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Monday, February 1, 2016

Buddy Guy: Bring 'Em In


1) Now You're Gone; 2) Ninety Nine And One Half; 3) What Kind Of Woman Is This; 4) Somebody's Sleeping In My Bed; 5) I Put A Spell On You; 6) On A Saturday Night; 7) Ain't No Sunshine; 8) I've Got Dreams To Remember; 9) Lay Lady Lay; 10) Cheaper To Keep Her/Blues In The Night; 11) Cut You Loose; 12) The Price You Gotta Pay; 13) Do Your Thing.

Despite the revealing title, not all of these songs, as could have been thought (and easily been done), feature outside guest stars; in fact, more than half of the album is just Buddy and his regu­lar band, whatever it was at the time. However, guest-studded sessions, no matter how much time is actually being spent with the guests, tend not to work too well for Buddy: there's too much emphasis on having collective fun and not enough emphasis on giving the listener a real good musical reason to buy the album. And in that respect, Bring 'Em In is no exception — once again, here is a «merely okay» record that never shows that one extra spark to bring it over the top, like Sweet Tea or even Slippin' In.

The collaborations themselves at least merit some discussion. ʽI Put A Spell On Youʼ is set to a Latin, Santana-esque rhythm, and sure enough, Carlos is here in person, forming quite an incendi­ary duet with Mr. Guy; perhaps they could have chosen some less obvious material to cover, but they do bring out the best (or, perhaps, simply the most buoyant and arrogant) in each other, and there are a couple moments here when their thunder-and-lightning soloing styles cross paths and you seem caught up in a one-of-a-kind Chicago-Mexican blizzard. Next to this, a duet with John Mayer could seem a total disaster; fortunately, they avoid it, instead making Mayer add some relatively inoffensive and quiet lead lines to Buddy's cover of Otis Redding's ʽI've Got Dreams To Rememberʼ (which is like any other Buddy cover of any classic soul number: technically com­petent, but completely expendable in the long run).

Elsewhere, Robert Randolph adds a pleasant pedal steel part to ʽLay Lady Layʼ, but that song tends to always sound cheesy and sleazy in anybody's hands but its author's, and this version is no exception — Buddy's duet with Anthony Hamilton just ends up being generic soul fodder. Finally, there's a weakly advertised Keith Richards on Keb' Mo's ʽThe Price You Gotta Payʼ, but he neither sings nor plays lead guitar. Actually, both of these may be good things, but there ain't a Keith-worthy riff here, either, so ultimately, I guess, the point of having him here was merely for the most advanced of Stones fanatics to buy the record (I suppose that there are more people out there, anyway, vowing to own every recording Keef has ever played on, than there are people out there ready to go out and regularly buy up every new Buddy Guy release).

Of the other tracks, with a little effort, I'd single out Curtis Mayfield's ʽNow You're Goneʼ, which Buddy tries to sing like a true falsetto crooner (not too bad) and crowns with some cool wah-wah work; his own ʽWhat Kind Of Woman Is Thisʼ, a rare case of a riff-based Buddy original that's sharp and swaggerish at the same time; and the lengthy epic ʽCut You Looseʼ, musically based on the old ʽCatfish Blues / Rollin' Stoneʼ groove and gradually putting itself in guitar overdrive — along the lines of Hendrix's ʽVoodoo Chileʼ, which must have been Buddy's main inspiration for this stuff. None of these songs have the unique aura of a ʽBaby Please Don't Leave Meʼ, though: they are simply more powerful and decisive than everything else.

For the record, the reason why John Mayer is here is probably because the album was produced by Steve Jordan, who was at the time a member of the John Mayer Trio (and who earlier drum­med for Keith Richards' X-Pensive Winos, so here's anouther connection); the backing band in­cludes Danny Kortchmar on guitar and Bernie Worrell on keyboards, all well-known professional musicians, but without too much rapport between each other, if you know what I mean. All in all, a classic case of "let's make working conditions so cozy and polished for our superstar that he suffocates in them", sort of.

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