Sunday, December 13, 2015

You're Welcome, World!

Having done the world a favor in my last post, my noble (and Nobel) thoughts moved on to another musical genre - this time the blues.

And to my great embarrassment I realized that, until about ten years ago, most of my blues records - or rather most of the individual blues songs I owned were performed by that well known oppressed minority - white guys.

Cream, the Allman Brothers, the Grateful Dead, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin (whose confusion would occasionally make them forget to credit actual songwriters, but I’m sure that was all an innocent mistake).  Christ, even Steppenwolf!

So my first foray into blues - really a half-step - was Duane Allman’s An Anthology, where actual African Americans played the blues (and soul) but - in a blow against that major problem we all face: Reverse Racism - with the white guy (admittedly that GREAT white guy) on guitar.

Eventually I’d get Robert Cray’s Strong Persuader - a record that some purists don't consider the blues anyway - in 1986,

But it wasn’t until the late nineties when I got the box-set Chess Blues that I got to delve deeper.

I went little deeper still, getting best-ofs by Allman Brothers fave Elmore James and Eric Clapton fave Buddy Guy, having more and more fun as I went.

Then, during my boycott I noticed that Barnes and Noble had a decent $5 CD section, where I came across this two-fer:

Howlin’ Wolf: Howlin’ Wolf/Moanin’ in the Moonlight

It would be perfectly understandable to mistake this two-album single-CD set as a Best-of, but it’s not. It’s just the Wolf’s first two records for Chess recorded in 1962.

And they are just incredible.

So incredible I didn’t get kicked out the house for playing it on a beautiful Sunday morning, which is a tribute to Mrs. Jaybee’s tolerance. But then again once you hear Wolf’s voice (and harp and guitar) it might be a good idea to go to church.

How can I convey how important these records are? How about if I list some of the songs here that have been covered by others?

“Shake for Me” - John Hammond, with Duane Allman
“Red Rooster” - The Stones
“Wang Dang Doodle” - KoKo Taylor
“Spoonful” - Cream
“Goin’ Down Slow” - Duane Allman
“Back Door Man” - oh, I don’t know, but somebody
“How Many More Years” - LIttle Feat/Led Zeppelin
“Smokestack Lightnin’” - The Dead
“I Asked for Water (She Gave Me Gasoline)” - Lucinda Williams
“Forty Four” - Little Feat

And that’s just off the top of my head! These are all very good covers but rarely better than the Wolf versions. Which were all from just these two albums. You’d have to go to the Beatles to find an artist who attracted so many cover versions so fast.

Which makes these two records, in my limited and humble opinion, the two best blues albums I own, and are probably  among the greatest ever made.

One caveat: I’m annoyed that they dropped a song to fit these two albums onto a single CD. What was it with those old CDs? Did they only fit 65 minutes? What the hell!?  White people problems.

Another caveat: Dilettante that I am, I’ll move onto another genre by the time I finish typing this.

Otherwise these would be my top two albums of the year.

Howlin Wolf:  A
Moanin’ in the Moonlight: A-

“Moanin’ in the Moonlight”

Well it’s time for me to move on to redress yet more of society’s ills. What to do? What to do? Maybe I’ll try to bring more attention to overlooked artists like Miley Cyrus or Beyonce...

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