Saturday, 18 October 2008

"The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions" by BACON FAT and GEORGE SMITH. Rare 1970-1971 Albums, 7" Singles and Unreleased Stuff.




This 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 Blue Horizon label "Grease One For Me" from 1970 and Disc 2 around George Smith's sole LP for the label "No Time For Jive" from 1971. In between these two albums are a rare 7" single and a wad of previously unreleased live material.

Here's the layout:

Disc 1 (79:10 minutes): BACON FAT
Tracks 1 to 10 are the "Grease One For Me" Blue Horizon album from 1970 (7-63858)
Tracks 11 and 12 are the A&B sides of a 1970 7" single on Blue Horizon (57-3181, "Evil" and "Blues Feeling", both tracks are non-album)
Tracks 13 to 20 are previously unreleased live tracks (see 9 to 16 on Disc 2)

Disc 2 (74:38 minutes): GEORGE SMITH
Tracks 1 to 8 are the "No Time For Jive" Blue Horizon album from 1971 (7-63856)
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

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.

The album "Grease One For Me" has Little Milton and Smiley Lewis covers, 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 £50 in the price guides, good luck with trying to find a vinyl original; I've only ever seen two copies of it in 15 years of mail-ordering rare records - so it's a welcome re-issue here then.
(If you really need convincing, go to the iTunes store and download "Telephone Blues" for 79p - you'll soon want more! They do the entire 2CD set for £7.99, but I prefer the hard copy.)

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. Throw in a classy card wrap on the outside, knowledgeable, informative and heartfelt liner notes on the inside - and you get all this blues goodness for an online price of six miserly quid! Jeez the Breeze Baby and Great Googley Moo!! I've bought nine of the Blue Horizon releases to date and this one's been the best surprise of all!

A job well done and a stunning re-issue - buy it with confidence.

PS: George Smith, Gregg Schaefer and J.D. Nicholson have all unfortunately passed away, but Rod Piazza (pictured below) 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.

PPS: BACON FAT made other albums for Blue Horizon in the UK, but the label changed distributor from CBS to Polygram in late 1971 - and their 'jurisdiction' then and now changed ownership to the Universal group of labels - and so are outside the scope of this release. They may be released by Universal at some time in the future, but that remains to be seen...

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