Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Jimmy Reed - At Carnegie Hall (Vee-Jay 1961, 2007)

This album from bluesman, guitarist and singer Jimmy Reed has a very interesting and convoluted history behind it. Reed did in fact play as part of a package concert at the famed concert hall, but this album was not recorded there. Rather, the first part of this collection was a "recreation" of his performance, recorded at a New York studio. The second part was a reprise of some of Reed's most popular Vee-Jay era tunes, making this set a mix of new and old music. In that manner, it is a fine introduction to Reed's music. He was one of the most popular bluesman of his day, regularly appearing on the R&B charts, and crossing over into the pop charts as well. Much of this was due to the unpretentious, down home nature of much of Reed's work. His music used very simple blues forms, which endeared him to the emerging white rock 'n' rollers, and his intimate style of singing made him very appealing to all audiences. Some of his most popular tunes are available on this collection like the classics "Bright Lights, Big City" and "Baby What Do You Want Me To Do" which have become staples of both blues and rock 'n' roll. "Big Boss Man" and "Take Out Some Insurance" also appear amongst the music on this lengthy CD, which was originally a double LP. There are excellent essays in the booklet, both the original liner notes and newer notes that put the music into historical context. Reed's wheezy harmonica and drawling vocals take center stage throughout, but there is also room for the excellent guitar work of Eddie Taylor, who accompanied Reed on most of his hits before striking out on his own solo career. This set marked the high-water mark of Reed's popularity, soon alcoholism and epilepsy would slow his output to a trickle, and eventually take his life. But this gentle man left an enormous impact on blues and rock 'n' roll music, his simple songs led many to take up music and remain staples of the music, indelibly stamped in its DNA.

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