Tuesday , April 16 2024
Its nice to see these largely forgotten guys from bands like Humble Pie and Uriah Heep have still got it after all these years.

Music Review: Various Artists – This Is The Blues (Volumes 3 & 4)

As was the case with the first two installments of this series (both were released last month), the third and fourth volumes of Eagle Records’ This Is The Blues bring together the cream of the original British blues/rock crop. Jeff Beck, Mick Taylor, Jack Bruce and members of several classic rock bands most popular in the sixties and seventies — groups like Uriah Heep, Jethro Tull, Ten Years After, Humble Pie and Foghat — are among those who pay tribute here to the blues.

Like the previous two volumes of the series, these two discs also lean heavily on the work of blues legends like John Lee Hooker and Willie Dixon, as well as that of one of British blues/rock’s own in original Fleetwood Mac guitarist Peter Green.

So this is really more of a classic rock treatment of the blues than the more authentic experience many blues purists might be seeking. That’s the disclaimer. Even so, as evidenced by the many fine live concert videos this label is best known for (by many of the same artists represented here), nobody does classic blues/rock quite like Eagle Rock. They have once again done a fine job here.

The thirty songs heard over these two discs are all drawn from a series of tribute recordings produced by Peter Brown that include Clarksdale to Heaven: Remembering John Lee Hooker and Rattlesnake Guitar: The Music Of Peter Green. This somewhat explains the curious inclusion of the British guitar great being celebrated in the same company as American blues legends like Hooker.

With that said, there’s a lot of really great music to be found here. Peter Green himself kicks things off by invoking the dark growl of John Lee Hooker’s “Crawlin’ King Snake,” followed in short order by a version of Green’s “If You Be My Baby” featuring Foghat’s Lonesome Dave Peverett and Rod Price, as well as New Jersey’s own Southside Johnny Lyon on mouth harp.

From there comes something of a “whatever happened to?” moment as the original rhythm section of Ten Years After — bassist Leo Lyons and drummer Ric Lee — back up vocalist/guitarist Vince Converse on a tasty version of Hooker’s “Bad Like Jesse James.” Blues guitar whiz Gary Moore and Cream bassist Jack Bruce likewise collaborate on a slowly simmering version of Hooker’s “Serves You Right To Suffer.”

For Peter Green’s “Showbiz Blues” (which is said to have been inspired by the notoriously reclusive guitarist’s disdain towards the music business), Irish guitarist Rory Gallagher picks up the bluesy pace by letting things rip a bit more with both his guitar and vocal.

Returning to the “whatever happened to?” department for a moment are former Humble Pie guitarist Clem Clempson with a bluesy rendition of “I’ve Got News For You,” former Jethro Tull guitarist Mick Abrahams with “The Same Way,” and former Uriah Heep keyboardist Ken Hensley (who also turns in some nice slide guitar) on Robert Johnson’s “Hellhound On My Trail.” Volume 3 of This Is The Blues closes with Jeff Beck turning in his always stunning guitar work, backed here by the Kingdom Choir on a gospel rave-up of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.”

The fourth volume of the series kicks off with more fine slide work from former Stones’ guitarist Mick Taylor on the blues-shuffle “This Is Hip.” The Pretty Things (anybody remember them?) contribute another standout with a version of “Judgment Day” that rocks more than just about any other track found on these two discs. British blues shouter Maggie Bell (who, like the Pretty Things, is another largely forgotten alumnus of Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song label) also shows she’s still got it on “Blind Man,” tastefully backed by guitarist Big Jim Sullivan.

On one of the more curious tracks here, Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson delivers a very folky, very British sounding take on Green’s “Man Of The World,” complete with his signature flute. It sounds fine and all, but also kind of stands out like a sore thumb amongst all the bluesier fare otherwise found here.

Equally strange is original British wildman Arthur “I Am The God Of Hellfire” Brown’s avant blues/jazz/metal rendering of Green’s “The Green Manalishi.” Brown’s vocal sounds far closer to Judas Priest’s Rob Halford’s version than it does to Green’s original — but I still like it. A lot, actually.

It’s primarily due to the strange, but interesting placement of more eclectic sounding tracks like those by Brown and Anderson (amongst the more straightforward blues and rock offerings found here) that I can heartily recommend these latest two volumes of This Is The Blues.

It’s also nice to see such strong performances from all these largely forgotten guys from bands like Humble Pie, Uriah Heep and Ten Years After. They’ve mostly all still got it even after all these years too.

About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, Ultimate Classic Rock, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.

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