BUDDY GUY: HEAVY LOVE (1998)
1) Heavy Love; 2) Midnight Train; 3) I Got A Problem; 4) I Need You Tonight; 5) Saturday Night Fish Fry; 6) Had A Bad Night; 7) Are You Lonely For Me Baby; 8) I Just Want To Make Love To You; 9) Did Somebody Make A Fool Out Of You; 10) When The Time Is Right; 11) Let Me Show You.
In the never-ending series of the clinkers and clunkers triggered by more and more demand for Buddy Guy records, Heavy Love is more of a clunker. Not because it was produced by David Z. or because it featured a duet with rising star Jonny Lang (rising at the time, perhaps, but never truly arisen) — just because it's kinda lazy, and on none of these songs do I get the feeling that Mr. Guy is giving us the best he can.
Some of the covers are downright odd. Would you think it a good idea for Buddy Guy to cover Louis Jordan? I wouldn't, but he does anyway, throwing on a five-and-a-half minute long rendition of ʽSaturday Night Fish Fryʼ (without even a single guitar solo!) that has none of the jivin' excitement of the original. Maybe might have worked on a tribute album to Louis, but as an independent artistic interpretation, that's one stinky fish fry. ZZ Top's ʽI Need You Tonightʼ? The whole point of that generic blues ballad was to do it Eliminator-style. Throw away the ZZ Toppishness, and it reverts back to a generic blues ballad. ʽI Just Want To Make Love To Youʼ, remade as a modern funk number, becomes totally lifeless. ʽAre You Lonely For Me, Baby?ʼ makes a valiant effort to keep Buddy astride that Classic Soul branch, but he never ever held a position of honor on that branch, and this performance does not change much about it.
Neither these nor the rest of the tracks offer us any particularly stellar guitar parts, either. The title track, the ʽMidnight Trainʼ duet with Lang, and ʽHad A Bad Nightʼ are macho blues rockers that could kick ass if kicking ass were on anybody's scheduled list, but apparently it wasn't, so they don't: Buddy's playing is consistently restrained here. He does manage to throw in a head-spinning vibrato or one of his trademark "going somewhere completely different, but don't worry, I'll be back in time to save this from falling apart" lead phrases from time to time, but you really have to wait for it — on the whole, he seems fairly disinterested. He is still mildly interested in writing new lyrics for old tunes and re-crediting them to himself, though: ʽLet Me Show Youʼ, from head to toe, is really Jimmy Reed's ʽHonest I Doʼ (although, to be fair, this song probably contains the album's most interesting bit of guitar, with Buddy playing slightly out of tune with the rest of the instruments and sometimes «de-tuning» his licks in mid-air).
Basically, this isn't embarrassing enough to earn a proper thumbs down, but that is simply because Buddy has a certain strictly observed quality standard that safeguards him almost 100% from total cringeworthy failure (well, used to have, at least, before he went completely out of his mind and started messin' with Kid Rock). As it is, I would not recommend this one to anybody but the starkest fans, mad-crazy about every lick the man ever played.