Monday, 13 October 2008

"Blues Jam In Chicago, Volume Two" 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 Want You To Rock Me Baby...All Night Long…"

Blues Jam In Chicago Volume 2 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 – Volume 2 looks like this...

Side 3:
1. World’s In A Tangle [Jimmie Rogers cover/J Lane]
2. Talk With You [Danny Kirwan song]
3. Like It This Way [Danny Kirwan song]
4. Someday Soon Baby [Danny Kirwan song]
5. Hungry Country Girl [Otis Spann cover]
Side 4:
1. Black Jack Blues [J.T. Brown song]
2. Everyday I Have The Blues [P Chatman cover]
3. Rockin’ Boogie [Jeremy Spencer song]
4. Sugar Mama [Sonny Boy Williamson cover]
5. Homework [Clark Perkins song/ Otis Rush cover]

UK released June 2004 - "Blues Jam At Chicago Volume Two" by FLEETWOOD MAC on Columbia/Blue Horizon 5164472 (Barcode 5099751644729) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Reconfiguration and Remaster and plays out as follows (75:52 minutes):

Tracks 1 to 8 as per the LP above (1 to 5 on Side 3 and 1 to 3 on Side 4)
Track 9 is “My Baby’s Gone” (David Edwards cover) - an outtake which first appeared on “The Blue Horizon Story 1965-1970 Volume 1” 3CD Box Set from 1997 (reissued in 2006)
Track 10 is “Sugar Mama” (Sonny Boy Williamson cover) [Take 1 – Incomplete – Previously Unreleased]
Track 11 is “Sugar Mama” [Master Version, as per the LP]
Track 12 is “Homework” (Clark Perkins song/Otis Rush cover) [as per the LP]
Track 13 is “Honey Boy Blues” (David Edwards cover) [Incomplete – Previously Unreleased]
Track 14 is “I Need Your Love” (Jimmie Rogers cover) [Take 1 – Incomplete – Previously Unreleased]
Track 15 is “Horton’s Boogie Woogie” (Walter Horton cover) [Take 2 – Previously Unreleased]
Track 16 is “Have A Good Time” (Walter Horton cover) [Previously Unreleased]
Track 17 “That’s Wrong” (Walter Horton cover) [Previously Unreleased]
Track 18 is “Rock Me Baby” (Jackson cover) [Previously Unreleased]

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 original double-album 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 release.

Compared to Volume 1 – Volume 2 gets the lion’s share of previously unreleased material on CD – almost doubling the playing time. And while the first Volume is good if not a little dull (see separate review) - the second is fantastic. It seems that as the session went on and they settled down and became more comfortable with each other – sparks started to fly as is evidenced in "World’s In A Tangle" and "My Baby’s Gone". But what sends this half of the double album into the stratosphere is the bonus tracks - which are not incomplete takes or aimless studio chatter - but fully realised songs – albeit a little rough around the edges. One of the keys in their magic is Walter Horton’s wonderful harmonica playing and sheer presence ("Have A Good Time" and "Rock Me Baby" are dynamite).

To sum up – a 5-star presentation to a 4 to 5-star second half – and for fans of Blues, Danny Kirwan, Jeremy Spencer and Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac – like its little brother – it’s family – and an absolute necessity...

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