Thursday, 10 February 2011

"California Mudslide (And Earthquake)" by LIGHTNIN' HOPKINS (December 1994 Ace Records CD Reissue and Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"…Don't Work In No Kind Of Kitchen…Don't Sell No Chewing Gum…"

Recorded in May 1969 in Los Angeles for the obscure Vault Records label (Vault 129) - "California Mudslide (And Earthquake)" is a forgotten gem in Lightnin' Hopkins extraordinary discography. It was released in the UK October 1970 on Liberty LBS 83293 in Stereo but sold zip.

Remastered from the original tapes by NICK ROBBINS at Ace's own Sound Mastering Studios in the UK - this mid-priced December 1994 CD on Ace CDCHM 546 (Barcode 029667154628) is a bare-bones reissue of that 11-track vinyl rarity (36:02 minutes).

The inlay is a gatefold slip of paper reproducing the front and rear of the original album sleeve - complete with its short but affectionate liner notes by admirer and Monument Records star - TONY JOE WHITE.

1. California Mudslide
2. Rosie Mae
3. Los Angeles Blues
4. Easy On Your Heels
5. New Santa Fe
6. Jesus, Will You Come By Here
7. No Education
8. Antoinette's Blues
9. Change My Way Of Living
10. Los Angeles Boogie
11. Call On My Baby

Of the 11 tracks - most are simply Lightnin' singing along to his miked-up guitar giving accounts of Sixties USA - "California Mudslide", "Rosie Mae", "New Santa Fe", "No Education", "Change My Way Of Living" and "Call On My Baby". He went over to Piano and vocals for "Los Angeles Blues" and "Antoinette's Blues" (lyrics above). The only tune that has a band of sorts on it is the rocking "Easy On Your Heels" - it features John Howard on Bass and Bill Brown on Drums with Lightnin' on Guitar and vocals.

The only real clunkers on here are two slightly experimental tracks - "Jesus, Will You Come By Here" and "Los Angeles Boogie" where he is featured with a huge sort of cabaret organ sound - like they were going for some sort of Booker T & The M.G.'s vibe, but it just doesn't work...

The sound quality isn't audiophile territory by any means and there's a lot of 'hiss' surrounding the naked tracks in particular. But - and rather smartly - Ace clearly haven't engineered the air around the performances out of existence in the Remaster precisely because it has left the HUGE almost eerie feel of the original recordings intact. In fact, whenever I play this CD at the job in the shuffle - it always fills the place with a wicked BIG BLUESY vibe - pure and real - customers love it and ask after the singer every time. And how shockingly good is his wonderful piano-playing on "Los Angeles Blues" - so full of atmosphere and crafty little fills - it feels like there's a band in the room - but it's just him and the keys - amazing.

I'm sure Lightnin' Hopkins thought it was just another session, and would be tickled pink at us pouring over every detail now. But in hindsight it is his very purity of playing and singing that gives the whole record such mojo...

There is something wonderfully evocative about "California Mudslide" - a simple straight-up blues album with some minor variants in between. Lovely stuff and recommended like a cold beer after a hard day's work...

1 comment:

Nestor said...

unos de los gigantes del blues

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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