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Customer Review

HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon December 30, 2007
This superb 36-Track 2CD set allocates Disc 1 to BACON FAT and Disc 2 to GEORGE SMITH. Disc 1 is loosely based around Bacon Fat's 1st LP for the British Blue Horizon label "Grease One For Me" from 1970 - while Disc 2 features George Smith's sole LP for the label "No Time For Jive" from the same year. In between these two hugely rare albums are an even hard-to-find 7" single and a wad of really great previously unreleased live material from the period. Harmonica Rock Blues hasn't sounded this good in years. Here are 'boom boom' details...

UK/Europe released August 2006 - "The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions" on Sony/Blue Horizon 82876887372 (Barcode 828768873724) breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (79:10 minutes): BACON FAT
1. Up The Line
2. Boom, Boom (Out Goes The Lights)
3. Smalls On 53rd
4. She's A Wrong Woman
5. I Need Your Love
6. Juicy Harmonica [Side 2]
7. Nobody But You
8. Telephone Blues
9. You're So Fine
10. Too Late
Tracks 1 to 10 are the "Grease One For Me" - released 1970 in the UK on Blue Horizon Records 7-63858 and BH 4807 in the USA
BONUS TRACKS:
11. Evil
12. Blues Feeling
Tracks 11 and 12 are the A&B sides of a 1970 UK 7" single on Blue Horizon 57-3181 - both tracks are non-album
13. Off The Wall
14. Ah'w Baby
15. Mellow Down Easy
16. Blues With A Feeling
17. Tight Dress
18. I've Had My Fun
19. Help Me
20. My Babe (Part 1)
Tracks 13 to 20 are previously unreleased live tracks from a November 1970 UK tour (see also tracks 9 to 16 on Disc 2)

Disc 2 (74:38 minutes): GEORGE SMITH
1. Someday You're Gonna Learn
2. Blue Switch
3. Mississippi River Blues
4. Before You Do Your Thing (You'd Better Think)
5. Don't Want To Go, Baby [Side 2]
6. Good Things
7. Soul Feet
8. No Time For Jive
Tracks 1 to 8 are the album "No Time For Jive" - released 1970 in the UK on Blue Horizon Records S 7-63856
BONUS TRACKS:
9. My Babe (Part 2)
10. I'm Ready
11. Telephone Blues
12. Forty Four
13. Blues With A Feeling
14. Summertime
15. Got My Mojo Working
16. Hamp's Boogie Woogie
Tracks 9 to 16 (as well as 13 to 20 on Disc 1) are previously unreleased live tracks by BACON FAT and GEORGE SMITH recorded at Hull, Bexley, Leicester, Plymouth and other UK locations during their November 1970 tour

This jam-packed 2CD set comes in a tasty card wrap, a hugely detailed booklet by label boss and Producer MIKE VERNON which goes deep into the history of both albums (and the tour/discovery of the tapes) as only he can. The DUNCAN COWELL remasters are fantastic - full of presence and warmth - and as so many tracks are dependent of that warbling harmonica - it needs power without being overdone - and that's exactly what you get. Quality transfers and the more I listen the better they get...

The band BACON FAT was essentially a vehicle for ROD PIAZZA and his superb 'chromatic' harmonica playing - loud, live and gutsy. The band line-up on Disc 1 includes BUDDY REED and GREGG SCHAEFER on Guitars, J.D. NICHOLSON on Piano with JERRY SMITH on Bass and DICK INNES on Drums. Track 5 only, "I Need Your Love", features J.D. NICHOLSON on Leads Vocals and Piano, while Track 8 only, "Telephone Blues", features GEORGE SMITH on Lead Vocals and Harmonica.

Dominated by Harp - the album "Grease One For Me" not surprisingly has three Little Walter covers on it (the harmonica playing sensation from Chess and Checker Records) - "Up The Line", "You're So Fine" and "Too Late" (Willie Dixon writer), 2 Rod Piazza originals ("Small's On 53rd" and "She's A Wrong Woman") and a lone contribution from J.D. Nicholson on "I Need Your Love". Recorded in Hollywood in November 1969 in one hectic day - the music is harmonica driven rockers and slow blues - and is a blast from start to finish. Listed at £70 in the price guides - good luck with trying to find a vinyl original - I've only ever seen two copies in 20 years of mail-ordering rare records - so it's a welcome CD reissue. If you want convincing download "Telephone Blues" from the Bacon Fat LP where George Smith sings lead vocals (wrote the tune too with one of the Bihari Brothers from Modern Records) - it's properly great heavy Blues Rock.

Born in Arkansas in 1924, GEORGE SMITH was already a 30-year harmonica veteran by the time he stepped into the Eldorado Recording Studios in Hollywood in November of 1969 to record his album. Smith's playing and singing is similar to Little Walter - his blues both ballsy and fun - and equally at home with either. You've probably noticed that the "No Time For Jive" album has only 8 tracks, 3 of which are over 7 minutes long. Vernon comments on this in his liner notes by saying that he felt they were "too" long - and a bit of `producer' editing at the time - along with 3 or 4 more selections readied for the day - would have produced an absolute barnstormer of an album. He's right. But what is there is simply sensational - great rocking harmonica blues that left this aging white boy breathless with admiration! Listed at a whopping £120 in the price guides, and released months AFTER the tour value of the November 1970 gigs had evaporated, it must have sold zip when it finally reached UK stores in the spring of 1971. So again - a welcome re-issue of a genuine rarity.

The 17 previously unreleased live tracks spread across both discs have a story all to their own. A UK tour was booked for BACON FAT and GEORGE SMITH for May and June of 1970, but it was postponed until November of that year. Although poorly attended in the middle of a cold winter, the acts played their hearts out - and we can now hear that because armed with his Sony TCD-3 and 2 Microphones, Mike Vernon followed the tour around and taped it! His notes explain that he never thought the recordings would be usable - he just wanted a document of the event. Some 36 years later, he rummages around his attic, finds the tapes, "bakes" them to get rid of oxidization - and boom! Here they are! And the results are just fantastic. If it hadn't been for Vernon, we would never have heard these gems. Dedication and love of the subject folks! Many of the live tracks are covers of blues standards. One particular highlight is "Forty Four" which has a preamble by George doing an accurate and hilarious impersonation of the mighty Howlin' Wolf! He talks about the blues ala "Wolf" much to the crowd and band's delight. Great stuff! Also, as Vernon has sequenced the tracks virtually without gaps, you get the feel of one long live concert in the same place - clever. Best of all is that each and every one of the 17 is a more than worthy addition to an already great release.

So there you have it. Two ludicrously rare albums, a 7" single you're never gonna see in your lifetime, all topped off with an entire album's worth of primo previously unreleased material. Jeez and Great Googley Moo - this is a stunning reissue. Buy it with confidence and prepare to warble/boogie around your living carpet...

PS: George Smith, Gregg Schaefer and J.D. Nicholson have all unfortunately passed away, but Rod Piazza is still playing mean harmonica and has many CDs to his name - including one for November 2007 - "Thrillville" on Wiernerworld CDs out of the USA.
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