Friday, June 25, 2010
Carol Fran & Clarence Hollimon - Soul Sensation (Black Top Records) 1992 - If you're a regular reader at Blues Bytes, you know that I am a Black Top Records fanatic. About the time I started listening to the blues, Black Top was one of the labels that regular provided much listening pleasure. Their specialty was recording artists from the Gulf Coast area (Houston to New Orleans to Baton Rouge to Mississippi) that had not recorded in ages. Through Black Top, I was able to track down artists like Roy Gaines, James "Thunderbird" Davis, the Neville Brothers, Anson Funderburgh and Sam Myers, Grady Gaines, and one of my all time favorite guitarists, Clarence Hollimon. Hollimon played on many of Black Top's releases over the years, and his wife, Carol Fran, recorded in the 60's and had a few R&B hits. Eventually, they were given their own release at Black Top, and it was a fun mix of blues, R&B, zydeco, and whatever else they could throw in the stew. Hollimon was known as a guitarist, and he had some fine instrumentals here, but he also took the mic occasionally and proved to be a solid vocalist in a Jimmy Reed or Mel Brown style. He and Fran released two discs for Black Top, and one more for JSP before Hollimon's death in 2000. Unfortunately, Black Top folded in the late 90's, but some of their releases have been reissued in the last couple of years. Hopefully, someone will give Soul Sensation the reissue treatment soon. Here's Fran and Hollimon at the 1993 Chicago Blues Festival. Divided into three songs, the first three or four minutes is a typical Hollimon instrumental with a title taken from Hollimon's nickname, "Gristle."
Friday, June 18, 2010
The next few tracks were even better. Lowell Fulson's "Blue Shadows Falling" slowed things down a bit, but the mood was still sweaty and intense (despite the comically intoxicated fan sitting close enough to contribute a lengthy rebel yell to the proceedings). Seals even tells one fan to leave him alone...."Can't you see me workin'?" The next track, "Funky Bitch," eventually became a standard of sorts for Seals and was even covered by the band, Phish, in the late 90's. Their version can't touch Seals' though, as he growls the vocals and lets loose with a blistering solo.
"Hot Sauce" definitely was a Son Seals' standard. He played the blistering instrumental at most of his shows throughout his career. This high-speed version featured on Live and Burning could possibly cause smoke to rise from your CD player, and it closes the album on a high note.
In addition to Reed and Mitchum, Seals' band included Lacy Gibson on second guitar, Tony Gooden on drums, and Alberto Gianquito on piano for "Last Night." Gooden was later killed in a train wreck in Europe during an Alligator Records tour with Seals. Reed enjoyed a nice solo career highlighted by his wry song lyrics, which took a blues-based look at everyday life. Lacy Gibson was a solid solo performer who also released a couple of discs as well. Mitchum played with Seals for ten years, before striking out on his own.
Son Seals recorded a couple of other live discs, one for the B.L.U.E.S. label (live at the club, but now out of print and a definite collector's item) and a second set for Alligator. While both were top notch, they didn't come close to capturing the raw energy and intensity of Live and Burning.