6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
John H. McCarthy
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
With this definitive and bonus packed 3CD release of Lightning Hopkins' 'Free Form Patterns' (which was IA-6) U.K.'s Charly Records have completed their Limited Edition Deluxe Digi-book Editions series of the International Artists album catalog. All have been remastered and housed in hardcover digi-books, some containing two CDs if enough bonus or rare material was available, and generous booklets featuring photos and memorabilia. A few of the bonus tracks throughout the releases can also be found on the Epitaph for a Legend compilation as well. There have been grumbles in some circles about the remastering, but for the time being these are the best bet out there. Besides this release, which was IA-4, the rest of the series includes The 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS 'The Psychedelic Sounds Of' (IA-1), RED CRAYOLA 'Parable of Arable Land' (IA-2), LOST AND FOUND 'Everybody's Here' (IA-3), GOLDEN DAWN 'Power Plant,' 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS 'Easter Everywhere' (IA-5), RED KRAYOLA 'God Bless The Red Krayola And All Who Sail With It' (IA-7), 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS 'Live' (the only reissue not released as a digi-book, a remastered version can be found on 'The Albums Collection' set (IA-8), 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS 'Bull of the Woods' (IA-9), BUBBLE PUPPY 'A Gathering Of Promises' (IA-10), Dave Allen 'Color Blind' (IA-11) and ENDLE St. CLOUD 'Thank You All Very Much' (IA-12). I plan to cover each release in this series, use the link to the next entry to follow the reviews.......
'Free Form Patterns' had been released once before on CD in the U.S. on an excreable sounding disc by the hit-and-mostly-miss Collectables label, which accounts for the other bad reviews, the result of Amazon's grouping reviews of various versions together. Those familiar with the older CD will find the sound of this new issue a revelation for sure, it sounds as if you're sitting in on the session. Conversation snippets between Hopkins, the band and the producer on the bonus discs add a heightened sense of realism. The first disc has the original album plus one bonus track, "Black Ghost Blues" which was previously issued on the International Artist rarities collection 'Epitaph For A Legend.' Here's the complete track listing......
DISC ONE (48 min.):
1. Mr. Charlie
2. Give Me Time To Think*
3. Fox Chase*
4. Mr. Dittas' Grocery Store*
5. Open Up Your Door*#
6. Baby Child*#
7. Cookings Done*
8. Got Her Letter This Morning*
9. Rain Falling*
10. Mini Skirt*
11. Black Ghost Blues (Bonus Track)*#
DISC TWO (45 min.):
1. Chat 1: "I`d like to get in tune with the boys"
2. Song 1: Give Me Time To Think*
3. Chat 2: Harmonica Players
4. Song 2: Mini Skirt*
5. Chat 3: Lelan, "Is Billy a hippy?"
6. Song 3: Got Her Letter This Morning*
7. Chat 4: Drinking Chat 1: "No no, I don`t fool with nothin` but what I fool with"
8. Song 4: Mixed Up (Previously Unreleased)*
9. Chat 5: Band direction / Billy
10. Song 5: (Mr. Dillon`s) Grocery Store Blues*
11. Chat 6: "You know Mr. Dillon?"
12. Fox Chase false starts / band direction
13. Song 6: Fox Chase*
14. Chat 7: Drinking Chat 2, "I`m the best person in the world when I`m drinking"
15. Song 7: Lord Have Mercy (Previously Unreleased)*
16. Chat 8: Drinking Chat 3, "Don`t think it ain`t got something in it"
DISC THREE (79 min.):
1. Song 8: Rain Falling*
2. Chat 9: Argument over songs
3. Song 9: Cooking`s Done*
4. Chat 10: "Sweet lil` woman, but you ain`t got no hair" and chat
5. Song 11: Mr Charlie
6. Song 12: Straw Hat (Previously Unreleased)
7. Chat 11: "They got a 100 songs"
8. Song 13: Green Onions (Previously Unreleased)*
9. Chat 12: Vietnam song snippet* / Oh Oh lyric
10. Song/chat: Poppa Was A Preacher rehearsal/chat
11. Chat 13; "That had the feeling" finishing session
12. Conversation 1: Trouble in Crockett, Tx
13. Conversation 2: Whiskey on prescription
14. Conversation 3: Musician`s hours: Tommy Hall / Stacy Sutherland
15. Conversation 4: "Where`d you pick up the name Lightnin`?"
16. Conversation 5: "You not gonna mess with Elmore (Nixon) anymore?"
17. Conversation 6: Centerville, Tx
18. Conversation 7: Politics
Sam John "Lightnin'" Hopkins - guitar and lead vocals except "Fox Chase" & "Baby Child"
Billy Bizor - harmonica and lead vocals on "Fox Chase" & "Baby Child"
Duke Davis - bass*
Danny Thomas - drums*
Elmore Nixon - piano#
'Free Form Patterns' and Dave Allen's 'Color Blind' were the only blues albums released by International Artists, who are mostly known for their roster of Texan psychedelic bands. The original album begins with the seven minute "Mr. Charlie," with the first half taken by Lightnin' mumbling an almost incomprehensible story about a boy with a bad stutter who finds he has a hidden talent, but when his solo electric guitar takes hold you're immediately mesmerized. Surprisingly the alternate take on Disc Three is superior. "Give Me Time To Think" is the first of nineteen cuts featuring then contemporary 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS' rhythm section of Duke Davis (bass) and Danny Thomas (drums) who acquit themselves quite well considering Hopkins' habit of adding or subtracting bars from his songs, de rigeur for solo bluesmen such as Hopkins and John Lee Hooker. "Fox Chase' is a shuffle in the mode of Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee and features the first of two vocal performance by harmonica player Billy Bizor. Bizor's harmonica mournfully introduces the slow blues of "Mr. Dittas' Grocery Store," a good example of Lightnin's improvised lyrical acumen, the tune inspired by the titular store only a few blocks from the Hopkins' Houston abode. "Open Your Door" and "Baby Child," Bizer's second but slower feature, also includes the piano stylings of Elmer Nixon. "Cookings Done," which only rings true when it's over, features three wonderfully bizarre sloppy off-kilter guitar breaks. "Got Her Letter This Morning," with a great tandem guitar and harp bridge, and "Rain Falling," which may be the original album's most accomplished track, are two sad mournful blues as implied by their titles. The original album ends with "Mini Skirt," a sadly not too lascivious Lightnin' rumination on the '60's fashion fad. The haunting reverb-drenched bonus track "Black Ghost Blues," sounding as if recorded at a session in purgatory, rounds out Disc One......
Discs Two and Three feature alternate takes of many album tracks plus four unreleased songs interspersed with recordings of conversations during the album sessions. At the end of Disc Three there 's also over a half-hour of Lightnin' exposing on various subjects. In some cases the alternate takes are better than those chosen for the album, as are one or two of the unreleased tracks, especially "Lord Have Mercy." There's also a unique version of Booker T. & The MG's "Green Onions" (credited to Hopkins) which showcases Hopkins ability to improvise new lyrics on the spot. Lightnin's business model was a straight $100 per recorded song, in-and-out quick, royalties be damned, but was known to love telling tales, especially when his tongue was loosened by copious amounts of whiskey. Producer Leland Rogers (brother of Kenny, btw), a fan of the Alan Lomax field recordings, had the inspiration to let the tape roll and recorded almost all of the complete sessions. Interestingly this indirectly caused his dismissal from International Artists shortly after these sessions, for his use of too much tape! In 1975, a few years after IA's demise, Rogers bought all their masters, eventually releasing a box set of all 13 LP's (which I luckily purchased upon release) and the 2LP "Epitaph For A Legend" rarities collection (ditto). Rogers had recorded the Hopkins sessions on any tape that had some blank space, resulting in numerous sections on numerous reels. The compilers had to go through them all and try to match up all the segments in chronological order, but their efforts have produced an oral history along the lines of Blues in the Mississippi Night that will be cherished by true blues fans. My only complaint is, with the extra room available on the first two discs they could've taken the actual songs from Discs Two and Three and grouped them separately as they did on their reissue of RED CRAYOLA's 'Parable Of Arable Land.' A minor quibble, but it would've saved listeners the hassle of programming the discs to hear only the songs without the conversational tracks......
The set comes in a hardcover digi-book with Discs Two and Three in the plastic trays with Disc One in a sleeve with the original (and much more appropriate) artwork, on the last page of the 28-page booklet. There are lengthy notes on the album's history and the truth behind the rumors that have dogged the album over the years by producer Paul Drummond, author of the essential and definitive 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS biography Eye Mind: The Saga of Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators, The Pioneers of Psychedelic Sound. The booklet also includes the expected complete session information, photos, label scans, memorabilia, poster reproductions, etc. This three disc version of 'Free Form Patterns' could be held as the perfect example of a definitive edition, and is a must purchase for any serious blues or International Artists collector......
0 of 13 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This review has been used to cover several Lightning Hopkins CDs and a DVD review of an instructional film, "The Guitar Of Lightnin' Hopkins", directed and taught by Ernie Hopkins, Stephan Grossman Studio Workshop, 2004, on learning his guitar style. I might add that this film makes abundantly clear that learning Lightning's eccentric style is definitely not for beginners. Go to the Willie Dixon song book for that.
Lightnin'!, Lightning Hopkins, Arhoolie Records, 1993
Free Form Patterns, Lightning Hopkins, Fuel 2000 Records, 2003
Blue Lightning, Lightning Hopkins, Paula Records, 1995
Lightning Hopkins & The Blues Summit, Lightning Hopkins, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Big Joe Williams, EMI-Capitol Records, 2001
I have spilled plenty of ink in this space tracing the main line of the blues from its acoustic origins down in the plantation South, up river through the way station of Memphis, and then to the electric "Mecca of Chicago. Along the way I have occasionally mentioned some of the other branches of the blues line like the North Carolina pick. I have not spent nearly enough time on some of the other important branches of the blues expansion, especially in the post World II period such as the West Coast blues and, as will be noted here, Texas blues.
If the blues is synonymous with the black struggle to get by day to day, to make ends meet and to make it to Saturday night and some relieve then the very big locale of Texas and its harsh hard scrabble life and strict Jim Crow laws hardly seems out of place as a key blues outpost. From the days, in the 1920's and 1930's, of Blind Lemon Jefferson working the streets of rural small town Texas, cup in hand, up to the artist under review, Lightning Hopkins, working the small black clubs and "juke joints" of the cities (like Houston) and beyond to the sounds of blues revivalists like Stevie Ray Vaughn and his brother there has been more than enough misery to create a separate Texas blues tradition.
Moreover, Brother Hopkins brings a distinctive guitar pick of his own to the "dance". He is famous, above all, for what is called the E shuffle sound as he works the guitar to create a sound that is a little "happier" than the forlorn one of the Delta or the "amped up" one of Chicago. I, unfortunately, did not get a chance to hears Lightning live until late in his career in the early 1970's when he had lost a little of his fine-toned edge. One can recapture some of that though through some of these earlier recordings from a tie when he was in full blown Lightning form. Listen up if you want to learn a different way to run a guitar from that of Muddy Waters, Bukka White, B.B. King or, for that matter, Eric Clapton
Needless to say Lightning had covered most of the known blues classics of his time as well as his own material. The borderlines of what is one's own material and what one has reworked from the blues pool is not always clear but you need to hear, for starters, "Mojo Hand", "Hello Central", "Little Girl" and "Rock Me Baby" to get a feel for his sound. Add on such classics as "Wig Wearing Woman", "Lonesome Dog Blues" (with an eerie dog bark included free), "Back Door Friend" and you are ready to become an aficionado. Throw in the talking blues-styled "Mr. Charlie", "Baby Child" and "Cooking Done" for good measure. Finally, team up Lightning with the likes of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee and the amazing Big Joe Williams (especially on Hopkins' "Ain't Nothing Like Whiskey" and "Chain Gang Blues") at the famous 1960 "blues summit" and you are ready for the graduate course.