Got The Fever

Friday, January 11, 2008

Johnny “Guitar” Watson

He took his name from the 1954 film Johnny Guitar”, starring Sterling Hayden and Joan Crawford. From there, John Watson Jr. became Johnny “Guitar” Watson and proceeded to pound his highly influential playing style into the then soft and plyable sinews of blues, funk, soul, rap and rock.

I had heard an interview with him (I think on an NPR station) and he said that when he received his first guitar, it was on a promise that he wouldn’t fall victim to playing “the devil’s music”. He immediately broke his promise.

Before George Clinton started dressing up, Johnny did it first, getting all
pimped up with wild sunglasses, a gold tooth and fly suits. He was a hipper looking pimp than Huggy Bear.

But, nothing overshadowed his effortless shape-shifting ability to play in any era and not only survive and thrive, but to lead the charge.

Cuttin’ In
He just barely managed to scrape and claw his way into the R&B charts with this cut in 1962. Passionate, raw, even with the violins holding the reins, Johnny is resolute in his determined to get a chance to get a turn. It was this type of performance (and I can easily imagine this going over in an even bigger way unrestrained in front of an enthusiastic audience) in which he easily outdistanced himself, or should I say, he rather individualized and further distinguished himself from the other leading blues men who were mighty giants in the field in the early sixties.

A Real Mother For Ya

Persistent in its arrogant groove, and impossible not to nod to, this cut boosted his reputation to the stratosphere and helped to swell even further the fever for all that is Johnny. I can’t help but remember that when this came out, it knew no boundaries of where it would be heard. Based on the feel alone, this was played without judgment in dance halls, at discos, in damp cellar taverns, at drunken longhaired ‘raves’ deep in the thick woods, at neighborhood barbecues and at rock concert venues to whip the crowd up.

I’m happy to announce that it doesn’t get much better than this.

Johnny "Guitar" Watson: Cuttin' In [169]
From: The Very Best of Johnny "Guitar" Watson

Johnny "Guitar" Watson: A Real Mother For Ya [153]
From: A Real Mother For Ya

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Blood, Sweat & Tears

Man, do I love me a horn band! There’s nothing that can compare to the sounds of trumpets, saxophones and trombones depth charging your blood and straightening your spine!

The feeling of an outright bloody musical scream of ‘Charge!’ right from the beginning of a track has no comparison and indeed, stands ‘loud and proud’ all on its own merit.

BS&T certainly perches on that distinguished mantle of being able to starburst right in your face with their blend of jazz-rock led by the tight horn section and a cast of musicians that can almost make you grovel in awe.

Originally formed with the extraordinary Al Kooper, Al left the band and was replaced by David Clayton-Thomas after the first album. They achieved success on the second album with the tracks ‘And When I Die’, ‘Spinning Wheel’ and ‘You’ve Made Me So Very Happy’, but for me, no individual tracks that they spawned compared in musical might to the following that I’m highlighting off of “Blood Sweat & Tears 3”.

Lucretia MacEvil
What a tour de force that you are to be enveloped by! The crunching, pounding, pulverizing thrust of the opening sequence is as commanding a lead-in as you’re ever going to be subjected to. The voice of David Clayton-Thomas is the perfect repost to the band’s parry and at 1’20 I cannot imagine that another voice devoid of the growl and contempt for Lucretia would ever be able to pull this off.

Devil got you Lucy
Under lock and key,
Ain't about to set you free.
Sign sealed and witnessed
Since the day you were born.
No use tryin' to fake him out,
No use tryin' to make him out,
Soon, he'll be takin' out his due.
What-cha goin' to do?

Ooh, Lucy MacEvil
Honey, where have ya been all night?
Your hair's all messed up girl,
And the clothes you're wearin'
Just don't fit ya right!

Lucretia’s Reprise
This is the follow-up track that you will never, ever hear on the radio. And, be aware – you simply cannot have the above track without having this, the sister track and listening to them one after the other. David once more is the maniacal, screaming accuser with the mad-dog trumpet nipping and ensuing at his heels.

I can almost picture David leaning against a rod iron gate post watching the audacious Lucretia strutting and flashing herself for all to see. But, David will have none of it! Listen to him wail 'stop lying!' and feel the heat from his blistering anger and denial. The horns taunt and scorn her to lowly damnation, but Lucretia, well, she just keeps walking – mighty, confident and thrusting her nose skyward.

Ah here she comes – trucking
Well, Lucy walking down main street, looking down!
Looks like – Waaaaaaa! Talk about it!

Where you been girl?
Stop lying, stop lying, stop lying Lucille!
Ahhh – tell the truth girl!

Blood Sweat & Tears: Lucretia MacEvil [122]
Blood Sweat & Tears: Lucretia’s Reprise [87]
From: Blood Sweat & Tears 3 [1970]