Tuesday, 23 September 2008

"The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions" (including the "Long Overdue" LP) by GORDON SMITH (2008 Sony/Blue Horizon CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Having A Good Time..."

Once in a very blue moon - a CD comes along that grabs you by the short and curlies and blows your tiny gin-sozzled mind. Gordon Smith's "The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions" is that album. What a blast – and there’s so much of it too. Here are the finite Acoustic Blues…

UK released September 2008 – "The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions" by GORDOM SMITH on Sony/Blue Horizon 88697359852 (Barcode 886973598528) is a CD Remaster and breaks down as follows (76:07 minutes):

1. Diving Duck Blues [Sleepy John Estes cover]
2. Highway 51 [Tommy McClenman cover]
3. One Dime Blues [Blind Lemon Jefferson cover]
4. Having A Good Time [Gordon Smith song - instrumental]
5. Instrumental No. 2 [Gordon Smith song]
6. Walking Blues [Robert Johnson cover/Muddy Waters Arrangement]
7. Rolling And Tumbling  [Traditional Blues cover]
8. I Been Down So Long [J.B. Lenoir cover]
9. Instrumental No. 4 [Gordon Smith song]
10. Pearlie Blues [Traditional Blues cover]
11. The Woman Down The Hall [Gordon Smith song]
12. Big Road Blues [Gordon Smith song]
13. Instrumental No. 3 [Gordon Smith song]
14. Worried Life Blues [Sleepy John Estes cover]
Tracks 1 to 14 are his lone album "Long Overdue" LP issued on the cult UK label Blue Horizon Records 7-63211 in March 1969. It's an incredibly hard-to-find acoustic blues rarity clocking in at over £100 - if you can actually locate one. It reputedly sold over 4000 copies on release but in the near 20 years that I've been dealing with rare records - I've never actually seen one. So it's reissue is welcome and a huge plus for blues fans everywhere.

15. Nobody’s Fault But Mine [Blind Willie Johnson cover] – PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
16. One Dime Blues (Take 1) [Blind Lemon Jefferson cover] – PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
17. Instrumental No. 2 (Take 1) [Gordon Smith song] – PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
18. Walking Blues (Alternate Mono Version) [Robert Johnson cover] – PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
19. Rollin’ & Tumblin’ (Alternate Mono Version) [Traditional Blues cover] – PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
20. Walking Blues (Electric Version, Take 1) [Robert Johnson cover] – PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
21. Pearlie Blues (Alternate Mono Version) [Traditional Blues cover] – PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
22. I’m So Glad (Take 1) [Skip James cover] – PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
23. Instrumental No.1 (Take 3) [Gordon Smith cover] – PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
24. When You Got A Good Friend [Robert Johnson cover] – PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
25. I’m So Glad (Take 2) [Skip James cover]– PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

26. Too Long
27. Funk Pedal – tracks 26 and 27 are his lone 7" single on Blue Horizon Records 57-3156 issued in July 1969 (both are non-album tracks) and again the 7” single is impossibly rare - itself upwards to £20 to find a mint copy in it's distinctive Blue Horizon label bag. The A-side is a Mississippi Sheiks cover while the B-side is an instrumental cover of a Robert Johnson song. 

28. I’m Sitting On Top Of The World (Mono) [Robert Johnson cover] – PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
Tracks 15 through to 25 and 28 are all previously unreleased. Some were from his aborted 2nd album and all are being made available here for the first time anywhere. All are studio quality finished versions.

The original analogue master tapes have been used, mastered by SEAN LYNCH at Torch Music - the sound is SUPERB - clear, warm and punchy. There is hiss on some of the quieter tracks like "Instrumental No. 4" but it's not enough to detract.

The detailed 12-page booklet has a really informative and enthusiastic essay by the label founder MIKE VERNON which stylishly mixes the personal with the factual - making for a really great read. There are promo photos from the Blue Horizon archives of Gordon with his guitar, the A & B-sides and label bags of obscure 7” singles along with the rare album sleeve are pictured too. There's a concert poster showing that he supported Muddy Waters on tour in the UK and a very detailed track-by-track session breakdown. All of it is contained by a card wrap on the outside - which gives the release a classy and eventful look. 

Several tracks contain guests: the opener, a cover of Sleepy John Estes' "Diving Duck Blues" has PETER GREEN on Harmonica (he plays a blinder) while PETER HALL adds lovely rolling piano blues to the instrumental "Having A Good Time". Another label mate DUSTER BENNETT compliments Smith's stunning acoustic blues with his Harmonica work on the Robert Johnson cover of "Walking Blues". Fans of that early FLEETWOOD MAC sound will flip for the version of J.B. Lenoir's "I Been Down So Long" which has both JOHN McVIE and MICK FLEETWOOD on it. Their rhythm section work perfectly compliments this really cool blues shuffle.

However, the album mostly highlights the beautifully deft guitar work of the 20-year old lad from Tyne & Wear. Many tracks are guitar and vocals only. It sounds like Robert Johnson transported from the 30's to the 60's and 5 of the tunes are his own compositions - pretty impressive stuff really. His voice sounds a little like Danny Kirwan of Fleetwood Mac, but it's his guitar playing that impresses most - especially on the acoustic guitar with a bottleneck squeaking up and down the frets. If you want a good taster of what to expect - try to access the Traditional Blues air of "Pearlie Blues" if possible - wonderfully evocative of the Delta that has so obviously entranced him -body and soul.

I love acoustic blues - especially a really good string bender. And what you get here is a cracking great album full of it - a wad of tasty outtakes that you'll play again rather than just listen to once and leave there - and all of it wrapped up in Grade A packaging. Brill!

Investigate this superb GORDON SMITH CD soonest. An exemplary reissue - and hats off to all the good people involved - keeping the blues flame alive…

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