The Silvertone/Legacy release of this three-CD box set, with DVD documentary, follows blues legend Buddy Guy's career from his arrival in Chicago in 1957 up to the present day.
The soulful singer/guitarist pours emotion into his performancestrack after track, night after night, year after year. His sound changes gradually over time, as the freedom handed to him by label owners and producers comes to him at different levels and in varying degrees. The down home soul of his Louisiana roots and the fiery guitar statements that Chicago nurtured in him combine to create a wholly distinctive style.
What a combination. Soulful blues vocals that tell a story. Fiery guitar tirades that arouse. It's always convincing: right through the heart.
Guy was 21 when he moved to Chicago, and 20 years younger than Muddy Waters. A demo that he made in Baton Rouge before leaving home starts off I Can't Quit The Blues with a traditional bang. From there on in, he moans the blues and wails on guitar with a personal signature that emphasizes comfort along with soulful passion. Powerful bands with gritty horns back him at every turn.
Hoodoo Man Blues, from 1965, lets the bluesman take a turn toward his more contemporary sound, keeping emotions high while carrying the blues to a new generation. I Can't Quit The Blues, from 1968, finds Guy and his Chicago band turn on the relaxed romp that's formed the basis of his signature sound ever since. Listen to his heated instrumental delivery and you can trace the influence that he's cast over a wide range of artists.
With Junior Wells in 1974, he interprets "When You See The Tears From My Eyes at the Montreux Jazz Festival. The combination of Wells' harmonica and Guy's plaintive vocal is unforgettable. A few years later in Paris he recorded "I Smell A Rat with his brother Phil on rhythm guitar, proving that a little extra time for stretching out could make the difference. From that point on, his career has been all about the freedom that comes with a veteran's reputation and how much music can be made when left to improvise at will.
The second disc begins in 1991 with "Damn Right, I've Got the Blues, featuring Guy's hot guitar sliding and falling all over the place. The freedom to just be himself puts his delivery in high gear. The stories are all familiar. We all know those kinds of situations. Everybody has reason to feel the blues some of the time. What folks like Buddy Guy do is to explain it to us indirectly. And it's his blazing guitar that drives each message home.
Mustang Sally will put a smile on your face in two seconds flat. "Five Long Years finds Guy singing expressively, while "Mary Ann lets him settle down comfortably with a relaxed ease. The pairing of guitar and harmonica gives "She's Nineteen Years Old a special appeal. There's nothing like it.
Bonnie Raitt joins Guy on "Feels Like Rain, which emphasizes her slide guitar along with his single note lines. Both artists attach importance to the lyrical side of their music. The band from Saturday Night Live joins Guy at his Chicago club in 1996 for "My Time After Awhile. It's a live recording that captures the kind of slow, soulful passion that the band harbors on its weekly venture, but seldom has time to release.
Several previously unreleased selections appear on Can't Quit The Blues, including Mose Allison's "Your Mind Is On Vacation, which swings with a pleasant ambience. Johnny Lang pairs with guy for "Midnight Train," on a vocal duet that rocks hard. Finally, disc two closes with a selection from Silvertone's iTunes digital collection that was not previously available on CD. "Totally Out of Control drives with a powerful guitar thrill, all instrumental and white hot.
Disc three begins with a 1998 recording of "Nobody Understands Me But My Guitar that has not been previously released. Guy's contemporary sound with organ, several electric guitars and a pounding rhythm section personifies the direction that the blues has been headed in lately. Guy's soulful vocal remains at the forefront, championed by a forceful lineup that makes use of modern instrumentation.
Muddy Waters' "Honey Bee, from a 2001 session in Oxford, Mississippi, features Guy's small blues band in a throwback selection, while "Baby Please Don't Leave Me and "Tramp push the leading-edge envelope. "Done Got Old takes Guy way back to his roots, by himself on acoustic guitar, giving a traditional Delta interpretation. They're all from the same session, but Guy likes his adventures.
A 2003 session in Oxford features more of Guy's interpretation of traditional blues with selections such as "Moanin' And Groanin, "Crawlin' Kingsnake and "Bad Life Blues. It's in his blood. Through Guy's various interpretations, we can trace blues history.
Six selections from 2005 close the disc number three with a mainstream blues feel that's beyond style or chronology. From Buddy Guy's roots, 70 years ago in Louisiana north of Baton Rouge, we can experience the push and pull of contemporary influences on his life.
Tracks: CD1: The Way You Been Treating Me; Sit And Cry (The Blues); This Is The End; Untitled Instrumental; First Time I Met The Blues; Ten Years Ago; Let Me Love You Baby; Stone Crazy; When My Left Eye Jumps; Hoodoo Man Blues; In The Wee Hours; I Can't Quit The Blues; One Room Country Shack; T-Bone Shuffle; When You See The Tears From My Eyes; I Smell A Rat; She Suits Me To A T; DJ Play My Blues.
CD2: Damn Right, I've Got The Blues; Mustang Sally; Five Long Years; Mary Ann; She's Nineteen Years Old; Miss Ida B; Feels Like Rain; 7-11; I Smell Trouble; Someone Else Is Steppin' In (Slippin' Out, Slippin' In); My Time After Awhile; Your Mind Is On Vacation; Midnight Train; Totally Out Of Control.
CD3: Nobody Understands Me But My Guitar; Baby Please Don't Leave Me; Done Got Old; Honey Bee; Tramp; Crawlin' Kingsnake; Moanin' And Groanin'; Bad Life Blues; I Can't Be Satisfied; First Time I Met The Blues; I'd Rather Be Blind, Crippled & Crazy; Somebody's Sleeping In My Bed; I Miss You; Cut You Loose; The Price You Gotta Pay.
Personnel: Buddy Guy: vocals, guitar. Various lineups including: Junior Wells: harmonica, vocals; Jimmy Powers: harmonica; Bonnie Raitt: slide guitar, vocals; Johnny Lang: guitar, vocals; Phil Guy, Doug Williams, Lefty Bates, Jimbo Mathus, Jack Holder, John Porter, Neil Hubbard, Wayne Bennett, G.E. Smith, Danny Kortchmar, Terry Taylor, Johnny Lee Schell, Scott Holt, David Grissom, Otis Rush, Jeff Beck, Keith Richards, Keb' Mo', B.B. King, Eric Clapton, John Mayer: guitar; Ivan Neville: organ, keyboards; Lafayette Leake: piano, organ; Reese Wynans: piano, organ, keyboards; Bernie Worrell: keyboards; Leon Pendarvis: organ; Mick Weaver: piano, organ; Pinetop Perkins, Little Brother Montgomery, Otis Spann, Bill Payne, Ian McLagan, Johnnie Johnson, Dr. John: piano; Willie Weeks, Paul Ossola, Mike Morrison, David M. Smith, Tommy Shannon, Bill Wyman, Jack Meyers, Leroy Stewart, J.W. Williams, Davey Faragher, Greg Rzab, Larry Taylor, Tony Garnier, Willie Dixon: bass; Clifton James, Fred Below, Dallas Taylor, Jim Keltner, Chris Layton, Ray Allison, Roosevelt Shaw, Phil Thomas, Billy Warren, Odie Payne, Shawn Pelton, Richie Hayward, Steve Jordan, Spam: drums; Tony Braunagle, David Z: percussion; Aaron Corthen, Bobby Fields, Malcolm Duncan: saxophone; George Young: alto saxophone; Lenny Pickett, A.C. Reed, Lannie McMillan, Joe Sublett, Abe Locke, Bob Neely, Jarrett Gibson, Andrew Love: tenor saxophone; Donald Hankins: tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone; McKinley Easton, Lew Del Gatto: baritone saxophone; Jim Horn: baritone saxophone, flute; Marty Grebb: baritone saxophone, piano; Sonny Turner, Sid Gauld, Darrell Leonard, Ron Tooley, Murray Watson, Ben Cauley: trumpet; Neil Sidwell, Dennis Wilson, Jack Hale: trombone; Shemekia Copeland: vocals; Renée Geyer: background vocals; The Perrys: handclaps; others.
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