Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.


Robben Ford: The Authorized Bootleg

Robert Spencer By

Sign in to view read count
Here's Robben Ford on acoustic guitar at Oakland's fabled Yoshi's in December 1995. The Blue Line is with him: Roscoe Beck on bass, Tom Brechtlein on drums, and Bill Boublitz on piano and organ. The place is packed and the crowd is wildly enthusiastic.

As well it should be. Acoustic Ford reveals him as supreme blues stylist, with a good sense of form in his solos that seldom fails to hold interest. His singing is well-suited to the milieu here; he doesn't try to sound like Howlin' Wolf, but there's no need for him to. He certainly carries the weight of these numbers just fine. The star of the disc, of course, is the beguiling sound of his axe. The first two tracks are straight-ahead blues: "When I Leave Here" is an easygoing opener; on "Chevrolet" he stretches out a bit more (to the tremendous pleasure of the crowd).

"Top of the Hill" is the first non-blues entry, sounding like an early-Eighties Dylan harangue-with-backbeat. "Start It Up" gives us Robben At Play in an up-tempo crowd-pleaser that certainly accomplishes its aim in spades. Afterward we get an extended introduction of the band; of course, some folks will enjoy this kind of verisimilitude. "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying" is another blues. It's from the Sixties, and Robben credits it to Ray Charles. If my memory serves me right, it was also covered by Gerry and the Pacemakers. Robben's sounds different from both Ray's and Gerry's, and probably lands in the large area in between. This is Boublitz's showcase, and he demonstrates that he deserves Robben's accolades with a solo replete with deeply felt blues sensibility and a keen sense of timing.

Beck sets up an ostinato on "Help the Poor," where Ford plays his acoustic axe as if it were electric. Aside from a bit of a difference in timbre, I can't imagine he'd play this much different electrically. Then we have "Lovin' Cup," which Robben explains that he found on a Paul Butterfield Blues Band record with Elvin Bishop. Here we have his vocal versatility (compare his vocals on this track to "When I Leave Here").

Everybody sings, paradoxically, on "Tired of Talkin'," an Our-Relationship-is-Over blues. Here again I wonder about the "acoustic" label. Certainly he's playing an acoustic guitar, but this disc reminds me of some of those MTV "Unplugged" workouts where the arrangements, backing, and overall feel of the tracks obliterates the distinctiveness of the acoustic instrument. This is, in other words, worlds away from acoustic blues a la, say, Robert Johnson. Why not play acoustic blues without a drum set? (Ah, heresy.)

But this is a quibble. Robben Ford fans will love this one.

Title: The Authorized Bootleg | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: Blue Thumb Records


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Live at Pyatt Hall CD/LP/Track Review Live at Pyatt Hall
by Jack Bowers
Published: January 23, 2018
Read Flying Heart CD/LP/Track Review Flying Heart
by Troy Dostert
Published: January 23, 2018
Read The 3Dom Factor: Live in Krakow CD/LP/Track Review The 3Dom Factor: Live in Krakow
by John Sharpe
Published: January 23, 2018
Read Solano Canyon CD/LP/Track Review Solano Canyon
by Glenn Astarita
Published: January 23, 2018
Read Lucas CD/LP/Track Review Lucas
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: January 22, 2018
Read In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording CD/LP/Track Review In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 22, 2018
Read "Pocono Git-Down" CD/LP/Track Review Pocono Git-Down
by Edward Blanco
Published: March 1, 2017
Read "Jazz Flute Traditions" CD/LP/Track Review Jazz Flute Traditions
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 21, 2017
Read "Glitter" CD/LP/Track Review Glitter
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 12, 2017
Read "Truth, Liberty & Soul Live in New York: The Complete NPR Jazz Alive! Recording" CD/LP/Track Review Truth, Liberty & Soul Live in New York: The Complete...
by John Kelman
Published: May 20, 2017
Read "L.O.T.U.S." CD/LP/Track Review L.O.T.U.S.
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 21, 2017
Read "Ballet: The Music Of Michael Gibbs" CD/LP/Track Review Ballet: The Music Of Michael Gibbs
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: July 23, 2017