Sweet electric blues from Freddie King – and a record that features a surprising set of arrangements from Donny Hathaway! The album's more Freddie's than Donny's, but it's a great meeting of the two talents under the Atlantic-endorsed Cotillion banner – served up with an unusual studio lineup that includes Frank Wess and George Coleman on tenor sax, Willie Bridges on baritone, Ernie Royal on trumpets, and Cornell Dupree on rhythm guitar. The horns keep things full and soulful, and make the album a bit less rock-directed than some of King's other efforts from the 70s – and at some of the hipper moments, you can definitely hear some deeper sophistication on the charts that clearly marks Hathaway's presence. King Curtis arranged one track on the set – "Woke Up This Morning" – and other Donny-arranged tunes include "Yonder Wall", "Stumble", "I Wonder Why", "What'd I Say", "The Things I Used To Do", and "My Feeling For The Blues".
Tony Bennett's latter-day albums tend to have themes, and this one has two, as indicated by its double-barreled title: It is both a duets album and a blues album. The duet partners include ten singers who range from his recent touring partners Diana Krall and k.d. lang to fellow veterans Ray Charles, B.B. King, and Kay Starr, and younger, but still mature pop stars Stevie Wonder, Bonnie Raitt, and Billy Joel. All sound happy to be sharing a mic with Bennett. Not surprisingly, the singer's conception of the blues does not extend to the Mississippi Delta or the South Side of Chicago; rather, he is interested in the blues as filtered through the sound of the Swing Era, particularly from around Kansas City, and as interpreted by Tin Pan Alley and show tunes…
John Lee Hooker developed a “talking blues” style that became his trademark. Though similar to the early Delta tradition, his metrically free approach and unique sound would make him a staple of Detroit blues. Often called the “King of the Boogie,” Hooker's driving, rhythmic approach to guitar playing has become an integral part of the blues. This quintessential release includes two albums from the beginning of his career: Sings the Blues (Crown 1961) and Sings Blues (King 1960). Although the two records share nearly identical titles, each contains a different and excellent track list. The former LP features great electric numbers such as “Hug and Squeeze (You),” “Good Rockin' Mama,” and “The Syndicate,” while the latter contains Hooker's solo recordings originally issued on the Modern label. Both albums have been remastered and packaged together in this very special collector's edition, which also includes 5 bonus tracks from the same period.
For a recording fervently hyped as a special occasion – B.B. King's 50th album and all that – this one is surprisingly patchy in concept and erratic in execution…
Juanita Hall is best-known for being a stage actress, playing Bloody Mary in South Pacific. However on this 1958 set for Counterpoint, she shows that she could effectively sing blues. Mostly sticking to songs from the Bessie Smith songbook (including "You've Been a Good Old Wagon," "Gimme a Pigfoot" and "Nobody Wants You When You're Down and Out"), Hall's extroverted and shouting style fit the music quite well. Pianist Claude Hopkins arranged for the sextet and gathered quite an all-star backup group that includes tenor-saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, clarinetist Buster Bailey and trumpeter Doc Cheatham. Well worth getting.
It's not as if Albert King hadn't tasted success in his first decade and a half as a performer, but his late-'60s/early-'70s recordings for Stax did win him a substantially larger audience. During those years, the label began earning significant clout amongst rock fans through events like Otis Redding's appearance at the Monterey International Pop Festival and a seemingly endless string of classic singles. When King signed to the label in 1966, he was immediately paired with the Stax session team Booker T. & the MG's. The results were impressive: "Crosscut Saw," "Laundromat Blues," and the singles collection Born Under a Bad Sign were all hits. Though 1972's I'll Play the Blues for You followed a slightly different formula, the combination of King, members of the legendary Bar-Kays, the Isaac Hayes Movement, and the sparkling Memphis Horns was hardly a risky endeavor. The result was a trim, funk-infused blues sound that provided ample space for King's oft-imitated guitar playing.
John Lee Hooker developed a “talking blues” style that became his trademark. Though similar to the early Delta tradition, his metrically free approach and unique sound would make him a staple of the Detroit blues tradition. Often called the “King of the Boogie,” Hooker's driving, rhythmic approach to guitar playing has become an integral part of the blues. His thunderous electric guitar sounded raw, while his basic technique was riveting.