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Monday, December 28, 2015

Buddy Guy: Slippin' In


1) I Smell Trouble; 2) Please Don't Drive Me Away; 3) 7-11; 4) Shame, Shame, Shame; 5) Love Her With A Feeling; 6) Little Dab-A-Doo; 7) Someone Else Is Steppin' In; 8) Trouble Blues; 9) Man Of Many Words; 10) Don't Tell Me About The Blues; 11) Cities Need Help.

This is as straightahead as it ever gets: nothing but pure electric blues, eleven heads in a row, and not a single guest star in sight — an impeccable experiment in the «can I do it alone?» genre. Of course, this also makes it twice as hard to say anything uniquely meaningful about this album, un­less it is in the comparative genre... and it's not that difficult to slip into the comparative genre here, considering how few originals there are. The choice of covers is actually not all that trivial: for instance, there are two songs by Charles Brown, both of which were covered in 1963 by Sam Cooke on his Night Beat album. Coincidence, or the result of some fortuitous nighttime listen? There's Freddie King's ʽLove Her With The Feelingʼ redone in the style of ʽHoochie Coochie Manʼ, because Buddy loves ʽHoochie Coochie Manʼ, but he can't play ʽHoochie Coochie Manʼ on all his albums, so a little strategic thought is in order here. There's Denise LaSalle, there's Fenton Robinson... all sorts of interesting blues people that rarely appear on the first pages of blues encyclopaedias. But, of course, it's still just the blues.

Points worth mentioning, in addition to Buddy's reliable vocals and guitar escapades, are: (a) a sweet appearance by legendary Johnnie Johnson, Chuck Berry's pianist of choice, contributing a feather-light (in the good sense of the word) solo on ʽ7-11ʼ; (b) a suitably comic arrangement of ʽSomeone Else Is Steppin' Inʼ, with ridiculous «party noises» in the background and a drunken choir joining in for the final line of the chorus — but thanks, Mr. Guy, for reminding me where the Stones stole their ʽBlack Limousineʼ from; (c) ʽTrouble Bluesʼ features a lo-fi production style, with plenty of hissing and crackling to artificially age the song — see Mr. Guy flirt around with indie aesthetics!; (d) ʽCities Need Helpʼ, one of the two originals, is Buddy adopting a soci­al­ly responsible posture — kind of like Bobby Bland on his moody, smoky early 1970s records. He still cannot resist from the temptation to turn it into a guitar pyrotechnics feast midway through, though, and I concur. Are we going to become more socially conscious if Buddy Guy tells us that our cities need help? No. But if he goes on beating the crap out of that guitar, who knows what changes that might eventually bring about in our social consciousness.

In terms of beating the crap out, I would probably single out ʽPlease Don't Drive Me Awayʼ, where the man brushes the dust off the wah-wah pedal for a speedy, destroy-everything-in-its-path type of solo, sometimes bordering on the psychedelic; and ʽSomeone Elseʼ, for such an essentially comic number, also boasts a fairly mean tone, with each note threatening to snap you in half. Beyond that, it's Buddy Guy and his predictably ecstatic blues guitar — lots of impro­vising, not a lot of artistic invention that could be correlated with words. Which means it is time to award this album its well-deserved, if unexceptional, thumbs up and move on.

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