Believe it or not, this is Friday Blues Fix's 300th post. Thanks so much to everyone who has stopped by to visit over the past five and a half years. It's been a lot of fun to write these post and to meet and interact with so many fellow blues fans. It's nice to know that there are so many others out there who love and appreciate this wonderful music and I hope that I've managed to entertain and inform you about the world of the blues. There's still a lot of things for us to discuss, so hopefully, you will stick around for the next 300 posts.
Last week, we discussed Desert Island Discs, and I asked if any of you would like to share your own lists of those blues albums that you absolutely positively could not live without. I've heard back from several folks who intended to send me a list and I've actually gotten one at the address I listed last week (firstname.lastname@example.org), which we will share in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, see below for FBF's Top Ten Desert Island Discs.
The way I look at the items on this list is........say you're taking a road trip and you want to pick a few CDs to listen to on the way there and back. The discs on your shelf that you pick up for your trip every time you see them without hesitation are the CDs that you would have with you if you were stranded on a desert island. These are not in any particular order and it was really tough to keep it to just ten albums. Of the ten listed, I would say that probably six of them will be in the Top Ten at all times, with a few others rotating in and out. I'm sure everyone else is the same way, so if you're surprised by the absence of some artists on my list, just keep in mind that they are probably just out of the Top Ten this particular week and could return at any time. Here we go......
Friday Blues Fix's Top Ten Desert Island Discs
Son Seals - Live and Burning (Alligator Records): When I picked up this one in the late 80's, it nearly caught my car stereo on fire. it was one of the first live albums I heard that actually made me feel like I was in the audience. I enjoyed Seals' banter with the audience (including setting one rowdy patron straight), and his band was first-rate, but whenever he started singing in that rough and ragged voice, or ripping those jagged, piercing notes from his guitar, I was absolutely positively hooked. I've heard a lot of great live blues albums since then, but this one is the one that I would take with me anywhere I went, including said desert island.
Albert Collins, Robert Cray, Johnny Copeland - Showdown! (Alligator Records): This was the album that officially set me off on the trail of the blues, way back in 1986. I'm probably not alone in that department either. I had never heard any of these great blues men before, but I was convinced after I did hear them that I wanted to hear as much of them and this music as I could. This one eventually led me to check out other great artists from Alligator like Lonnie Mack, Lonnie Brooks, Son Seals, Jimmy Johnson, and other great labels like Rounder, Delmark, Black Top and Chess.
Various Artists - Deep Blues: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Anxious Records): This is a fantastic set of what could well be called a modern set of field recordings. Deep Blues author Robert Palmer set out to capture the sounds of the Mississippi Blues of the early 1990's and came back with recordings from R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, Booba Barnes, Frank Frost, Big Jack Johnson, Lonnie Pitchford, Jessie Mae Hemphill, and Jack Owens. The disc and the movie that inspired it brought the blues to a new audience and most of the artists benefited from the exposure This is just an incredible listening experience. One of the great mysteries in life is why this recording has been out of print for over 20 years.
Various Artists - Mistakes Were Made: Five Years of Raw Blues, Damaged Livers, & Questionable Business Decisions (Broke & Hungry Records): This two-disc set serves as a sequel of sorts to Deep Blues. Jeff Konkel's Broke & Hungry Records label began in the mid 2000's with a great series of recordings from Mississippi blues artists like Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, Odell Harris, Wesley Jefferson and Terry "Big T" Williams, Pat Thomas, Terry "Harmonica" Bean, and the mysterious Mississippi Marvel. Konkel also collaborated with Cat Head founder Roger Stolle to produce two documentaries on the state of the Magnolia State's blues scene. These two discs capture some of the label's best moments and it also includes a lot of previous unreleased gems as well. Based on these two discs, the future of Mississippi blues is in good hands and we owe fans like Konkel and Stolle a huge debt of gratitude for their work in helping keep the blues alive.
Stevie Ray Vaughan - The Essential Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble (Epic/Legacy): One of my college roommates turned me on to SRV. He knew I liked Clapton and Hendrix and he said, "This guy sounds like both of them!" Although he did sound like both of them, I slowly began to realize that there was much more to him than that. Vaughan, along with Clapton, inspired me to dig a little deeper into what they were doing musically, the original sources. I had all of his recordings on cassette back when dinosaurs walked the earth, and this two-disc set (I actually have the three-disc set, with the third disc being really a half disc worth of music) collects all of my favorite songs. I probably listen to this as much as anything in my collection and wonder just what else he might have done musically had he decided to wait until morning to leave Alpine Valley.
Magic Slim and the Teardrops - Raw Magic (Alligator Records): Magic Slim recorded a boatload of albums over his long career. This was one of the first that I owned and it's still one of my favorites. It only has seven tracks, but these really capture the band in their zone. Although most of the band's material consisted of cover tunes, there are three originals on this set and they are all excellent. This is one of the earlier 1980's line-ups, with Slim, Coleman "Daddy Rabbit" Pettis, Nick Holt, and Nate Applewhite, and they were one of the most formidable, which is really saying something.
Bobby Parker - Bent Out of Shape (Black Top Records): It has always been a mystery to me how Parker (who passed away in October of 2013) wasn't better known. FBF will be taking a longer look at his career soon. When I first heard the title track of this album on the Highway 61 radio show on Mississippi Public Radio, I knew that I had to track this album down, and was I ever glad I did. Parker just blows the doors off with this album with some incendiary guitar work and a great soulfully gritty voice. Parker did have some success in the 60's with songs like "Watch Your Step" and "Blues Get Off My Shoulder" (both recreated on this album), and was a big influence on Carlos Santana, and this one really should have paved the way for more success. Anyway, it didn't really work out that way, which is a shame. This guy was the total package and deserves to be heard.
Luther Allison - Soul Fixin' Man (Alligator Records): I've got a lot of Luther Allison music to choose from......I've been listening to him since right after I started listening to the blues. When this one came out in 1994, I played it almost non-stop for several months. To me, Allison's sound mixed the blues with soul and rock in equal measures. This is the release where it all fell together perfectly. The difference in this one and his previous releases were the songs. The covers were on the soul side of blues, with a pair written by Malaco's Mosley/Johnson combination and a terrific almost-a Capella reading of Guitar Slim's "The Things I Used To Do" among the highlights, but Allison's originals were his best yet, including "Bad Love," which paid tribute to one of Allison's major influences, Mr. B.B. King. This is a great jumping-off point for anyone not familiar with Luther Allison, but there's much more to enjoy.
Junior Wells (with Buddy Guy) - Hoodoo Man Blues (Delmark Records): No way this one can be left off. I have several favorite Wells/Guy recordings that I've discussed over the years (Play The Blues, Pleading the Blues, Drinkin' TNT & Smokin' Dynamite), but this one is just such a ground-breaking record. It pretty much ushered in the blues album as a product.....before this, most blues albums were collections of three-minute singles. Delmark's Bob Koester wanted to capture the atmosphere and feeling of seeing Wells and Guy in performance at one of their regular Chicago club gigs, and he succeeded beyond even his wildest dreams. This was released by Delmark in 1965 and continues to be their best seller, and deservedly so.
Various Artists - Blues Guitar Blasters (Ace Records UK): When I started listening to the blues, I found a lot of great collections featuring different blues artists on the British label Ace. This one is a great place for a newcomer to get a quick education. Some of the guitarists featured here are B.B. King, Albert King, Elmore James, John Lee Hooker, Guitar Slim, T-Bone Walker, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Ike Turner, and Pee Wee Crayton. There are also some lesser known artists like future James Brown guitarist Jimmy Nolen and Lafayette Thomas, both of whom contribute some memorable sides. This one, I'm afraid, is long out of print, but copies can still be found, so if you're just getting started, this would be a good one to get. If you're a longtime listener, it's pretty neat to have these artists and songs on one disc.
Well, there you have it! FBF's Ten Desert Island Discs! As I said earlier, a few of these might change from time to time, but these are ten that I have returned to again and again for years. Now's your chance. If you'd like to share your Desert Island Discs, please submit your list to me at the address at the top of the post. You can send your list, or you can put comments with your selections....either way is fine. We want to hear from you.