Thursday, January 25, 2007

Catching up with some of the records I plucked from the bargain bins recently, all three are apparently out of print but are worth looking for:

Gabor Szabo - Blowin' Some Old Smoke (Buhdda, 1970): Guitarist Szabo made his mark recording with Chico Hamilton and Charles Lloyd before launching a solo career with some fine records for Impulse! in the 1960's. As did Wes Montgomery and Grant Green before him, he drifted into performing more pop based material, and this album features hits of the day like Donovan's "Sunshine Superman" and "Dear Prudence" by the Beatles. These actually work pretty well with some organ drones providing a slightly exotic air. Some of the pieces on the second side of the LP show more promise with organ and percussion laying a fine foundation for Szabo to improvise over.

Earl Hooker - You Don't Have to Worry (Bluesway, 1969): Slide guitarist Earl Hooker is revered amongst guitarists, but his Bluesway recordings seem to be MIA on compact disc. That's a shame because there's some fine music to be found here. Hooker was never really comfortable as a singer, so here he sticks pretty much to the guitar, adding some excellent fretwork to songs with several different vocalists. His great original "Blue Guitar" gets a reworking, as do two Elmore James chestnuts, "The Sky is Crying" and "Look On Yonders Wall." There is a bit of a pop sheen to the music as was par for the course in the late 60's, but it doesn't detract from the music.

Count Basie & Joe Williams - Just the Blues (Roulette, 1960): Basie made some wonderful music with vocalist Joe Williams and this is another fine example of their work together. Williams could be suave and sophisticated when crooning "Travlin' Light" and down and dirty when belting the blues, like on the covers of Big Bill Broonzy's "Key to the Highway" and "Mean Old World." This was the key to this group's success, and that diversity combined with some good charts and soloing makes for an interesting album.

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