Wednesday, 22 October 2008

“The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions” by SUNNYLAND SLIM and JOHNNY SHINES [Featuring Their Rare 1969 Albums “Midnight Jump” and “Last Night’s Dream”] - A Review by Mark Barry...

“…Got A Lean On My Body…Mortgage On My Soul…” 

 The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions by SUNNYLAND SLIM and JOHNNY SHINES (2008 Sony/Blue Horizon CD Remasters)

This February 2008 UK released 23-track CD features two very rare blues albums from 1969 in their entirety along with three previously unreleased outtakes from the original sessions - and all of it in top quality digitally remastered form. Here are sunny details...

"The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions" by SUNNYLAND SLIM and JOHNNY SHINES on Sony/Blue Horizon 88697192172 (Barcode 886971921724) offers 2LPs Remastered onto 1CD that comes with Three Bonus Tracks. It plays out as follows (78:36 minutes):

1. Layin’ In My Cell, Sleepin’
2. I Am The Blues
3. Sunnyland Special
4. Heartache
5. Lowland Blues
6. Stepmother
7. Get To My Baby (Take 2)
8. Get To My Baby (Take 3)
9. Stella Mae
10. Midnight Jump (Take 3)
11. Midnight Jump
12. Depression Blues
13. Heartache (Alternative Version)
Tracks 1 to 6, 8, 9, 11 and 12 are the 10-track SUNNYLAND SLIM album "Midnight Jump" issued in January 1969 on Blue Horizon S 7-63213 in the UK. It wasn't issued initially in the USA - but was re-issued in 1972 with a different cover and name - "Blues Masters Vol.8" on Blue Horizon BM 4608.

Track 7, 10 and 13 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED – new to this CD
All tracks were recorded at Chess's "Ter-Mar Recording Studios" in Chicago on 10 June 1968 - corrected from the album's sleeve notes that mistakenly credited the recording date as May 1968.

14. Solid Gold
15. From Dark ‘Til Dawn
16. I Will Be Kind To You
17. Last Night’s Dream
18. Baby Don’t You Think I Know
19. Pipeline Blues
20. I Don’t Know
21. Black Panther
22. I Had A Good Home
23. Mean Fisherman
Tracks 14 to 23 are the 10-track JOHNNY SHINES album "Last Night's Dream" issued in January 1969 on Blue Horizon S 7-63212 in the UK; like the Sunnyland Slim album, it was also re-issued only in 1972 in the USA with a different cover and name - "Blues Masters Vol.8" on Blue Horizon BM 4607

The band for both sessions were:
SUNNYLAND SLIM (Albert Luandrew) on Piano & Vocals (Tracks 1 to 13 only)
JOHNNY SHINES on Guitar (All tracks except 3, 5 and 13)
WALTER "SHAKEY" HORTON on Harmonica (All tracks except 3 and 13)
OTIS SPANN on Piano (Track 19 only)
WILLIE DIXON on Upright Bass (All tracks except 13 to 17, 20, 22 and 23)
CLIFTON JAMES on Drums (All tracks except 13, 14, 17 and 22)

The original master tapes were transferred and remastered by SEAN LYNCH at Torch Music in Berkshire and SIMON WOOD at Dubmaster Studios in Hampshire and while Sunnyland Slim's album is clean, clear and ballsy sounding - the Johnny Shines album is very hissy on a good few of the tracks. Don't get me wrong - his music is very good - eerie almost - but the hiss level and tape glitches on "I Don't Know" and "I Had A Good Home" do detract a little (four session reels are missing).

The 16-page booklet is written by label boss MIKE VERNON and features detailed biographies on the two main men and each of the session players, album recording details, photos of the original LP covers - all of it in the usual card wrap on the outside - superbly presented as ever.

Musically, this is a deceptive release - at first I honestly thought it was all a little dull - merely workmanlike - but after a few listens - it's eaten into me - especially the Shines tracks. Badly recorded or not - they're wonderfully evocative of lone-guitar-blues - the ghost of Robert Johnson hanging over every long-fingered string bend. And even more enticing is that 17 of the 23 tracks are self-penned by both artists (the other 6 are covers) - which is impressive indeed given their overall quality. 

Both men had great voices and are complimented to the ninth degree by both DIXON and HORTON. Highlights include the Harmonica Driven instrumental "Lowland Blues" and a mighty Johnny Shines version of Robert Johnson's "Baby Don't You Think I Know (aka Sweet Home Chicago)" with Horton again blowing up some great Harmonica fills. The shuffle of "I Will Be Kind To You" is as infectious as blues gets - just lovely. Can't stop playing it. The three outtakes are complete versions too and it's hard to know why Take 3 was used and not Take 2 - they're equal to each other.

To sum up – this is yet another classy release from the Blue Horizon camp in a long line of them. Give this superb CD a chance - it has rewards aplenty, it really does…

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