HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 29 October 2015
Curtis Jones' sole album "Now Resident In Europe" for the now legendary UK Blue Horizon label was first issued in the autumn of 1968 and has always been a hard-to-find and sought-after blues rarity. This February 2008 single CD on Sony/Blue Horizon 88697224742 (Barcode 886972247427) is based around that release.
Here's the breakdown:
1. You Don't Have To Go (Take 2, Master Version)
2. I Want To Be Your Slave (Take 4, Master Version)
3. Marocco Blues (Take 2, Master Version)
5. Please Believe Me
6. Gee, Pretty Baby
7. Let Your Hair Down (Take 3, Master Version)
8. Jane (Take 2, Master Version)
9. Born In Naples, Texas (Interview)
Tracks 1 to 9 make up the original running order of the album "Now Resident In Europe" - released October 1968 in the UK on Blue Horizon 7-63207
10. Soul Brother Blues
11. Dryburgh Drive (Take 5, Master Version)
12. You Don't Have To Go (Take 1, Previously Unreleased)
13. I Want To Be Your Slave (Take 2, Previously Unreleased)
14. I Want To Be Your Slave (Take 3, Previously Unreleased)
15. Marocco Blues (Take 1, Previously Unreleased)
16. Let Your Hair Down (Take 2, Previously Unreleased)
17. Jane (Take 1, Previously Unreleased)
18. Born In Naples, Texas (Interview, Previously Unreleased)
19. Blues On The Scene (Previously Unreleased)
20. Dryburgh Drive (Take 2, Previously Unreleased)
21. Dryburgh Drive (Take 3 & 4, Previously Unreleased)
The entire album - including all the previously unreleased material - was recorded at one mammoth session in the Tony Pike Studios, Putney in London on the 2nd of July 1968.
The band consisted of:
CURTIS JONES - Vocal, Piano and Guitar
BRIAN BROCKLEHURST - Upright Bass
DOUGIE WRIGHT - Drums
Tracks 1 to 8:
"You Don't Have To Go", "I Wanna Be Your Slave", "Cherie" and "Gee, Pretty Baby" feature all three in the Curtis Jones Band
"Morocco Blues" and "Jane" feature Curtis Jones on Guitar and Vocal only
"Please Believe Me" and "Let Your Hair Down" feature Curtis Jones on Piano and Vocal only
Track 9 and 18 are an interview conducted by Mike Vernon (Blue Horizon's principal producer and founder) with the American Blues man on the day of recording, 2 July 1968 and make for staggering listening...
(Track 18 is in fact the previously unreleased continuation of track 9).
Tracks 10 to 21:
"Soul Brother Blues", "Morocco Blues (Take 2)", "Jane (Take 1)" and "Blues On The Scene" feature Curtis on Guitar and Vocal only
"Dryborough Drive", "You Don't Have To Go" and "I Want You To Be My Slave" feature all three in the Curtis Jones Band
"Let Your Hair Down (Take 2)" feature Curtis Jones on Piano and Vocal only
With only 9 tracks on the original LP (one of which is an interview tagged on at the end of Side 2), presented on it's lonesome on CD, the album would have made for a fairly tread bare listen. But the excellent fully finished quality of the 11 extra songs changes the whole listening experience into something far more exciting.
The session must have been all business, because only one song out of the 19 presented here, "Blues On The Street" contains the barest amount of studio chatter - the other 18 have no false starts, no breaks - just the finished recording (the box tells you which take and version was used). Although his chosen instrument was the piano, I actually find the six guitar/vocal only tracks on this release to be superb - and because of their Robert Johnson sparseness - all the more emotive. The remaster on them is also crystal clear and adds huge presence to the listen. Speaking of tapes, it's noticeable, however, that there's `crackle' on some of these tracks, but it's only fleeting and not too detracting. The three takes of "Dryborough Drive" are all instrumentals. I love "Roll Me Over" (lyrics above).
Curtis Jones' life reads like a movie script. Illiterate and broke for most of his formative years (and some decades after too), Jones not only loved his blues music, but knew about the pain contained within it. With his grandparents before him literally being slaves, he was born in Naples, Texas in 1905 into a family of six. But he lost his mum when he just 18 months old. A little over a year later, Curtis contracted small pox, which was a killer disease back then. His father, Willis Jones, happened to overhear a conversation about plans to `remove' his entire family that night regardless of the cost to the seven children. Luckily, he evacuated them in time, but the threat turned out to be true; local white farmers, who feared a spread of the disease to their children, did burn out their shack of a home that night, thinking they were all still in there! The whole Jones family camped out that cold evening in the woods a few miles away for safety. But although he was wrapped up for warmth, Curtis was almost lost to a snowdrift. His father frantically searched for his lost child and luckily found him the next day. The family relocated, but poverty stayed with them ever after. Curtis then spent the next few years playing a local church organ and developing calluses on his fingers from endless guitar playing. In his early teens, tired of the sharecropping farms and the dead-end future they held, he took to the freight trains and ended up in Dallas where he eked out a living playing boogie-woogie in gambling houses and Negro juke joints. Much later, he makes his way to England where the British blues boom is happening...and Mike Vernon, who was barely working for Decca a year at the time, got the opportunity to produce Curtis. The resulting album was "Curtis Jones In London" issued on Decca LK 4587 in 1964 (the title of the 'follow up' album "Now Resident In Europe" refers back to the "In London" record).
The music could be described as piano based boogie-woogie blues, his voice a cross between Sonny Boy Williamson and maybe a little hint of Smiley Lewis and Robert Johnson. He also wrote all the songs and they're impressive too. "Gee, Pretty Baby" is as infectious a song as you're ever likely to hear - Louis Jordan infectious - great!
In a long line of goodies, this is yet another great outing from Blue Horizon with superb liner notes, great remastered music and all of it wrapped up in a classy card-wrap outer. (Apparently, there are 4 boxes of tapes from the sessions unaccounted for in the archives - so maybe when they're found - we'll get a volume 2 at a future date.)
Curtis Jones died in Germany in 1971 and was buried in a 'Sozialgrab' - a pauper's grave. So crushingly sad - RIP you lovely man. Hopefully this reissue will spread the news and make Curtis Jones better known and more revered. A beautiful and brave release...