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Monday, May 29, 2017

Champion Jack Dupree: The Best Of The Blues


1) Cabbage Greens No. 3; 2) Sporting Life Blues; 3) Mean Mistreater; 4) In The Dark; 5) You've Been Drunk; 6) Careless Love; 7) Tomorrow Night; 8) Fisherman's Blues; 9) Bring Me Flowers While I'm Living; 10) Everything I Do Is Wrong; 11) See See Rider; 12) Diggin' My Potatoes; 13*) Please Send Me Someone To Love; 14*) In The Evening; 15*) Rock Me Mama; 16*) I'll Bet My Money; 17*) Going To Copenhagen.

These Storyville titles for the Champion's albums gotta rank as some of the least inspired in music history, but The Best Of The Blues trumps them all — not only is this not a compilation, but it is not even, you know, the best of the blues. It is just a collection of tracks recorded by Dupree during two sessions in Copenhagen (October 3-4, 1961 and June 14-15, 1962), backed by Danish bass player Mogens Seidelin and Swiss acoustic / electric guitar player Stuff (Chris) Lange. In the CD era, it was expanded with several bonus tracks and released as Blues Masters Vol. 6, which is the edition I have.

In this installation, we see the Champion trying to expand his repertoire just a little bit, through the addition of a few classic «commercial» blues ballads, most notably ʽCareless Loveʼ and Lonnie Johnson's crossover hit ʽTomorrow Nightʼ. This may have had something to do with the growing popularity of blues-de-luxe crooners like B. B. King, but might just as well be a mere coincidence; after all, even such a rigorous self-repeater as Dupree would need a refreshing touch every once in a while, and it gives him a pretext to try out some new piano flourishes. Totally inessential, but nice, and delivered without any superfluous sentimentality.

At the same time, conversely, he also digs deep into his past, resurrecting ʽCabbage Greensʼ (and remembering correctly that he'd already recorded two of those in 1940, so this is ʽNo. 3ʼ) which may now, for the first time, be experienced in pristine sound quality; and ʽYou've Been Drunkʼ and ʽFisherman's Bluesʼ from 1945, both of which get themselves a whole stereo channel of (boring) electric guitar, yet somehow end up sounding slower, limper, and less decisive than their older counterparts. In the end, the whole thing is probably only worth it for the final bonus track ʽGoing To Copenhagenʼ, which continues the Champion's «musical diary», somewhat randomly alternating between the man's narration of his journey to Copenhagen and comments on how his baby cooks him turnips and calls them mustard greens, and seems to simply represent three minutes of total improvisation, with Dupree fumbling to find the right chords (and the right words) for the bass player's slightly jazzified rhythm pattern. It's a bit of fun, but nothing essential, just like this entire record.

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