Friday, April 01, 2011

Stumbling Upon the Vinyl Archive. 2. Blues

I will never forget the night I watched a particular gig on the TV. Extremely late one evening, BBC 2 screened a remarkable event called "Fats and Friends". An all-star cast joined the redoubtable Fats Domino on stage to celebrate the lovable pianist's birthday. The gig has recently appeared on the Internet and can be seen here. Fat's performance was just delightful, his New Orleans boogie style is lovely - and who cold fail to be swept up in the enthusiasm and sheer joy the man brought to his music? Jerry Lee Lewis' performance was - well, very Jerry Lee Lewis! The star of the show that night was by far, one Ray Charles, a pianist I had barely heard of - but who from the first note he sang on that programme grabbed my attention, and held it by the throat. It was utterly spell-binding, hair-raising and gave me an instant affection for the Blues, which has never left me. Soon after that night I saw this Ray Charles vinyl album in a local shop - for not much money, bought it, loved-it, and played it to death! It was one of several albums I discovered again last week when clearing out my attic space. I picked this one again, with immense fondness.

After "Fats and Friends" and this LP, I had little idea that Ray had recorded all kinds of other music too. These happened (co-incidentally) to both be Charles' performances in which he explored a more straightforward stripped-down sound. The LP because it was all early material recorded before there were any backing vocalists or orchestras to complicate the sound, and the gig , because he was guesting with a house-band. I never loved Charles' forays into country or ballads, as much as this, timeless, wonderful music. I am so glad that I managed to see a Ray Charles gig before he died, several years ago. In his latter-years he was still an awesome performer, a wonderful piano-player with a voice so textured and crackly that he could stun and audience into silence with a single note. (see 34 mins into the Fats and Friends gig).
The 'master-of-the-Telecaster', was Albert Collins, another unique and gloriously eccentric player - and a natural entertainer. I saw him live in the company of Gary Moore, playing songs like Cold Cold Feeling, Too Tired, and Caldonia. This LP I picked up soon after that gig. It's a fun record too, with as much up-beat, light-hearted humour in it as their is soul-searching angst in Charles' record. I smiled when I pulled this one from the attic, happy memories, of along-time ago. Strange too, to realise that Ray Charles, Gary Moore and Albert Collins are now all dead. Three people of immense, and varied talents who strode Colossus- like across the stage, held countless people mesmerised by their talents - and have now departed. I'm grateful to have seen them all play live.

Muddy Waters is a strange one for me. Although I stumbled on The Blues and was immediately gripped by them, unlike all the other Blues-fans I knew - I really didn't somehow 'get' Muddy Waters. Although I picked this LP up from a friend decades ago, it it didn't get played very much. I have only recently discovered an appreciation for Muddy, (perhaps Electric Mud was a step too far for me!), and so this piece of Vinyl was a pleasant surprise to unearth, and now it will be played. Songs like Feel Like Going Home, and Long Distance Call - just brilliant.

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