Windy City Blues

Stax Records SCD 8612-2

Stax Records is a subsidiary of Fantasy, Inc. and this compilation of Chicago artists features seven recordings which have never been issued. Four were recorded by Albert King with the Willie Dixon Band thirty-four years ago. Three unreleased cuts feature Homesick James. Other featured artists are Otis Spann, Willie Dixon, Billy Boy Arnold, and Sunnyland Slim.

The four Albert King tunes were recorded using what is billed as the Willie Dixon Band composed of Phil Upchurch on electric bass (reportedly Dixon used Upchurch for a more modern blues sound), Lafayette Leake on piano, Matt Murphy and Mighty Joe Young on guitars and Morris Jennings on drums with a horn section dubbed in later. King's guitar style in unmistakable on his composition "The Lovin'est Woman In Town" and his vocal phrasing is soulfully bluesy. He covers three Dixon compositions, "Put It All In There," "Need More Mamma," and "Love Me To Death."

The first tune by pianist Otis Spann features James Cotton on vocals and harmonica doing "Dust My Broom." James Madison and Muddy Waters are credited on this session on guitars with Milton Rector on bass and S. P. Leary on drums. On the second offering, Spann does the vocals on "Must Have Been The Devil."

Willie Dixon's vocals on "Move Me" are great lowdown blues and the accompaniment by Harold Ashby on tenor saxophone lends an uptown, sophisticated flavor to the tune. Memphis Slim on piano is right in there with his distinctive phrasing.

Billy Boy Arnold's offering consists of three of his compositions, including "Billy Boy's Blues" and his harmonica playing on this one is joyful and swinging.

Sunnyland Slim on vocals and piano does three tunes with King Curtis on tenor saxophone. Slim's bluesy vocal style is timeless and his organ playing on "Tired of You Clowning" is outstanding.

Homesick James does three tunes on vocals and guitar. His raw vocal style is especially effective on the tune "The Cloud Is Crying" with his slide guitar echoing the lament of the lyrics.

This compilation of great Chicago artists is a taste of the best. Fans of that genre will relish this well produced release.

by Dorothy Hill

New Sounds - May 2004