This column is like the title says - its intention is to fill the gap for those of us who were satiated musically in the '60s and then searched desperately as we aged for music we could relate to and get the same buzz from nowadaze. iTunes was the answer for me in 2003 and I have been following the new releases every Tuesday ever since I realized there was an endless stream of music I could enjoy there.
I also include older items that I felt were obscure originally and might not have been heard back then. The reason I am writing this column is to make sure others don't miss this wonderful music. These are not top ten items; but they SHOULD'VE been!
Below is a jukebox containing all the songs I picked this week. After you read about them below, go back and listen to whatever you like by just clicking on that title in the jukebox, or stream the whole playlist by clicking on the "play" icon at the top. It's free and it's the entire song. We're not selling anything. We're just in the business of hopefully making your days better by listening to great music.
If you’re having a lonely Christmas; if you are a boomer blues lover; if you just wanna escape the Yuletide dementia altogether, this just might be for you. In just a few seconds of each track, you are drawn into a pleasant repetition that sucks you into the center of a bad situation set to music. You have the option of relating to the drama, letting yourself be hypnotized by the musical mantra and sailing away from Charles Dickens into the arms of Percy Mayfield or John Lee Hooker. To my ears this is a more than tolerable holiday gift. Just to bring you back to reality in a soothing way, I have placed the Swan Silvertones' gentle gospel chariot at your disposal for the journey that will return you to the harsh world I took you from in the first place.
1. "Boogie Chillun'" — John Lee Hooker (2:35)
The single that put John Lee on the map all those years ago. He didn’t really need any backing musicians to introduce his hypnotic electric guitar self-repeating loops and his captivating voice. Other than this inclusion, the best use I ever saw of this track was in the movie Funny Bones with Oliver Platt. Trust me and bring this up on Netflix or whatever, and watch a wonderful film that never got its due. Hint: It would be a great viewing for a quiet evening at home on New Year's Eve.
2. "Miles City Train" — George Winston (3:58)
Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinkin’ — “Daddy/Mama don’t want no New Age music right here right now!” Well, guess what? George is a student and deliverer of great piano blues as demonstrated here on a comparatively recent release. George also eschews backing musicians so he can hypnotize in his own time. I wish I could play like this and I am considered a blues musician. So I just admire from the sidelines and get lost in the righteous rhythms between his left and right hands.
3. "Old Man Trouble" — Mose Jones (6:31)
I first heard this song on a wonderful but sadly discontinued duet album in the late '60s on the A&M label by Booker T and his then-wife Priscilla, who was singer Rita Coolidge’s sister and probably still is. Booker, known mainly for his monumental organ playing, is also an amazing composer, having written many of the hits on the Stax label where he originally apprenticed and made his “Green Onions” debut while still in his teens. When I lived in Atlanta in the early '70s, I found this band playing in the local clubs and signed them up and produced them. I played them this track as a suggestion for new material and they jumped on it. Bassist/singer, the late Randy Lewis, raised the vocal up a notch from Booker’s version (no mean feat) and the late Lowell George from Little Feat swung by and played the slide guitar solo because he could. 1972 ... those were the days, my friends.
4. "River's Invitation" — Percy Mayfield (2:19)
On vinyl, this quickly became hard to find. The album My Jug & I was produced by admirer Ray Charles, who played all the keyboards and released it on his own label, Tangerine. But because Ray wasn’t the artist, the distributors never promoted it the way it should have been and it was quickly discontinued. Thankfully, in 2003, reissue label Rhino collected all the sides Ray Charles cut with Percy and put all TWENTY-EIGHT of them on a CD that is probably also sadly discontinued (but I hope not!). Here’s a tiny taste of that CD you should frantically be searching for. It’s called His Tangerine & Atlantic Sides. I think of them as all main courses.
5. "Girls to Shame" — Albert Cummings (4:05)
Originally a home-builder as part of his family’s biz, he switched to banjo-playing in the bluegrass mode and won awards for his pickin’ prowess. After hearing Stevie Ray Vaughn, he chucked everything and concentrated on the blues guitar thang and this is what happened. It’s all good. And lovely shirt there, Albert!
6. "Wake Me, Shake Me" — The Golden Chords (2:58)
When I just reached drinking age in NYC, a club materialized in midtown called The Sweet Chariot. It featured only gospel music artists and the waitresses were dressed as angels. They only served soul food and the crowd was mainly turistas. I became a regular. I was transfixed by the house band leader/organist Bobby Banks, as he magnificently backed up gospel acts from all over the country. This group were regulars. They were based in Philadelphia and featured the Ellison sisters, with Lorraine singing lead on most selections. She was incredible and was soon snatched up by wunderkind producer Jerry Ragavoy and taken into the secular world of R&B. There was a live album with various artists, Live At The Sweet Chariot, and this is from that. This is where I first heard the song that would later become the flag-waver for The Blues Project when I eventually joined the band. This version is totally the opposite of the BP arrangement, but it sure is fabulous, ain’t it? This album has been out of print for centuries.
7. "Messin' the Blues" — Robin Trower (2:53)
Catapulted out of Procol Harum, guitarist Trower was heavily influenced as a player by Jimi Hendrix. With bassist/vocalist James Dewar and drummer Bill Lordan, this track was composed and recorded by the trio in 1976 from the album Long Misty Days, Trower's fifth. This has the hypnotic guitar figure rolling throughout the entire selection with Dewar’s strong vocal and Robin's Hendrixian ascents.
8. "Mama, Where's My Daddy?" — Keb Mo (2:32)
The heir apparent to aging bluesman Taj Mahal, Kevin Moore has learned his lessons well. Well versed in blues history and certainly well-listened, Keb can draw on any era of blues history and snap one right out atcha. This is a timeless hypnotic that could have originated at any time. It’s a Keb original compositionally, but the music and figures both have long bloodlines and that’s a good thing. This draws you in right up to the surprise ending in the lyric.
9. "Albert's Shuffle" (Live 1994) — Al Kooper & Jimmy Vivino (6:14)
Originally conceived on the Super Session album alongside Mike Bloomfield. After his untimely death 30 years ago, I learned to play it all over again when I came across multi-talented musician/vocalist/arranger Jimmy Vivino from nearby New Jersey. He joined my band and became my music director for decades until Conan O’Brien spirited him away to Los Angeles. I found him to be the most Bloomfield-like player I ever worked with, and soon we had recruited Harvey Brooks on bass and half the Super Session cast reunited behind Jimmy. This was cut at my 50th birthday party at the now-defunct Bottom Line club in NYC. Guesting on piano was the great Johnny Johnson who played on all the Chuck Berry classics. It’s not perfect but it’s got the same fairy dust the original had and you can tell we’re havin’ a pretty good time back then. Kudos to Anton Fig on drums and the Uptown Horns.
10. "A Brighter Day" — Swan Silvertones (2:23)
To ease your way down from the former hypnotics, I thought I’d close with the soothing blues of my favorite seminal gospel gods, The Swan Silvertones. With Rev. Claude Jeter in the vocal high chair, they offer solace to the world-weary with the promise of the title. This will gently bring you back to earth and reunite you with the crazed condition of the world nowadaze. I hope this musical escape worked for you and we’ll be back with the best of this column from 2011 in next week’s last column of the year. Happy holidays meanwhile...