Tuesday, 15 September 2015

"The Complete Vanguard Recordings" by BUDDY GUY – (2000 Ace/Vanguard Masters 3CD Set with Bonuses – Jeff Zaraya Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Let Me Play My Axe...."

A truly wicked set of CD Remasters from 2000 gathering together his much-loved trio of albums for America's Vanguard Label in the late 60ts and early 70ts – two studio sets and one incendiary live show. Time to go uptown and get lowdown with a '57 Stratocaster strapped around a genius (who's still giving it the Blues at the age of 79)...

UK released 31 October 2000 (November 2000 in the USA) - "The Complete Vanguard Recordings" by BUDDY GUY on Ace/Vanguard Masters 3VCD 178 (Barcode 090204991761) is a 3CD reissue and breaks downs as follows:

Disc 1 (46:22 minutes):
1. A Man And The Blues
2. I Can't Quite The Blues
3. Money (That's What I Want)
4. One Room Country Shack
5. Mary Had A Little Lamb
6. Just Playing My Axe [Side 2]
7. Sweet Little Angel
8. Worry, Worry
9. Jam On A Monday Morning
Tracks 1 to 9 are the album "A Man And The Blues" – released 1968 in the USA on Vanguard VSD-79272 and in the UK on Vanguard SVRL 19002 (both in Stereo)
10. Poison Ivy
11. You've Got A Hole In Your Soul

Disc 2 (58:40 minutes):
1. Watermelon Man [Live]
2. I Got My Eyes On You [Live]
3. The Things I Used To Do [Live]
4. (You Give Me) Fever [Live]
5. Slow Blues [Live]
6. Knock On Wood [Live]
7. Crazy 'Bout You [Live]
8. I Had A Dream Last Night [Live]
9. 24 Hours Of The Day [Live]
10. You Were Wrong [Live]
11. I'm Not The Best [Live]
Tracks 2, 3, 4 and 6 are Side 1 with tracks 8 to 11 being Side 2 of the 'live' album "This Is Buddy Guy!" – released 1968 in the USA on Vanguard VSD 79290 and in the UK on Vanguard SVRL 19008 (both in Stereo)

Track 5 "Slow Blues" [Live] is a Bonus; Track 7 "Crazy 'Bout You" [Live] is Previously Unreleased and Track 1 "Watermelon Man" is a Previously Unreleased Live Version – all three are previously unreleased from the live concert recording for the album "This Is Buddy Guy!" recorded at New Orleans House, Berkley, California, USA. Ace Records of the UK have reissued the album on a straightforward 8-track CD remaster in 2005 on Ace/Vanguard Masters VMD-79290

Disc 3 (39:03 minutes):
1. Watermelon Man
2. Hold That Plane
3. I'm Ready
4. My Time After Awhile
5. You Don't Love Me
6. Come See About Me
7. Hello San Francisco
Tracks 1 to 7 are the album "Hold That Plane!" (Recorded in 1970) – released 1972 in the USA on Vanguard VSD.79323 and in the UK on Vanguard VNP 5315.

The 8-page inlay with new liner notes by BOB MERLIS of The Blues Foundation are good if not disappointingly slight. There's a history on the albums, some photos and very basic albums credits. You wish there was more. The Remasters from original master tapes have been carried out by JEFF ZARAYA using the Sonic Solutions system and sound great throughout - plenty of muscle and presence. TOM VICKERS produced the Reissue.

The opening album reunited Buddy with his Chess partner OTIS SPANN on Piano and the Chicago label's veteran drummer FRED BELOW. It's a superb Blues album and hardly surprising it gets reissued so much. "A Man And The Blues" and the misery-pace of "One Room Country Shack" are perfect examples of the superb Stereo palette – Buddy playing beautifully while Otis Spann compliments every lick with tasty piano fills. Guy even makes the downright silly "Mary Had A Little Lamb" work (a Stevie Ray Vaughan favourite). The slow lurching Blues of "Sweet Little Angel" has some of his tastiest playing and at 5:40 minutes is a perfect ten. The album ends on the Funky Stax/Volt feel of "Jam On A Monday Morning" – a cool bopping instrumental with brass punctuations that makes you feel like it’s a backing track to a Wilson Pickett groover - and once again you’re reminded of where SRV got those Funky Blues moments from. His first great album on Vanguard leads to another...

He roars "Listen To Me!" several times to the audience at the beginning of his slinky cover of Little Willie John's "Fever" – a genius tune that seems impossible to do injustice to (surely in the top ten of truly great songs). He then launches into a balcony-rattling version of Eddie Floyd's "Knock On Wood" that has the crowd whooping like crazy. Side 2 opens with my fave on the album – his own "I Had A Dream Last Night" – a slow shuffling cymbal is tapped as he solos - soon to be joined by the boys on the horns – A.C. Reed and Bobby Fields on Tenor Saxophone, Leslie Crawford on Baritone Sax with Normal Spiller and George Alexander lending a hand on their Trumpets. By the time he gets half way through – Guy is letting rip with some truly inspired playing and equally impassioned vocals (the boys in the rhythm section picking up on the excitement and responding in kind). Buddy then gets Stax funky with "24 Hours Of The Day" which is followed with "You Were Wrong" where he "...gets back to the blues..." The raucous "I'm Not The Best" sounds like he’s trying to be Otis Redding bringing the crowd and the gig to boiling point.

The second studio album on here "Hold That Plane!" was recorded in 1970 but had to wait until 1972 to see the light of day and it's a forgotten gem that effortlessly straddles pure Blues and Funk-Blues. The sessions included Jazz Pianist Junior Mance as well as the Alto Sax of Gary Bartz. Hardly surprising then that it opens with a 5:18 minute Funky Instrumental cover of Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man" which sounds more like Albert King at Stax than Buddy Guy at Vanguard. Having said that – it's an absolute Funky Blues barnstormer - and is surely going to turn up on some uber cool Funk-Blues CD compilation (pointing out nuggets you missed) some time in the near Kent-Soul future. Back to Blues business with a superb "Hold That Plane" – Guy in blistering string bending form – vocals a-growling – complimented by sweet Junior Mance piano rolls. He revisits Willie Dixon (writer) and Muddy Waters with "I'm Ready" – but although all the players are great – to me it's the weakest track on an otherwise top album (there’s just something slightly lacking in his delivery, even uncomfortable).

A million times better is a cover that actually suits his voice and the band’s supreme playing – "My Time After Awhile" by Texas Bluesman Robert Geddins. It's one of those "...my baby been out all night and she's just walked in..." tales of woe – where if things don’t change I believe our Buddy gotta moves on down the line (no offense sweetheart). A cool bopping version of Bo Diddley's "You Don't Love Me" follows – the boys on the horns giving it a wicked dancefloor shuffle. Back to hard-hitting Blues with the lengthy slow instrumental "Come See About Me" penned by Buddy and his brother Phil Guy – a one-time sidekick in Koko Taylor’s band (Phil plays Rhythm Guitar on tracks 1, 4, 5 and 7 on CD3). This is what Buddy Guy fans love – 8:41 minutes of attacking solo work – complimented by musicians who are all feel and no nonsense (ably assisted this time on Piano by Mark Jordan - his only appearance on the album). Another fab Robert Geddins tune finishes the album - "Hello San Francisco" – a minor local hit for Sugar Pie DeSanto on Jasman Records (also in 1972). In Buddy's take our hero ups and leaves Chicago in 1968 and heads for the beaches and whatever else the Sunshine State has to offer (though I'm not sure its a tan he's ultimately after)...

The Bonus material is something of a bonanza actually – most being better than they had any divine right to be. The two previously unissued cuts on the first album (Disc 1) were recorded at the original sessions in Universal Studios, Chicago – "Poison Ivy" is not a cover of the Coasters Atlantic Records hit but his own composition - while "You Got A Hole In Your Soul" is a workmanlike cover version of a Joe South tune originally on his "Games People Play" album in 1969 on Capitol as "Hole In Your Soul". The three live cuts are fabulous – especially "Slow Blues" where he lets rip for almost seven minutes – sloppy notes and all (the crowd dig it big time). His 5:20-minute live take on Herbie Hancock’s classic "Watermelon Man" was probably too brass-orientated for a live Blues album and was subsequently left off (still a great inclusion though) - while the heavy slow Blues of "Crazy 'Bout You" runs to a pleasing 6:33 minutes. All in all - very good indeed.

So there you have it – three genuinely wicked albums with varying Blues styles (all of which work) – a cluster of extras actually worth calling 'bonus tracks' – and all of it in tippity-toppity sound quality.

Damn right Buddy Guy’s got the Blues...and on this exemplary evidence...you need some in your Stereo too...

This review and 155 more like it are available to read in my SOUNDS GOOD Music Books Series. Check out the BLUES, VOCAL GROUPS, R 'n' B and R' n' R Version on Amazon as a Kindle read...

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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