Saturday, November 26, 2011

Blues: Elmore James

Elmore James - The Complete Fire and Enjoy Recordings (Collectables, 1995) The great guitarist and singer Elmore James is remembered for his immortal riffs on slide guitar and for his use of loud amplification, but he also had one of the most emotionally powerful singing voices in all of the blues. The selections on this three disc compilation include many of the latter day recordings from the late 1950's and early 1960's recorded before the fateful heart-attack that took him much too soon. This set is quite a handful, including alternate takes and a few performances with James as a sideman rather than a leader. So it's probably not the best place for the curious to begin (that might be the nicely done Rhino set.) But for the hardcore blues fan, this collection is quite a goldmine of extraordinary music. Highlights for me were the epic version of "Rollin' and Tumblin'" propelled along by this apocalyptic bass and drum groove that James rides like a surfer with slide guitar accents and soulful vocals. One of James' most well known songs was composed and recorded during this period. "They Sky Is Crying," one of his most evocative vocal performances, was supposedly inspired by a torrid rainstorm that gave the song its name and lonely feeling. Another famous James song, "Dust My Broom" is included, an R&B hit that gave his backing band its name (The Broomdusters) and a guitar riff that inspired many of the most famous rock and roll musicians of the 1960's. The cover of Sonny Boy Williamson's "One Way Out" (Williamson employed James on the original recording) and the instrumental "Up Jumped Elmore" were also very influential to the likes of The Allman Brothers Band. The liner notes are solid, giving a little bit of background to the recording sessions and the musicians involved, but it is the music itself, which seems to leap out of the speakers that is the real reward. Elmore James was a one of a kind musicians and this is an excellent dose of his music in its prime. Complete Fire & Enjoy Recordings - amazon.com

Send comments to Tim.