Thursday, 6 August 2015

"The Complete Willy And The Poor Boys" [featuring Bill Wyman, Paul Rodgers, Jimmy Page, Garry Brooker, Chris Rea, Ringo Starr and Andy Fairweather Low] (2015 Edsel 2CD/1DVD Reissue/Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Let Me Love...You All Night Long..."

Tribute albums are always tricky – let alone ones that rely on old Rock ‘n’ Roll and Rhythm ‘n’ Blues tunes as its backbeat. Yet Bill Wyman’s 1985 fund-raiser LP for a terminally ill Ronnie Lane (of Small Faces, Faces and Slim Chance fame) works because its fun and doesn’t let the big name celebrities swamp proceedings - but add to them in a very real way.

Taking its name from a schoolyard nickname and an LP by his favourite American band (1969's "Willy And The Poor Boys" by Creedence Clearwater Revival) – Rolling Stones Bassist BILL WYMAN gathered together a formidable array of big musical names to record an album of favourites that would benefit ARMS (Action For Research Into Multiple Sclerosis). His core band consisted of Andy Fairweather Low on Guitar and Vocals, Mickey Gee of Love Sculpture and Joe Cocker’s Grease Band on Lead Guitar, his Rhythm Kings Rock ‘n’ Roll Pianist Geraint Watkins, Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones on Drums, himself on Bass and the Horn Section (on some tracks) brought up by Willie Garnett and Steve Gregory. Inbetween we get guest appearances by Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin on Guitar, Paul Rodgers of Free on Lead Vocals, drummers Terry Williams of Brinsley Schwarz and Henry Spinetti of The Herd and Climax Blues Band, Ray Cooper of Elton John’s Band on Percussion and one appearance of Ronnie’s old band mate Kenney Jones of The Who and Small Faces on Drums (“Sugar Bee”).

The UK LP appeared in May 1985 on Decca/Ripple BILL 1, the 30-minute film/video at Fulham Town Hall came also in 1985 with a further Willy And The Poor Boys ‘Live’ set in 1994 (recorded in Sweden in 1992 – known as “Tear It Up’ in the USA). This is the first time that all 3 have been brought together in one remastered package – and a thoroughly enjoyable Rock ‘n’ Roll romp it makes too. Here are the rowdy details...

UK released 7 August 2015 – “The Complete Willy And The Poor Boys” on Edsel EDSG 8062 (Barcode 740155806231) is a 2CD/1DVD Digipak Set and pans out as follows:

CD 1 (36:35 minutes):
1. Baby Please Don’t Go [Big Joe Williams cover]
Features Chris Rea on Lead Vocals

2. Can You Hear Me [Allen Toussaint song/Lee Dorsey cover]
Features Andy Fairweather Low on Lead Vocals

3. These Arms Of Mine [Otis Redding cover]
Features Paul Rodgers of Free and bad Company on Lead Vocals with Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin on Guitars

4. Revenue Man (White Lightning) [Big Bopper cover]
Features Andy Fairweather Low on Lead Vocals

5. You Never Can Tell [Chuck Berry cover]
Features Bill Wyman on Lead Vocals

6. Slippin’ And Slidin’ [Little Richard cover]
Features Paul Rodgers of Free and bad Company on Lead Vocals with Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin on Guitars

7. Saturday Night [Dave Bartholomew and Pearl King song/Roy Brown cover]
Featuring Geraint Watkins on Lead Vocals and Keyboards

8. Let’s Talk It Over [Tampa Red cover]
Features Andy Fairweather Low on Lead Vocals

9. All Night Long [Clifton Chenier cover]
Features Bill Wyman on Lead Vocals

10. Chicken Shack Boogie [Amos Milburn cover]
Featuring Geraint Watkins on Lead Vocals and Keyboards

11. Sugar Bee [Eddie Shuler song/Cleveland Crochet cover]
Features Bill Wyman on Lead Vocals and Kenney Jones on Drums

12. Poor Boy Boogie [Bill Wyman and Andy Fairweather Low song]
Features Andy Fairweather Low on Lead Vocals

CD 2 – Live (54:40 minutes):
1. High School Confidential
2. Tear It Up
3.Baby Please Don’t Go
4. Medley: Ooh Poo Pah Doo/Rockin’ Pneumonia & The Boogie Woogie Flu
5. Mystery Train
6. Chicken Shack Boogie
7. Stagger Lee
8. What’d I Say
9. Red Hot
10. Lovin’ Up A Storm
11. Medley: Poor Boy Boogie/Hound Dog/Shake, Rattle & Roll/Looking For Someone To Love
12. Land Of 1000 Dances
Recorded 31 July 1992 at the Hotel Tylosand in Halmstad, Sweden
BAND was:
Bill Wyman – Bass and Vocals
Terry Taylor – Guitar and backing Vocals
Jimmy Henderson – Vocals and Harmonica
Andy Fairweather Low – Guitar and Vocals
Gary Brooker – Keyboards and Vocals
Graham Broad – Drums
Maria, Annica, Maggie Ryder & Miriam Stockley – Backing Vocals
Ollie Niklasson – Saxophone

DVD (NTSC/No Regional Restrictions):
1. Poor Boy Boogie
2. You Never Can Tell
3. Chicken Shack Boogie
4. Let’s Talk It Over
5. All Night Long
6. Saturday Night
7. Baby Please Don’t Go
8. These Arms Of Mine

Bonus Documentary – The Making Of Willie And The Poor Boys

Bonus Video – These Arms Of Mine (with Paul Rodgers and Jimmy Page)

Bill Wyman – Bass and Vocals
Charlie Watts – Drums
Andy Fairweather Low – Guitar and Vocals
Geraint Watkins – Keyboards and Vocals
Mickey Gee – Guitar and Vocals

Chris Rea – Vocals
Ronnie Wood – Saxophone
Raf Ravenscroft – Saxophone
Mel Collins – Saxophone
Kenney Jones – Drums and Percussion
Henry Spinetti - Percussion
Terry Taylor – Percussion
Ringo Starr – Guest Appearance

The chunky gatefold digipak is a four-flap foldout affair festooned with photos of the band dressed up as Mods and Rockers with a fact-filled 20-page booklet sporting detailed liner notes by DAVID WELLS. Scans and photos come from the Bill Wyman archives, Val Jennings co-ordinated the project and the mastering was done by PHIL KINRADE at Alchemy Mastering. Both CDs sound great – full of vim and vigour – but then so did the original recordings.

It opens with the guttural vocals of Chris Rea laying into “Baby Please Don’t Go” and the album immediately states its Rock ‘n’ Roll and Boogie Woogie credentials – we’re here to party and have some fun. The track choices are clever too – avoiding the huge songs of the genre and favouring forgotten nuggets like Lee Dorsey’s “Can You Hear Me” and the Bip Bopper’s “Revenue Man”. The production is old school – full of warmth and a little echo or sloppiness on those guitar parts to give a more natural feel. Paul Rodgers and Jimmy Page have a Soulful Rock go at Otis Redding’s “These Arms Of Mine” – what a great voice he has – Page’s guitar way back in the mix as the Piano and Brass take centre stage. On the two tracks that Wyman sings (Chuck Berry’s wonderful “You Never Can Tell” and Clifton Chenier’s “All Night Long”) - he’s actually similar to Wilko Johnson in his nasal delivery and in some respects is better than Low or Watkins at the mike (though both exude their love for the music).

Rodgers and Page return for a raucous version of Little Richard’s “Slippin’ & Slidin’” but its actually the piano playing of Watkins that you notice. “Sugar Bee” and their own “Poor Boy Boogie” finish off proceedings in suitable style.

If the retro album was good – the live set saw the project explode into life in front of a small but wildly enthusiastic audience. Procol Harum’s Gary Brooker comes out on lead vocals and tears up the piano too on the Jerry Lee Lewis classic “High School Confidential”. They really start to cook on “Tear It Up” with all the vocals working and that great Rock ‘n’ Roll vibe seeping into the room. It also sounds brilliant – professionally recorded too. The wicked duo guitar opening to “Baby Please Don’t Go” is fantastic and how good is to hear anyone do Elvis’ “Mystery Train”. By the time it gets to “Red Hot” and the rollicking medleys that finish the Tim Young mastered disc – its job done.

Eagle-eyed collectors will note that the DVD sees the first time members of The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and The Who have played/joined together for a film project (it was filmed 11 and 12 March at the Fulham Town Hall in London). Smartly its also Region Free.

To sum up – the album by itself would be a solid 4-stars, but the Live CD and the Guest Heavy DVD give it a huge boost. Well done to all at Edsel for doing such a great job...

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