This is one of those great albums that not everybody will have the opportunity to discover. I mean, if you wasn't there when John Baldry played guitar in Wardour Street, with an old hat full of pennies, and doin' that Boogie Woogie music, maybe you will lose the chance to listen to it. I wasn't there of course! and I am not sure how did I get the recommendation for "It Ain't Easy" but it has been one of the best albums I've ever bought.
It begins with what has been known as Baldry's biggest hit...and what a starter!..."Don't Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie On The King Of Rock And Roll". It's pure and absolute rock and roll indeed! but the blues and the best pop music are present too all along this record.
"It Ain't Easy" is a song that I first heard with David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust album, and Baldry (With Maggie Bell on the vocals) does a great version of this song in a Stone The Crows' style.
The first part of the album runs produced by Rod Stewart, so if you love his Faces' Era it wont take you long to love this record too. And the other part, produced by Elton John is as good as the first one. It's more oriented to the pop side of the music, but it doesn't sacrify quality. It's curious, but there's a version of a Faces song, "Flying" under Elton John's production, very enjoyable by the way. And that smooth masterpiece, "Let's Burn Down The Cornfield"...WOW! it has it all, piano, guitar, feeling!.
It could be his voice, raised somewhere in the Mississippi and similar to Joe Cocker's...as if they were drinking some whisky or brandy just before they began singing, but the fact is that this guy knew how to do the blues!. I am glad to own a copy of this album...so give a click on "Order Now" and don't forget to put it into your buying cart!
When Nashville songwriter Ron Davies wrote "It Ain't Easy" for his 1970 LP "Silent Song Through The Land" (A&M SP-4264) - he probably had no idea that huge artists would then take his unknown song and name TWO entire albums after it - THREE DOG NIGHT in 1970 and (LONG) JOHN BALDRY in 1971. Many will also be aware of the song through David Bowie's cover on Side 1 of 1972's "Ziggy Stardust". Even Dave Edmunds had a go for his debut album "Rockpile" on Regal Zonophone - also in 1972 (see separate review). "It Ain't Easy" was just one of those cool rock tracks that lent itself to other artists who then somehow made it 'their' song. Baldry (who loved bluesy based acoustic tunes) was also clearly partial to its charms (lyrics above)...
The LP "It Ain't Easy" was released on Warner Brothers WS 1921 in June 1971 in the USA and on Warner Brothers K 46088 in the UK. This 2005 CD reissue (Warner Brothers 8122784642) bolsters up the original 9-track album with 6 bonus outtakes and 1 Radio Spot. The cover uses the US artwork (the UK front and rear sleeve was different, but is unfortunately not featured anywhere on this reissue) while the booklet provides session details for each song (excepting the bonus tracks). The recording of the album also involved a large cast of British rock notables (all listed below) - but first here's a detailed track-by-track breakdown (69:11 minutes):
ORIGINAL VINYL ALBUM 1. Intro: Conditional Discharge 2. Don't Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King Of Rock And Roll [Jeff Thomas song] 3. Black Girl [Huddie Ledbetter aka Leadbelly cover] 4. It Ain't Easy [Ron Davies song] 5. Morning, Morning [Fugs cover] 6. I'm Ready [Willie Dixon song/Muddy Waters cover] 7. Let's Burn Down The Cornfield [Randy Newman cover] 8. Mr. Robin [Leslie Duncan cover] 9. Rock Me When He's Gone [Elton John/Bernie Taupin song - Exclusive Track] 10. Flying [Ronnie Lane-Rod Stewart-Ronnie Wood song/Faces cover]
CD BONUS TRACKS 11. Going Down Slow [a St. Louis Jimmy cover - 1941 Blues track - real name Jimmy Burke Oden] 12. Blues (Cornbread, Meat And Molasses) [Sonny Terry/Brownie McGhee cover] 13. Love In Vain [Robert Johnson cover] 14. Midnight Hour Blues [Leroy Carr cover] 15. Black Girl [Alternate Take] 16. It Ain't Easy [Alternate Take] 17. I'm Ready [Alternate Take] 18. Radio Spot [30-Second Spoken Advert for the US Market made in 1971 - it talks about LBJ and Fleetwood Mac leaving the UK to tour and "...storm America"]
The band for the ROD STEWART sessions was: Lead Vocals - LONG JOHN BALDRY (12-String Guitar on "Black Girl") Guitars - RON WOOD (of Faces, Rolling Stones) [Tracks 2, 4, 5, 6, 16 and 17] Guitars and Pedal Steel Guitar - SAM MITCHELL [Tracks 1 to 5, 15 and 16] Piano - IAN ARMIT Mandolin - RAY JACKSON (of Lindisfarne) on "Black Girl" and "Morning Morning" Tenor Sax Solo - ALAN SKIDMORE on "Don't Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie..." Bass - RICK BROWN Drums - MICKIE WALLER (of Steampacket) Backing Vocals - MAGGIE BELL (of Stone The Crows) on "Black Girl" and "It Ain't Easy"
The band for the ELTON JOHN sessions was: Guitars - CALEB QUAYE and JOSHUA M'BOPO (of Hookfoot) Piano - ELTON JOHN Bass - DAVE GLOVER Drums - ROGER POPE Backing Vocals - Leslie Duncan, Madelene Bell, Doris Troy, Kay Garner, Liza Strike, Tony Burrows, Tony Hazzard & Roger Cook
The original green label of the US and UK vinyl albums is aped on the CD label, the 12-page inlay has affectionate and information liner notes by SID GRIFFIN and the expert remastering has been carried out by Rhino's long-time tape associate DAN HERSH.
It sounds just brilliant - analogue warm and in your face for all the right reasons. At times in fact it feels like the FACES unleashed - both acoustically and in full-on band mode. Music wise - this is pre "Every Picture Tells A Story" and "Madman Across The Water" - I mention these albums specifically because Side 1 sounds like "Picture" (produced by Rod and featuring his backing band), while Side 2 sounds like a more rockier version of "Madman" (produced by Elton etc). Couple this with great song selections (fast and folky alike) and Baldry's British toff speaking voice sounding like a guttural fired-up Eric Burden when he sings and the effect is magical...
But the real fireworks for me come in the blistering bonus tracks. Faces and Mercury-years Rod Stewart fans will flip for these - 4 are acoustic (11, 12, 14 and 15), while the other 2 are band orientated (16 and 17). In fact it almost sounds like these tracks represent the true spirit of the sessions - an unplugged pure blues album trying desperately to get out - get past all that production. Infuriatingly, it doesn't say who plays the harmonica and acoustic guitar on the fabulous version of "Going Down Slow" or the weird cello intro on the Alternate "Black Girl"?
A fabulous little reissue then - and it compliments his second album for Warner Brothers that followed shortly afterwards "Everything Stops For Tea" which is also now reissued.
In June 1964, Long John Baldry & The Hoochie Coochie Men released an obscure UK 7" single on United Artists UP 1056. Its B-side - a raucous cover of Sister Rosetta Tharpe's gospel tune "Up Above My Head" - featured an uncredited duet vocal with a sensational new singer (it was Rod Stewart's first vinyl appearance). You have to say that Rod The Mod certainly repaid the gallant Englishman for this launching pad, when he put together this wicked little album for him in 1971 at the behest of Joe Smith - President of Warners.
With Baldry lost to us since 2005, this is a lovely way to remember him - and well done to all those involved for finally seeing it reissued.
Long John Baldry started out as a vocalist with Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, appearimg on some of their most memorable tracks. He then truck out on a solo career, recording two blues albums for United Artists (Looking At Long John Baldry: The UA Years 1964-1966). Surprisingly these made little impact and he signed to Pye records, cutting tracks on the pop end of the spectrum in search of a hit (Let The Heartaches Begin). He had a major success with `Let The Heartaches Begin'. After three years of success he decided it was time to return to the blues, his first love. He signed to Warner, and recorded this cracking album in 1971.
Baldry's voice was a magnificent instrument. Suited for blues, soul, gospel and crooning, he could turn it to almost anything. Here he used it to magnificent effect on a set of fast and slow blues. Baldry's voice has a warmth and intensity that really draws you in and keeps you listening. On slow burners such as Black Girl or Flying he is totally mesmerising. And when he winds himself up for belting out the fast rockers, such as the opening Don't Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie it is a powerful performance.
Backed by a talented band, including Elton John, and produced by Elton John and Rod Stewart, Baldry has a backing and production that is of the same quality as his voice and sympathetic to his style. In all aspects it is a classic recording.
Included here are several tracks left off the original album. It must have been a tough choice deciding what to keep, as the extra tracks are of superb quality and really add to the album. Especially the stunning version of the old Robert Johnson standard Love In Vain.
This was a real revelation. There's humour, irreverence, great musicianship, wonderful vocals that ooze blues authenticity from a vocalist who was a true pioneer of the blues in the UK. Forget the later commercial crooning, this is Faces meets Stone the Crows in Chicago or the Mississippi delta. Blistering musicianship from true artists and backing singers especially Maggie Bell (checkout her Queen of the Night CD)with a production quality that belies its age. This forgotten gem puts 30 years of so-called blues from so many artists in to the shade. I'm smiling as I write this because I enjoyed it so very much.
A lovely album , Great to here LJBs distinctive vocals again good sound support from the rest of the players on this CD. Would recommend to any one that enjoys good blues music and LJB was one of the Blues Greats and this CD is a fine example of his wonderful vocal style and 12 string Guitar playing. RIP Long John gone but never to be forgotten.
Firstly, this is the one to get. It is the expanded version if you have doubts - at least my one is! Best LJB album - other lengthy reviews tell you why and they're spot on. All his albums are worth getting particularly 'Everything stops for tea', 'It still ain't easy' and 'Evening Conversation'. Also, Blind Owl service good - CD arrived 4 days from order - Well done chaps!
Brilliant wonderful masterpiece of a recording by the late lamented master of English blues. A standard to measure everything that came after it. If you love english pop blues music of the 60s & 70s and haven't got this in your collection, you're not in love with the genre.