Sunday, 12 October 2008

"Blues Jam In Chicago, Volume One" by FLEETWOOD MAC [and Friends] (1999 and 2004 Columbia/Blue Horizon 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"…I Get A Real Good Feeling Talking To You…"

Blues Jam In Chicago Volume 1 by FLEETWOOD MAC 
(1999 and 2004 Columbia/Blue Horizon 'Expanded and Altered' CD Remaster)

The two volumes "Blues Jam In Chicago, Vol.1" and "Blues Jam In Chicago, Vol.2" are based around Fleetwood Mac’s 4th vinyl outing in 1969 – the 2LP set "Blues Jam At Chess". Having a convoluted history on all formats - both the original UK and American record issues and their subsequent 1999 and 2004 CD Reissues and Remasters require some serious explanation as regards release dates, artwork and even content. So here goes – the records first...

Fleetwood Mac's 4th vinyl outing was a double-album called "Blues Jam At Chess" issued April 1969 on Blue Horizon Records S 7-66227 in the UK. Produced by MIKE VERNON and MARSHALL CHESS at the Chess "Ter-Mar" Studios in Chicago - the artists involved were FLEETWOOD MAC, OTIS SPANN on Piano, WILLIE DIXON on Bass, WALTER "SHAKEY" HORTON on Harmonica, J.T. BROWN on Tenor Sax, GUITAR BUDDY on Guitars (Pseudonym for Buddy Guy), HONEYBOY EDWARDS on Bass and S.P. LEARY on Drums. It was recorded in one day - 4 January 1969 – and has a multiple credited title (the artists listed in block capitols above).

The following year the double-album was initially split into two single LPs for the USA and retitled "Blues Jam In Chicago, Vol.1" and "...Vol.2" – released May 1970 on Blue Horizon BH 4802 and BH 4803 respectively. Neither charted - but reissued as a double-LP proper under the title "Fleetwood Mac In Chicago" in June 1971 on Blue Horizon 3801 – it did chart and peaked at No. 190 on a 6-week run. To confuse matters even further - and on the back of the success of the Buckingham/Nicks "Fleetwood Mac" Reprise Records LP – it was reissued yet again December 1975 as "Fleetwood Mac In Chicago" on Sire S2X 6009 and charted belatedly for a second time – peaking at No. 118 in a 16-week chart run. Again this 3rd reissue had different artwork – a plain sort of eggplant red. Which brings us to these two reissue CDs...

The cover of the original 1969 British 2LP set had a wavy backdrop and titled sleeve - no real effort in the art department - while the 1971 and 1975 US doubles didn't fare much better either – a blue car door sleeve for 1971 and a plain red cover for 1975. These new CD remasters first issued inside "The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions 1967-1969" 6CD Box Set from November 1999 - and now as individual stand-alone single CD reissues in June 2004 – use the much prettier 1970 "Blues Jam At Chicago – Volumes 1 & 2" Artwork for both volumes. Now to the content...

The original American Volumes issued May 1970 were simply Sides 1 and 2 of the British double-LP on Volume 1 with Sides 3 and 4 put onto Volume 2. But as these July 2004 CDs are taken from "The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions 1967-1969" Box Set  – they're the 'Expanded Edition' versions with rejiggered tracks. In order to show the musical differences I've detailed the vinyl first - then the Expanded CD...

ORIGINAL VINYL LP configuration:
Side 1:
1. Watch Out [Peter Green song]
2. Ooh Baby [Chester Burnett aka Howlin' Wolf cover]
3. South Indiana - Take 1 [Walter 'Shakey' Horton cover]
4. South Indiana - Take 2 [Walter 'Shakey' Horton cover]
5. Last Night [W Jacobs cover]
6. Red Hot Jam [Peter Green Instrumental song]
Side 2:
1. I'm Worried [Elmore James cover]
2. I Held My Baby Last Night [Elmore James/Jules Taub cover]
3. Madison Blues [Elmore James cover]
4. I Can't Hold Out [Elmore James cover]
5. I Need Your Love [Jimmie Rogers cover]
6. I Got The Blues [Walter 'Shakey' Horton cover]

UK released June 2004 - "Blues Jam At Chicago Volume One" by FLEETWOOD MAC on Columbia/Blue Horizon 5164462 (Barcode 5099751644620) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Reconfiguration and Remaster and plays out as follows (68:24 minutes):

Tracks 1 to 5 are the same as the LP above
Track 6 is "Red Hot Jam" [Take 1 with Studio talk - An Inserted Previously Unreleased Track]
Track 7 is "Red Hot jam" [Take 2 - The Master Version, Track 6 on the LP]
Tracks 8 to 11 are "I'm Worried" through to "I Can't Hold Out" and are as per the LP
Track 12 is "Bobby's Rock" which is an inserted Previously Unreleased cover of an Elmore James song
Track 13 is "I Need Your Love" (same as the LP)
Track 14 is "Horton's Boogie Woogie [Take 1 with Studio Chatter - an Inserted Previously Unreleased Version]
Track 15 is "I Got The Blues" is the Master but with inserted Previously Unreleased False Start

DUNCAN COWELL has digitally remastered the original session tapes to stunning Audio quality - as fresh as a politician's new excuses – while the booklet has informative and detailed liner notes by MIKE VERNON – Blue Horizon’s head honcho and label leader.

WALTER HORTON plays Harmonica on CD tracks 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 13, 14 and 15
JEREMY SPENCER replaces Peter Green on Guitar and Vocal for 8, 9 10 and 11 - these tracks also feature J.T. BROWN on Tenor Sax with WILLIE DIXON on Upright Bass
OTIS SPANN plays Piano and S.P. LEARY plays drums on 13, 14 and 15

Fans greet the album itself with equal amounts of affection and disdain because at times it sounds like one long rehearsal - and a slightly uninspired and dull one at that. It's not that “Blues Jam At Chess” is bad - it just isn't red hot like you'd think it should have been and maybe another day or two would have sorted out a coherent album. Highlights, however, include the lovely shuffle of "Watch Out" - the harmonica driven slow blues of "Last Night" and the slashing Elmore James riffs in "I Can't Hold Out" (lyrics above). "Bobby's Rock" is a rubbishy extra, but Take 1 of "Horton's Boogie Woogie" is fantastic - alive and kicking and worth the price of entry alone. I play it a lot and it picks me up every time.

To sum up then - this is a 5 star Sony presentation of a 3 to 4 star Blue Horizon album. But there's still enough magic on "Blues Jam At Chess" in its Two Volume split personalities to recommend it. And for Peter Green Fleetwood Mac and Blues Rock fans - it's an absolute necessity...

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