babe”), “Take a Look at Yourself” (Bo Diddley‘s “Before You Accuse Me”), Rufus Thomas‘ “Walking the Dog” and Eddie Boyd‘s “Five Long Years”.

If you don’t mind hearing more rock than blues, pick up Steve Marriott – Dingwalls 6.7.84. It’s an outstanding Packet of Three set with much better recording and performances from around the same time. If you’re like me, you’ll love the entire CD. The blues tracks here are “Five Long Years”, the Ashford-Simpson-penned Ray Charles song “I Don’t Need No Doctor” and “Walkin’ the Dog” but Stevie’s rockers are great as well.

I highly recommend Stevie’s live DVD Steve Marriott Live (2001; a.k.a. Steve Marriott Live From London). It’s the same show (and interview) that’s on the legitimate Japanese laser disc release Steve Marriott – Tin Soldier Live at London.

More to Come — Keep On Bluesin’!

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