235

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.

| Record Label: Blue Thumb Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Malnoia CD/LP/Track Review Malnoia
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 24, 2017
Read Get 'Em CD/LP/Track Review Get 'Em
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 24, 2017
Read Radioactive Landscapes EP CD/LP/Track Review Radioactive Landscapes EP
by Troy Dostert
Published: April 24, 2017
Read Wake Up Call CD/LP/Track Review Wake Up Call
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 24, 2017
Read The Many Minds of Richie Cole CD/LP/Track Review The Many Minds of Richie Cole
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: April 24, 2017
Read LifeCycle CD/LP/Track Review LifeCycle
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 23, 2017
Read "Back To Your Heart" CD/LP/Track Review Back To Your Heart
by Jeff Winbush
Published: January 13, 2017
Read "Duo" CD/LP/Track Review Duo
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: July 7, 2016
Read "Live in Sant'Anna Arresi 2004" CD/LP/Track Review Live in Sant'Anna Arresi 2004
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 13, 2016
Read "Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1" CD/LP/Track Review Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Mass" CD/LP/Track Review Mass
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: November 2, 2016
Read "Shock Axis" CD/LP/Track Review Shock Axis
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 21, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM RECORDS | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!