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Monday, July 17, 2017

Champion Jack Dupree: The Heart Of The Blues Is Sound


1) My Baby's Coming Home; 2) You Rascal You; 3) No Tomorrow; 4) The Heart Of The Blues Is Sound; 5) The Japanese Special; 6) Hard Feeling; 7) Blues From 1921; 8) Don't Mistreat Your Woman.

Another alumnus of John Mayall, drummer Aynsley Dunbar, has been recruited by the endlessly charismatic Champion for these sessions, held in London in August 1969. Having actually been fired from the Bluesberakers, Dunbar had only just formed his own band — appropriately called «Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation» — and, apparently, they are all here backing Dupree, except for the first track which, in a rare stint of mind, he prefers to sing a cappella. Notable members of the band include Victor Brox, whom most people probably remember as the metallic-evil voice of Caiaphas in the original recording of Jesus Christ Superstar — in fact, he'd already been a pro­fessional blues singer and player by that time, although on this album he sticks to keyboards and harmonica; trombonist Nick Evans, known for a brief stint in Soft Machine; and guitarist John Moorshead, known for very little in particular, yet capable of grinding as mean an axe as any alumnus of the John Mayall school.

As for Dupree himself, he takes a slightly more experimental approach on the record. The tunes are fewer in number and shorter in length, leaving plenty of space for jamming and improvisation (keeping up with the spirit of the times), and there is also a pronounced jazz influence: the only song not credited to Dupree on the album is ʽYou Rascal Youʼ, credited to Louis Armstrong (in reality, it was written by Sam Theard, but Dupree was not much of a sucker for detail), and then there is the oddest thing the man ever took part in so far — ʽThe Japanese Specialʼ, a tribal groove featuring a discordant, almost atonal battle of trombones, saxes, guitars, and organs: sur­prisingly energetic and delightfully chaotic, it could be defined as «Soft Machine meets Jack Dupree» (referring specifically to Nick Evans' participation in it), except that there's really very little Dupree-ish about the track in general. Honestly, I'm not even sure if the Champ plays on it in the first place. But even if he is not, it is pretty cool to encounter four minutes of free jazz on an LP by a pre-war urban blues specialist, is it not?

Elsewhere, it is mostly the same schtick: super-slow 12-bar electric blues (ʽHard Feelingʼ; ʽDon't Mistreat Your Womanʼ), old-fashioned blues balladry (ʽNo Tomorrowʼ; title track), and a cute attempt to do a regular jazz-blues oldie with a piano and a blaring trombone over it (rather bla­tantly called ʽBlues From 1921ʼ). The sound is nice, and altogether it feels as if the band gels together much better than any of Dupree's previous white-boy outfits in London. However, that is because the band is a band, rather than a motley crue of vaguely interested guest stars — and the album might as well have been called «The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation Feat. Champion Jack Dupree», given that his role is consistently diminished throughout the record. He does sound quite charming on that vocal-only number, though.

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