Today on Blogcritics
Home » CHICAGO BLUES REUNION: A Review

CHICAGO BLUES REUNION: A Review

So much that is American music has flowed out of the black experience. In this politically correct age, we work so hard to acknowledge that fact that we sometimes overlook the amazing contributions that were made to these music forms by whites. That becomes even more complicated by the fact that in the rush to modernity, the roots can get overlooked.

As a music form, everybody knows the blues, but, in this hip-hop and pop age, they are underappreciated. Further, while most casual followers of the music know the absolute greats — BB King, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker… — few know how they came to know them. With the possible exception of King and Buddy Guy, most of the true blues masters played in a age of discrimination when their music was laregely consigned to small clubs in black neighborhoods. So how did America at large come to know these musical giants?

Because a few brave white suburban kids ventured into those clubs and learned from those masters and then took the music to the masses that only white people then had access to. It happened when Bix Biederbecke when to listen to King Oliver and Louis Armstorng for jazz and it happened when the people in the Chicago Blues Reunion whent to hear Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf.

That historical context makes the CD/DVD set Chicago Blues Reunion: Buried Alive In The Blues on of the more enjoyable bits of media that I have run into in a long time.

The DVD, while a bit self-agrandizing, does a good job of letting you know who these people are and the context in which they came to be very, very good blues players. It also helps you see how the blues moved into the mainstream, and this author for one, hopes it will help them move there again.

The CD is excellent. There is not a bad cut on it, and a couple of really outstanding one. My favs were “Drinking Wine” and “GM Boogie.” “Drinkin Wine” is almost a blues standard, but this rendition has a great all around sound and even at 10 in the morning made me want to go our drinkin’.

“GM Boogie” was written by Harvey Mandel and is intended to show off his guitar virtuosity, which it does to great affect. However, in it you can hear so much that was and is the blues. The solo heavy later part of the song is very traditional, but the early part is extremely reminiscent of one of the great modern blues bands — ZZ Top — that is almost had me do a double take when I first heard it.

All-in-all this is a great album and the DVD onoy adds to the experience. Highly recommended.
REF: CMP

About Blogotional

  • http://www.denisfarley.com Denis Farley

    That “double take” also served to prove the point or theme of this review. The GM Boogie that made you think of ZZ Top is actually the groove associated with John Lee Hooker, perhaps illustrated by Canned Heat’s ‘Refried Boogie’ a whole LP side for that band in their early ’60s, 2 LP release ‘Living the Blues’ for which Harvey Mandel was a band member.’ Later JLH and Canned Heat would ‘come together’ in a great two LP set, ‘Hooker N’Heat.’

    If you take the ZZ Top reference to be ‘La Grange’ (I haven’t heard the GM Boogie yet), then it would be a further interpretation of JLH’s many boogies. A couple of sidebars would include trivia like in that the Hooker camp had to bring a suit against ZZ Top for one of their boogies (like pinning a rap on a hit man, no?) and then Norman Greenbaum had a ’60s hit, ‘Spirit in the Sky’ with a slowed down, spaced out version of the ‘refried/later to be la grange’ boogie. . . folksingers call this the ‘folk process.’

    But in terms of a rhythmic motif, the boogie is to John Lee Hooker, what ‘THE FIFTH’ is to Beethoven . . . at least from this observer.

  • http://www.denisfarley.com Denis Farley

    That “double take” also served to prove the point or theme of this review. The GM Boogie that made you think of ZZ Top is actually the groove associated with John Lee Hooker, perhaps illustrated by Canned Heat’s ‘Refried Boogie’ a whole LP side for that band in their early ’60s, 2 LP release ‘Living the Blues’ for which Harvey Mandel was a band member.’ Later JLH and Canned Heat would ‘come together’ in a great two LP set, ‘Hooker N’Heat.’

    If you take the ZZ Top reference to be ‘La Grange’ (I haven’t heard the GM Boogie yet), then it would be a further interpretation of JLH’s many boogies and pretty much a direct copy of ‘Refried Boogie’ with the addition of Billy Gibbons special guitar talent. The opening drum rim beat part was lifted in tack from another old blues recording the name of which escapes me now. A couple of sidebars would include trivia like in that the Hooker camp had to bring a suit against ZZ Top for one of their boogies (like pinning a rap on a hit man, no?). In that case I think they cited the bass line for La Grange as the offending article for which ZZ settled. Later ZZ would bring suit against Mitsubishi for ripping their version of ‘La Grange’ (“the tangled web we weave”). Then Norman Greenbaum had a ’60s hit, ‘Spirit in the Sky’ with a slowed down, spaced out version of the ‘refried/later to be la grange’ boogie. . . folksingers call this the ‘folk process.’ Whether or not you get sued might have something to do with acknowleging the source of your inspiration as in throwing in a few covers as the Rolling Stones and others like Eric Clapton have done.

    But in terms of a rhythmic motif, the boogie is to John Lee Hooker, what ‘THE FIFTH’ is to Beethoven . . . at least from this observer.

  • http://www.denisfarley.com Denis Farley

    . . . more trivia notes concerning this post . . . Jimi Hendrix was asked on a talk show to name a few guitarists that impressed him and among the names were both Billy Gibbons and Harvey Mandel, so it would be natural that one would evoke the other in matters boogie-ology. Harvey, in additon to learning the idiom known as blues, was able to further the sonic properties of the electric guitar.

    I think even Shania Twain has used the boogie as the sonic engine under her ‘words and melody,’ possibly the hit, ‘Feel Like A Woman’ has it, if I remember correctly.

  • http://www.phusion.us Tim Gravenites

    I was on most of the west coast tour for this album (got off after S.F.) and I must say that hearing the band live is a real treat. If you’re a blues fan, you’ll love this cd, it was recorded in Chicago *gasp* in a small club with a large group of atendees.