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Alexis Korner: Kornerstoned: The Alexis Korner Anthology 1954-1983

Chris May By

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There's a stack of mighty fine jazz and blues music here, just about all of which has stood the passage of time well. But it has to be said that the other chief pleasure of Kornerstoned is historical, and of a train-spotting nature.

Korner, known as the Godfather of British Blues during his lifetime (1928-84), was a prodigious spotter of young talent, and many of the best known British R&B and jazz players of the '60s and '70s passed through his bands early in their careers.

Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones all passed through the ranks, as did Brian Jones and his eventual replacement in the Stones, Ronnie Wood. So did Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton of Cream, Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, and several saxophonists—Korner loved saxophones, especially roaring, dirty, rutting tenors—including Tony Coe, Alan Skidmore, Dick Morrisey, Mel Collins, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Graham Bond, John Surman and Art Themen. Other players of note include trumpeters Kenny Wheeler and Henry Lowther, bassist Danny Thompson, and drummer Phil Seamen.

Many of these guys are featured on Kornerstoned, which is broken into two discs—The Early Years (1954-1969) and The Godfather Of British Blues (1970-1983)—together containing 44 chronologically programmed tracks, from Korner's first recording session (as a member of Ken Colyer's Skiffle Group) to his last (a live set recorded for the BBC just a few weeks before his death).

A charismatic bandleader and a strong if ultimately derivative guitarist, Korner's real talent was A&R—assembling a lineup, choosing the material, arranging it, booking a studio, getting a vibe going... and counting everyone in. Most of his source material started life on the US race records' lists, from which collective whammy his originals were also born, but Korner was never into mere re-enactments of little-known (in Britain) black American releases. He had the imagination and skills—and collaborators—to make everything he touched fresh and his own. His brave but successful re-arrangement of James Brown's iconic "Please, Please, Please" is one of many idiosyncratic covers here.

Most of the tunes on this mixture of instrumentals and vocals are upbeat blues—boogie, jump, Chicago and Delta—with hefty admixtures of bop, R&B and hard bop. (Korner had roots in the folk movement too, and the album includes a wonderful early duet with the folkie guitar hero and Neal Cassady figure Davy Graham, "3/4 A.D.," from 1961.)

Kornerstoned contains only a small proportion of Korner's prolific recorded output. Sanctuary plans to release several more original-format albums over the next few months.

Track Listing: CD1: Midnight Special; Roundhouse Stomp; Rotten Break; Kid Man; County Jail; 3/4 A.D.; She Fooled Me; I Wanna Put A Tiger In Your Tank; Rain Is Such A Lonesome Sound; Blaydon Races; Up-Town; See See Rider; Blues A La King; Sappho; Taboo Man; I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man; Woke Up This Morning; Please, Please, Please; I Need Your Loving; Big Road Blues; Louise; Rosie; Mary, Open The Door; Steal Away; Mighty Mighty Spade And Whitey. CD2: Whole Lotta Love; Tap Turns On The Water; Hellhound On My Trail; Gospel Ship; Ooh Wee Baby; Wild Women And Desperate Men; Vicksburg Blues; Get Off My Cloud; Robert Johnson; The Gambler; The Love You Save; Pinetop's Boogie Woogie; Hey Pretty Mama; Lining Track; Hammer And Nails; Key To The Highway; Blood On The Saddle; Juvenile Delinquent; Mean Fool.

Personnel: Alexis Korner: electric and acoustic guitars, vocals with various bands including CD1: Ken Colyer Skiffle Group; Alexis Korner's Breakdown Group; Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated; Alexis Korner's Blues Inc.; New Church. CD2: C.C.S.; Snape; Alexis Korner & Friends.

Title: Kornerstoned: The Alexis Korner Anthology 1954-1983 | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Sanctuary Records

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