Reprinted 2016/17 in limited edition
I Blueskvarter Chicago 1964 : Volume One
(Jefferson Records SBACD 12655/56)
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| Reviews |´
1. Michelle 3:40
2. I´m hungry 2:57
3. I don´t know 4:09
4. New Orleans blues 4:38
5. I´m the fixer 3:19
6. I know a woman, she live sup the hill 3:40
7. Big road blues 3:11
8. Blues in the morning, blues every turn around 4:18
9. Poor Kelly blues 3:09
10. I don´t no woman, she got hair like drops of rain 2:55
EDDIE BOYD (w/ Mike Bloomfield)
11. Five long years 2:48
12. Her picture in the frame 4:09
13. Early grave 3:54
14. The big question 3:07
15. Look over younder wall 2:47
YANK RACHELL (w/ John Lee Granderson, Mike Bloomfield)
16. Going to pack up my things and go 4:03
17. Every night and day, I hear my baby call my name 4:06
18. My babay rocks me 4:36
19. My baby´s gone, soon I´ll be gone myself 4:33
JOHNNY YOUNG (w/ Slim Willis, Otis Spann, Robert Whitehead)
1. Why did you break my heart 2:52
2. Better cut it out 2:02
3. My baby walked out and left me 3:16
4. Step by, baby 3:51
5. Monkey-face woman 4:27
SUNNYLAND SLIM (w/Mike Bloomfield)
6. Brownskin woman 3:17
7. It´s you baby 2:35
8. One room country shack 3:18
9. Sunnyland´s jump 2:55
10. Rock me 3:24
BIG WALTER HORTON (w/ Robert Nighthawk) (Horton-article)
11. Let´s have a good time 3:18
12. Mean mistreater 3:01
13. I´m in the mood 3:01
14. Louise, Louise 3:52
15. You don´t mistreat me 3:03
16. Trouble in mind 3.14
17. Willie Mabon
18. James Brewer
19. Eddie Boyd
20. Yank Rachell
From Blues & Rhythm 141 Aug 1999
Chicago 1964, Volume One
Jefferson Records SBACD 12653/4
This seems to be the month for re-visiting the sixties; first Chris Strachwitz presents us with the Big Joe Williams set covered by Ray elsewhere and now Jefferson Records offer up this collaboration between the Scandinavian Blues Society and the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation.
The CDs' contents are 'world famous in Sweden' and deserve to be famous in the rest of the world too. In 1964 Swedish Radio broadcast a 21-part series entitled I Blueskvarter which translates as In Blues Quarters. To gather material for his show Olle Helander somehow talked the SBC into sending him on an extended visit to the States accompanied by the sound engineer of his choice. Olle visited various cities and the results he achieved elsewhere should be appearing on later CDs in this series - but this one concentrates on Chicago.
Olle Helander knew what he was about, he had done this sort of trip before in 1961, and he had his contacts. His initial idea was to use Big Joe Williams as a talent scout but that peripatetic gentleman was, somewhat predictably, out on the road. Instead Olle contacted Willie Dixon, Pete Welding and Bob Koester, set himself up in The Sutherland Lounge on the South Side and sent out the word. It was his object to concentrate on names less well-known names in Europe, rather than plough fields with Muddy, Wolf etc, which were already pretty well furrowed.
His success was marked, as this double CD testifies, and contributed to a series of radio programmes that probably had a bigger impact in Sweden than those of Mike Raven did in the UK. But whereas Mike was relying on records to spread the word Olle brought it straight from the horses' mouths. The shows were so well received by the public that the SBC was more or less compelled to repeat them a few years later when, of course, they were taped by fans all over the country. Those tapes have been doing the rounds ever since (some of the material appearing in Britain on the Red Lightnin' and Python labels) but this CD project represents the first time that the original recordings have been made available. And they are impressive!
About as far removed as you can get from the bar blues of Elmore, Muddy and Little Walter Willie Mabon comes across as his urbane and humorous self, impressing as much with his word control as with his prowess on the piano. He is followed in what seems to be a deliberately planned sequence juxtaposing the rough with the smooth(er), by the country blues of James Brewer. While Mabon may reflect an interest in Cripple Clarence Lofton Brewer conjures the image of Tommy Johnson during a selection of blues that illustrate their transition from Mississippi to Maxwell Street.
Eddie Boyd is at his considerable best on his tracks. Working with the guitar of Mike Bloomfield in support he reprises his big hit 'Five Long Years' before working his way through an assortment of good songs well sung and backed by much more adventurous and vigorous piano work than he sometimes displayed in the ensuing years - I guess it all depended on his mood at the time; in which case he must have been feeling pretty good in 1964.
Yank Rachell also supplies work for Bloomfield but relegates him to the piano relying on John Lee Granderson's guitar work for further stiffening behind his own mandolin playing. Again, Yank sounds virile and strong. He was only 54 at the time so l guess there is no reason why he shouldn't.
Things get even better on the second CD when Johnny Young takes the proceedings as close to the bars and beer joints as they have got thus far. He treats us to exercises on both his guitar and mandolin backed by the harp of Slim Willis, the drums of Robert Whitehead and Otis Spann's outstanding piano. Solid stuff!
Still in the joints Sunnyland Slim illustrates why, without being the greatest pianist in the city, he was so well loved by his audience. That said he makes a fine job of the instrumental 'Sunnyland's Jump', giving Bloomfield a hard time keeping up. He comes across as a pleasant man and forceful blues singer, his spoken introductions bringing to mind both Jelly Roll Morton on his LoC recordings and Memphis Slim in his 'ambassador' mode.
Which brings us to the set's highlight 'Shaky Head' Horton was at the top of his game when he appeared at the Sutherland, in the company of just Robert Nighthawk, to do his best for the Swedes. And that is just what he did. Next to Little Walter he was probably the most important and influential of the high powered-harp players, though his vocals tended to imitate John Lee 'Sonny Boy' Williamson's 'short tongued' sound. It's disappointing to report that for some unknown reason Nighthawk did not play slide or record a set of his own at this time.
The interviews are short and to the point, none last more than two and a half minutes and all are interesting.
Maybe this set was well advertised in advance in Sweden but it came to me as a complete surprise. I am very, very impressed and recommend it to all blues fans and scholars whose interest goes further than just finding out who's playing the loudest this week and wearing the biggest hat.
None of the tracks reach five minutes in length, all are to the punchy point. The sound, apart from a couple of moments when Mumbles gets too close to the mike, is just great. The set is accompanied by a hefty booklet with dual English/ Swedish texts and pertinent photographs. And this is only Volume One of the Chicago recordings!
Searching desperately for something bad to say to counter-balance all this praise, the best I could come up with is that the hinge on the double jewel box looks too weak to take the stress that it is obviously going to experience.