Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Chicago Guitar Killers (Blue Night Records, 1979)
Before the Chess Records catalogue was acquired by MCA in the 1980s, the recordings of lesser-known musicians on the legendary Chicago label were generally only available on British or Japanese imports. Unofficially, however, one could also find such obscure material on bootleg releases like this one. MCA finally got around to putting out most of the rare Chess material on the four-CD Chess Blues box set and numerous collections (e.g. Chess Blues Guitar, Chess Blues Piano Greats, etc.) during the 1990s, which rendered most unauthorized compilations obsolete.
Indeed, most of the material on Chicago Guitar Killers has by now been released on official Chess reissues or anthologies. The three Buddy Guy tracks are from his fruitful 1963-1964 period and include the hot instrumental "Buddy's Boogie," the money blues "$100 Bill," and the dolorous "Stick Around," which is actually a mistitling of "Worried Mind" on the part of the bootleggers. "Little Boy Blue" and "Sweet Woman" (aka "Hand Me Down Blues") are two Albert King pieces that were recorded (or purchased) by Chess Records around 1960-1961 and bear some similarity to his sides that appear on the Door to Door LP (which also features songs by fellow southpaw guitarist Otis Rush). "She Knows How to Love (a Man)" and "Someday" are excellent performances from 1949 and 1964 respectively that perfectly bookend Robert Nighthawk's recording career on Chess. To some, the appearance of B.B. King on a compilation of tracks from the Chess vaults may seem confusing. The inclusion of "Recession Blues" and "Tickle Britches," however, is explained by the King of the Blues' discontent with Modern (his label at the time) and decision to play hooky by briefly recording for a competitor. For awhile, Chicago Guitar Killers and some other bootlegs were just about the only way to hear these unreleased tracks, although they became available on B.B. King reissues released in the 1990s. The trio of Earl Hooker instrumentals provide ample evidence of the musician's artistry and are among my favorite performances by the man who I consider to be the greatest electric blues guitarist of all time. Finally, and the best reason to have this LP, there are the two Otis Rush pieces, "Ooh-Wee Baby" (which sounds like a truncated predecessor to Buddy Guy's "Let Me Love You Baby") and "I Won't be Worried No More" (a member of the "Worried Life Blues" family of songs), which apparently were recorded during the same 1960 session that produced the guitarist's tracks that appeared on the aforementioned Door to Door. To my knowledge, these two performances have not appeared elsewhere, and it's a bit of a mystery as to why they didn't appear on that particular Chess LP. (Most of Rush's performances on Door to Door are thinly-disguised remakes of his Cobra records that, while boasting better production standards, are marred by hideous fake stereo reprocessing.) Surely, these would have been better selections than the retitled versions of "I Can't Quit You Baby" and "My Love Will Never Die" that appear instead. But hey, I'm not paid to make those decisions. I'm just a blogger.
Anyway, while this album may not be as cool to have as it was when it first came out in 1979, this is still a pretty neat artifact for the Otis Rush tracks alone.
1. Stick Around - Buddy Guy
2. Little Boy Blue - Albert King
3. Frog Hop - Earl Hooker
4. She Knows How to Love - Robert Nighthawk
5. Recession Blues - B.B. King
6. Ooh-Wee Baby - Otis Rush
7. Hooked on Love - Earl Hooker
8. I Won't Be Worried No More - Otis Rush
9. Guitar Rhumba - Earl Hooker
10. Someday - Robert Nighthawk
11. Buddy's Boogie - Buddy Guy
12. Sweet Woman - Albert King
13. Tickle Britches - B.B. King
14. $100 Bill - Buddy Guy