Blues with a touch of soul," is how the late Joe Young characterized his uniquely funky and powerful sound. This release, a compilation of classic tracks from two long out of print Ovation Records LP's, is issued here for the first time on CD and captures Joe's guitar artistry and vocal passion at the peak of his career. Features the song As The Years Go Passing By from the hit film, Ali.
About the Artist
One day in 1975, a blues guitarist/singer and veteran sideman on some of the most influential recordings in the history of Chicago blues walked into Streeterville Studio on East Grand Avenue to begin recording his second album for the Chicago-based Ovation label. Along with him was an excited and wide-eyed young man about to record his first album as a member of an international touring blues band. I was that youngster, and the man for whose session tape was about to roll was Mighty Joe Young. It was the beginning of a more than five-year association, one which covered hundreds of thousands of miles, a thousand nights of music, and uncountable lessons about the blues, professionalism, friendship, life, and love. You see, it was damned near impossible to be around Mighty Joe Young without being influenced by his gifts as a musician, as an entertainer, and perhaps most importantly, as a human being. Some people believe that a man's music reflects his character, and in the case of Joe Young, that parallel accounts for the high quality of both. Joe's tragic passing in 1999 from complications resulting from elective surgery did not just deprive his family, friends and fans of his unforgettable presence. It also deprived the new generation of blues musicians and listeners the opportunity to become acquainted with an artist who was a link between the glory days of Chicago blues and the contemporary blues scene. Even though Joe's woefully few recordings will continue to afford new listeners the chance to hear him, they unfortunately do not bear witness to the power of his live performances. Joe invested every single appearance with incredible presence and showmanship, reflecting his love for both his music and his audience. Whether he was playing for a huge festival crowd overseas or a handful of people at the tail end of a long club night in Cleveland, Joe delivered the goods, always wearing his gigantic contagious smile. Everybody left a Mighty Joe Young show satisfied and in high spirits. This compilation serves to make available again tracks from his two sessions for Ovation Records in 1974 and 1976, both of which were previously available only on vinyl and recently very difficult to find. The tracks herein are a fine representation of Mighty Joe Young's talents as a guitar player, singer, and songwriter. They demonstrate his affinity with the smooth contemporary blues of the day (As The Years Go Passing By), urban soul (Chickenheads), and the hybrid of sounds incorporated into his own songs. At the time these tracks were recorded, the trip from Chicago to Memphis to New Orleans to Detroit to London to Haight-Ashbury was but a short stroll down the pop charts. Fueled by the ever-elusive dream of writing that one song that would cross over the narrow channels separating pop music's markets, Joe drew on regional sounds from Motown (Green Light) to New Orleans (I Give, New Orleans Woman), as well as more specific influences from Bo Diddley (Take My Advice) to Freddie King (Need A Friend). While Joe had been a part of historic sessions with legends like Magic Sam and Otis Rush, he was never content to be a golden oldie. In all of his efforts, he showed that his mind and ears were wide open and he was able to take cues from a variety of sources and infuse them with his own unique musical sense. When asked by the uninitiated what kind of music he played, Joe had a stock response, which he always delivered with a proud smile: "blues with a touch of soul." He certainly did play the blues, and he absolutely did so with more than just a touch of soul. Listening to these tracks is a chance to either discover or rediscover the still relevant, still vibrant sound and heart of a beloved Chicago blues giant: Mighty Joe Young.