Crucial Live! Blues
Alligator ALCD 119
Alligator has converted more fans to the blues than they will ever know. Now another generation's ears will be called to the blues due to the Crucial Blues series. In addition to the authoritative music, Crucial Live! Blues comes with an attractive and tempting low-cost price tag, 60 minutes of music, 13 cuts (mostly covers), tracks recorded in the U.S., Australia, and Japan and originally released between 1974 and 2002, simple yet expressive cover art, and liner info extracted from Alligator's mail order catalog. The greatest differences between this sampler and other Alligator compilations include not being as long in duration and un-detailed credits.
The vital CD features the label's finest musicians. Most of them are guitar slingers. You will encounter nine of them at this concert while the rest of the gig consists of two prized vocalists, one harp phenomenon, and one acoustic act. Lonnie Mack performs alive and kicking blues-rock with a rolling rhythm on "Riding The Blinds". The track will have you wondering why he didn't become as big a star as Stevie Ray Vaughan given the fact that Vaughan was his most devoted disciple. "Tired Man" features the unmistakable piercing guitar of Albert Collins along with impressive sax and bass that drives the definitive rhythm. More than one song will have you longing to be relaxing in a smoky Chicago blues bar. One example is "Going Back To Iuka", which showcases two hot guitarists on a rolling shuffle led by Koko Taylor's roaring throat. With classy guitar, Little Charlie & The Nightcats have the innate ability to make the blues fun. As do the acoustic and folky Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women. Ironically, their hilarious song contains lyrics written by Charlie's Rick Estrin. Lonnie Brooks' booming voice, sassy guitar, and enthusiastic rhythms are as fulfilling as a bowl of gumbo. His masterful band supports Elvin Bishop during "My Dog" and makes him vibrant. Sporting an ultra, funky, big, eight-member band, James Cotton slightly personalizes the lyrics of "Born In Chicago". Like a spontaneous, wild party thrown by your roommate, Hound Dog Taylor creates a welcome racket that you can't resist joining. Son Seals' music is raw, tough, and unpolished - just like the side of town you were told to avoid. "Cherry Red Wine" is taken from Live In Chicago, which is quite possibly, the finest live, electric, Chicago blues recording ever made. Here, Luther Allison's tantalizing live guitar work is a testimony to his brilliance.
In having to bypass other great live Alligator recordings by Elvin Bishop and Little Smokey Smothers, Big Twist, and Siegel-Schwall, it must have been a struggle for the producers to narrow their selections. Since blues is such an in-the-moment music, which is best experienced live, Crucial Live! Blues is not to be missed. The only thing that could have made this a better compilation was a previously unreleased track or two thrown in for good measure. Let's hope the crucial keyboard, vocalist and horn collections aren't far behind.
-- Tim Holek