Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Collection Essentials #4: Hoodoo Man Blues

Junior Wells

 Wow what a day! I didn’t do much except stare anxiously into the TV screen as American talking heads guided us through the second election of Barack Obama as President of the United States.  The first time he was elected, I cried.  This time, when CNN pronounced him the winner, I simply sighed.  At last! No more threats from loopy Republicans and I could get back to work.

So firstly, congratulations to you Mr. President. And as a small salute from Down Under here is simply the greatest electric Chicago blues album ever recorded: Hoodoo Man Blues.

Buddy Guy and Junior Wells were one of the ‘blues’ most enduring duos. Both veterans of the famous post war Muddy Water’s band, Wells knew just how to blow his harp to get the most out of Guy’s agile guitar licks.  They made many records together throughout the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s as well as countless solo efforts but this record from 1965 (when Barack Obama was only 4 years old many years from his destiny) is the pinnacle.  There is such understanding and empathy in this small group’s playing every song is like a conversation, not a mere melodic riff.  Wells makes his harmonica moan, sometimes like honey melting on a summer’s afternoon and at others shoot staccato shots like sonic bits of lead.  Buddy Guy keeps right up with him, sometimes showing the way but mostly filling in and elaborating on the harp sounds.  The drummer and bass player masterfully provide the rhythm but leave the flash, the strut and the clowning to Junior and Buddy.

Buddy Guy and Junior Wells

Don’t like electric blues?  Listen to this and then let’s talk.

Here is what All Music Guide has to say:

Hoodoo Man Blues is one of the truly classic blues albums of the 1960s, and one of the first to fully document, in the superior acoustics of a recording studio, the smoky ambience of a night at a West Side nightspot. Junior Wells just set up with his usual cohorts -- guitarist Buddy Guy, bassist Jack Myers, and drummer Billy Warren -- and proceeded to blow up a storm, bringing an immediacy to "Snatch It Back and Hold It," "You Don't Love Me, Baby," "Chitlins con Carne," and the rest of the tracks that is absolutely mesmerizing. Widely regarded as one of Wells' finest achievements, it also became Delmark's best-selling release of all time. Producer Bob Koester vividly captures the type of grit that Wells brought to the stage. When Wells and his colleagues dig into "Good Morning, Schoolgirl," "Yonder Wall," or "We're Ready," they sound raw, gutsy, and uninhibited. And while Guy leaves the singing to Wells, he really shines on guitar. Guy, it should be noted, was listed as "Friendly Chap" on Delmark's original LP version of Hoodoo Man Blues; Delmark thought Guy was under contract to Chess, so they gave him a pseudonym. But by the early '70s, Guy's real name was being listed on pressings. This is essential listening for lovers of electric Chicago blues. (AMG)

            Track Listing:
            01 Snatch It Back and Hold It
02 Ships on the Ocean
03 Good Morning Schoolgirl
04 Hound Dog
05 In the Wee Hours
06 Hey Lawdy Mama
07 Hoodoo Man Blues
08 Early in the Morning
09 We're Ready
10 You Don't Love Me Baby
11 Chitlin Con Carne
12 Yonder Wall
13 Hoodoo Man Blues (alternate)
14 Chitlin Con Carne (alternate)

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