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Monday, July 3, 2017

Champion Jack Dupree: When You Feel The Feeling You Was Feeling


1) See My Milk Cow; 2) Mr. Dupree Blues; 3) Yellow Pocahontas; 4) Gutbucket Blues / Ugly Woman; 5) Street Walking Woman; 6) Income Tax; 7) Roll On; 8) I've Been Mistreated; 9) A Racehorse Called Mae; 10) My Home's In Hell.

The most unusual thing about this album, recorded in London in April 1968, is that it combines both sides of the Champion: the old-fashioned one, with just the man sitting at the piano (occa­sionally accompanied by Christopher Turner on harmonica and Stuart Brooks on bass), and the «new look» one, with Dupree backed by a complete band — in this particular case, including drummer Simon Kirke and guitarist Paul Kossoff of the freshly formed Free, who, incidentally, had only just played their first gig together a few days before the sessions for Dupree's album (so it is not entirely clear who, technically, was helping who on this occasion).

The first side is typically playful and humorous, a little livelier on the whole than the man's Co­penhagen output and also leaning quite heavily on spoken word interludes and that whole «mu­sical diary» shenanigan that the Champion had developed so long ago. On ʽYellow Pocahontasʼ he decides to capitalize on the Indian theme, instructing British admirers on the ways of the Mardi Gras Indians — and even throwing in a gratuitous drum solo to show their «rhythms». ʽSee My Milk Cowʼ is announ­ced as «one of the foist numbers I ever wrote on my own» (funny, I didn't notice too much of a New York accent on the man over the previous decades), but there is, of course, no more true «writing» there than there is on ʽGutbucket Bluesʼ, which nicks the piano melody of ʽWhat'd I Sayʼ and, as usual, gets away with it.

Still, apart from assorted oddities like that, the first side is typical and predictable Dupree; natu­rally, it was far more interesting to see if he'd get anywhere with the guys from Free... and, unfor­tunately, he does not. Somehow, that feel-good, laid-back atmosphere of the first side is gone, and in its place we simply find stereotypical 12-bar blues. Kossoff is a better guitarist than most of the Danish or Swiss people he'd had by his side, but he does not fit in with Dupree's attitude like Mickey Baker, and he does not really play that much in the first place. The only upbeat num­ber is the boogie piece ʽA Racehorse Called Maeʼ, and it sounds like a stiff rehearsal piece, hardly worth anybody's time. ʽMy Home's In Hellʼ is a bold title, but if Hell should be such a slow and boring place with no action whatsoever, why should anybody be afraid of Hell in the first place? Disappointing.

All in all, it just feels like another attempt by Dupree to «educate» his listeners on the basics of the blues, rather than an attempt to have some plain simple fun. But what sort of listeners that had not already been educated on the basics of the blues by 1968 would want to get that education from Champion Jack Dupree? At least in 1960's Copenhagen, that kind of made sense; in 1968's London, it made no sense whatsoever. I suppose that the 17-year old Paul Kossoff must have been delighted to get a chance to play around a living legend, but that excitement is unlikely to get carried over to modern listeners. Thumbs down.

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