Thursday, October 29, 2009

Robert Jr. Lockwood & Johnny Shines - "Mister Blues Is Back To Stay" - 1981

This is the second of the two LPs Johnny and Robert did for Rounder in the early 80s - the first being "Hangin' On," previously posted here. This record is a bit more of a mixed bag for me. For one thing, it was Johnny's first post-stroke record, so his vocal power is somewhat diminished, and there is none of his guitar. Plus, there are some dated elements for sure. The cheesy flange effects on Lockwood's guitar come to mind, as well as - I gotta admit it - Johnny's "Soul Power."

However, there are also some really good tunes here. Although the stroke robbed Johnny's voice of some of its nuance and flexibility, he is still a great singer, even with a hobbled instrument. Ten years later he would make the brilliant "Back To The Country" with a voice even more weary and enfeebled than it is here, and it would feature some of the most riveting vocal performances of his career. Personally, I'm convinced that Johnny could have made great music with sign language. And Lockwood - though I'm not always a fan of his psuedo jazz/funk noodling - has a couple of nice moments as well. All in all, not a masterpiece, but it didn't deserve to go out of print, either.

1. For You My Love
2. My Bad Luck Soul
3. Party Time
4. I Want You To Know
5. Rockin' Free
6. Mister Blues
7. Soul Power
8. Blues On The Hour
9. Inflation Blues
10. Stake A Claim
11. Hey Hey

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Johnny Shines - Live 1974

Before I post anything, I do a bunch of research to determine whether the record in question can reasonably be obtained through legal domestic channels. In the course of my Johnny Shines research, I was glad to discover that most of Johnny's recordings have been re-issued, and many of the formerly rare records I have are now available on CD. This one seems to have been overlooked so far, though. It's a pleasingly intimate show from 1974 with a very receptive audience, and Johnny sounds relaxed and at ease. Enjoy.

1. Won't You Tell Me, Mama
2. Goin' Down In The Bottom
3. Bumble Bee Blues
4. Workin' On The Station
5. Moanin' The Blues
6. Talking/Just A Little Tenderness
7. Guitar Boogie

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Top Jimmy & The Rhythm Pigs - Pigus Drunkus Maximus - 1987

Part of what I aim to do with this blog is make available documents of moments in time, both for those who were there and those who weren't, lest they be lost to the vagaries of the music business. The mythology is so thick around Top Jimmy & The Pigs that, for someone who wasn't there, it might be hard to understand all the fuss. I'm not sure this record will clear anything up for those folks. It's good, straight-ahead blues party music, but I think Jimmy was one of those guys who had to be seen live in order to "get it." Anyway, here's the hard-to-find first release from the legendary L.A. party band. If you were there, it'll bring back all those good drunken memories. And if you weren't there, it's still a fun record.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Johnny Shines - Live at the Court Coffeehouse, Tacoma WA - 11/30/70

Johnny Shines is my favorite blues artist of all time, so I was excited to find this guy Zak on myspace who has this 29-song show from 1970, when Johnny was at the absolute peak of his powers. Check out Zak's page for some other great live sets featuring Son House, Skip James, John Hurt, Fred McDowell & others. Amazing stuff. Thanks, Zak!

Set 1:
Set 2:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lloyd "Fatman" Smith (1922-1989) - UPDATED

Lloyd "Fatman" Smith with Louis Jordan
Fatman (lower left) with DJs

[NOTE: link updated on 10/13/09 with higher quality versions of two songs.]

This post collects all the solo recordings I've been able to find from Lloyd "Fatman" Smith. Information on "Lloyd Fatman" - as he was generally known - is not super easy to come by. As best as I can tell, he recorded a handful of songs as a solo artist, starting in 1949 and continuing through the 1950s. Aside from a spell as Louis Jordan's personal manager, he also managed the Equadors/Modern Ink Spots/Cardinals - a vocal group whose fascinating history is detailed by the highly knowledgeable Marv Goldberg here. Marv was also kind enough to send me two of the songs in this post, recorded from his original vinyl, as well as several photos - thanks, Marv!

Anyway, at some point, Lloyd settled down in Philadelphia, where he worked as a DJ for many years. One source mentions him recording "sporadically for local imprints" but, aside from a cover of "Saturday Night Fish Fry" in 1960 and a few stray others, I haven't been able to find much info on specific albums or singles after the 50s. According to DJ Weldon McDougal, people in Philly knew Fatman as a trumpet player and bandleader more than as a singer. In the 60s, he was "in nightclubs more than he was on the air." He booked Weldon's group "The Larks" and was often the MC at places that they appeared.

I think if Lloyd hadn't waited quite so long to begin recording, he might have had more of a solo career. In my opinion, the 10 cuts here easily stand up to the best of the jump blues era . In particular, "Miss Mushmouth" and "Where You Been," both of which were recorded for Okeh in 1956-57, are positively scorching rockers that lay waste to much of the blues shouting of that period. But there's the problem: that period was already pretty much over. Only a select few blues artists, like Big Joe Turner, were able to comfortably ride the first wave of Rock and Roll. Many, many other very talented folks were swept aside by the tidal onslaught of Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis, Jerry Lee and the rest. Still, has anyone ever heard anything like the scattting on "Fat Man's Scat"? How can brilliant weirdness like that remain so obscure? It just ain't fair...

Lloyd was clearly an adept vocal mimic. "Why Oh Why" and "Giddy Up Giddy Up" are very much in the Roy Brown bag, and the vocal mannerisms of Big Joe Turner, Wynonie Harris and Screamin' Jay Hawkins (who was a friend of Fatman's) are evident elsewhere. But the Fat Man absolutely put his own stamp on whatever he did. I wish we had more from him.

Incidentally, aside from the aforementioned Louis Jordan cover, I'm aware of three other cuts that are not included here because I've never been able to track them down. They are "Roll On Mule" and "Little Leg Woman," both from 1949, and "Ain't No Big Thing" from 1963. If anyone has any info on how I might go about getting ahold of these (or any other) tunes by Lloyd Fatman, I hope you'll speak up in the comments section.

Anyway, for now, enjoy some rockin' sides from an obscure madman of the great bygone early rock era.

1. Where You Been (Okeh 7073 - 1956)
2. Miss Mushmouth (Okeh 7083 - 1957)
3. Good Gracious (Okeh 7083 - 1957)
4. Part Time Sweetheart (Okeh 7073 - 1956)
5. No Better for You (Peacock 1611 - 1953)
6. My Clock Stopped (Peacock 1611 - 1953)
7. Giddy Up, Giddy Up (Peacock 1593 - 1952)
8. Why Oh Why (Peacock 1593 - 1952)
9. Fatman (Gotham, unreleased - 1951 - with Frank Motley)
10. Fat Man's Scat (Gotham, unreleased - 1951 - with Frank Motley)

Levi Williams - Ain't Pickin' Cotton No More - 1997

During my Memphis days, Levi Williams was one of my favorite local musicians. He was one of the guys I never got tired of listening to, because he always put his all into every set he did. He never phoned it in, even if he was just playing in the park on a cold day for a handful of homeless dudes. It took me a long time to track this CD down. It was recorded in 1997 at a now-defunct studio and was probably mainly sold by Levi himself at gigs. There isn't much current info on Levi online, but I managed to find a guy on Ebay with this CD for sale (signed copy!) and snapped it up immediately. It's a solid set of what I believe are all original tunes, and it definitely deserves to be heard by folks outside of Memphis. Take a listen.

1. Goin' Deep Sea Fishin'
2. You Made A Good Man Out Of Me
3. Ain't Pickin' Cotton No More
4. San Antone
5. Trouble In My Home
6. Travelin' Shoes
7. Fine Lookin' Woman
8. Welfare Check
9. Shotgun
10. Burning Bush

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Various Artists - "The World Of Blues Power - Vol 1" - 1969

For those who dug the previous post, which contained volume two of this series, we've now got volume one. This comes courtesy of boogiewoody, who ripped it from his very own vinyl. (Check out his awesome blog, Bebop Wino Done Gone, by the way.) Enjoy!

1. All Your Love - John Mayall's Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton
2. Spoonful - Ten Years After
3. Taste And Try, Before You Buy - Savoy Brown
4. Greeny - John Mayall's Bluesbreakers With Peter Green
5. Barrelhouse Woman - Champion Jack Dupree With Mickey "Guitar" Baker
6. All My Life - John Mayall's Bluesbreakers With Paul Butterfield
7. Blue Coat Man - Eddie Boyd
8. Out Of Reach - John Mayall's Bluesbreakers With Peter Green
9. I Feel Like A Millionaire - Champion Jack Dupree With Mickey "Guitar" Baker
10. Someday People - Savoy Brown
11. Feel It For Me - Ten Years After
12. Steppin' Out - John Mayall's Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton