Saturday, 31 March 2018

"Get Down/Live Catfish featuring Bob Hodge" by CATFISH (December 2017 Beat Goes On Reissue - 2LPs onto 2CDs (No Extras) - Andrew Thompson Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...All Your Sweet Loving..."

Imagine singer Bob "The Bear" Hite of Canned Heat meets guitarist Leslie "The Mountain" West of Mountain at the 'Get High, Get Naked and Get Down Balls To The Wall Boogie Festival' of 1970 - and they have a love child. In their Festival Tent of Shared Greasy Oneness they stare down affectionately at the little critter writhing about with a cigarette in his mouth, a quiff on his head, lifetime membership cards for the Jerry Lee Lewis and Howlin’ Wolf fan clubs and a Fender Stratocaster surgically attached to his hands and think - I know - let's call him 'Catfish'...

Detroit's Catfish were a down and dirty Blues Boogie band out of the Motor City of extraordinary power (especially live as evidenced by the second platter on offer here). They managed only two albums on Epic Records (CBS Records in the UK and Europe) - one studio set "Get Down" from March 1970 and one live album made up of almost entirely new material not surprisingly called "Live Catfish..." in April 1971.

Somewhere in-between the musical markers of Canned Heat, Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels and Mountain - their bluster and blunder approach wasn't all Shakespeare or even sophisticate Blues for sure - but it was real and at times joyous. And when their spiritual leader and principal songwriter BOB HODGE sang - he came over like the son of Otis Redding on a good day (maybe not as good as Eddie Hinton but close) - while his Catfish band regularly crushed it on the guitar and amped-up organ. These guys made a formidable 70ts Rock-Blues clamour.

There's a lot to like here and a 300-Pound Fat Mama to negotiate - so let's get to the Mississippi River and bathe...

UK released 15 December 2017 - "Get Down/Live Catfish featuring Bob Hodge" by CATFISH on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1308 (Barcode 5017261213082) offers 2LPs newly Remastered onto 2CDs (no extras) and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (44:48 minutes):
1. Catfish [Side 1]
2. The Hawk
3. No Place To Hide
4. 300 Pound Fat Mama
5. Love Lights [Side 2]
6. Coffee Song
7. Tradition
8. Sundown Man
9. Reprise: Catfish/Get High, Get Naked, Get Down
Tracks 1 to 9 are their debut album "Get Down" - released March 1970 in the USA on Epic Records BN 26505 and April 1970 in the UK on CBS Records S 64006. Produced by KEN COOPER - It didn't chart in either country.

BOB HODGE - Lead Vocals and Guitar
MARK MANKO - Lead Guitar

Disc 2 (45:02 minutes):
1. Nowhere To Run [Side 1]
2. Money (That's What I Want)
3. 300 Pound Fat Mama
4. Mississippi River [Side 2]
5. Letter To Nixon
6. Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On
Tracks 1 to 6 are their second and last album "Live Catfish featuring Bob Hodge" - released April 1971 in the USA on Epic Records E 30361 and in the UK on CBS Records S 64408. Recorded at Eastowne Theatre in Detroit and Produced buy JOHN HILL - it failed to chart in either country.

BOB HODGE - Lead Vocals and Guitar
DALLAS HODGE - Lead Guitar

The 12-page inlay has the usual original album credits, some black and white photos of Bob and the Band and superb new liner notes from BGO regular JOHN O'REGAN. But the big news is a new ANDREW THOMPSON Remaster. The last time I heard "Get Down" it was on some muddy Special Products CD by Sony out of the States in the early Nineties as I recall - and for such a crudely recorded in-your-face record - left a little bit to be desired. Not exactly audiophile heaven, here the beef is back because each CD rooks. Tracks like the lengthy Blues chug of "300 Pound Fat Mama" has real power now.

The 9-track "Get Down" debut featured all original material - Bob Hodge penning "The Hawk", "300 Pound Fat Mama", "Love Lights", "Coffee Song" and "Sundown Man" whilst co-writing "No Place To Hide" and "Tradition" with Lead Guitarist Mark Manko. The other two are band compositions with someone called T. Carson. You might be fooled on hearing the opening "Catfish" that you somehow stumbled on some bad Country Rock album - a sort of poor man's Creedence - but things pick up with "The Hawk" and "No Place To Hide" - guitar boogies pieces ala Canned Heat. Call me the hawk - take care of business - Hodge roars - "No Place To Hide" featuring the piano and organ soulfulness of Harry Phillips. But Side 1 belongs to the 8-minute "300 Pound Fat Mama" where Hodge sounds like Albert King meets Little Milton as he 'yeahs all the way through this fabulous slow Blues work out. She goes down to Detroit on a Sunday afternoon - he tells us as dirty-sounding Steppenwolf-type guitars sneak past his 'love ya, love ya' chants. But hero of the hour is again Phillips who lays down some fabulous Barroom rolls on the old upright only to follow that with some cool Graham Bond organ licks - a bar-band in your living room (lyrics from the song title this review). There are even moments when he sings 'out on that corner, messing around' when he sounds like a demented Captain Beefheart digging deep into the Blues.

It's easy to hear why Epic tried a 3-minute edit of "Love Lights" as a precursor 7" single for the album in December 1969 (Epic 5-10568 with an edit of the album's "Tradition" on the flipside) - it feels like Joplin's Big Brother & The Holding Company only fronted by a man - Hodge giving it some 'yeah yeah yeah' as he just can't stand the pain and he gets down on his knees and he prays to a God that ain't listening. The short and funny sounding "Coffee Song" is the kind of witty-ditty that must have seemed like fun at the time but seems like a waste of space now. Better is the straight-up Ten Years After rolling and tumbling boogie-riffage of "Tradition" where Bob is going to Louisiana - gotta get there right away - there's a sweet little mama on the other side of the bay he tells us with some urgency (we understand William - we do). The album's raucous medley let's rip with guitars - Catfish going ape as they "Get High, Get Naked and Get Down".

Hearing the debut leaves you with a clear signal - these guys must have been a festival sensation 'live' - and they were. Supporting bands like Black Sabbath, Canned Heat and even Ted Nugent - "Live Catfish" finally realises the potential of the debut. Only "300 Pound Fat Mama" is highlighted from the first album (here turned into an absolutely barnstorming 14-minute Blues-Rock epic) - the other five are new and include two wildly revamped Blues Rock versions of Motown classics - Martha & The Vandella's "Nowhere To Run" and Barrett Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)". Over on Side 2 the Hodge-penned "Mississippi River" and a lengthy rant "Letter To Nixon" show both his love for the Blues and his generation’s rage at the murderous politics of the time ("I wrote Nixon - he didn't write back..."). It ends with a fast 'n' bulbous snort through Jerry Lee's "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" – party animal time.

CATFISH were rough and tumble and their down-home unsophisticated sound will not be for everyone - but for those who dig the sheer 'out there' and 'in your face' Blues Boogie of Canned Heat or Ten Years After - there is much to slaver over here. Well done to BGO of the UK for getting them out there at last and in decent sounding form too...

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