Long John Baldry review…June 22, 2014…

LONG JOHN BALDRY

THE BEST OF THE STONY PLAIN YEARS

STONY PLAIN CD   SPCD 1376

GOOD MORNING BLUES–I”M SHAKIN–EASY STREET–MIDNIGHT SPECIAL–GALLOWS POLE–MIDNIGHT HOUR BLUES–DIMPLES–INSANE ASYLUM–MIDNIGHT IN NEW ORLEANS–BLACK GIRL–TIMES GETTIN TOUGHER THAN TOUGH

At an imposing six-feet, seven-inches tall, Long John Baldry was literally an entertainer who was larger than life.  He established himself as a club performer doing acoustic blues in the late Fifties and early Sixties, eventually working with fellow Brits Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies.  As well as a tremendous vocalist, he always had a keen sense of humor, and, the first time we heard him was on his seminal 1971 LP produced by Rod Stewart and Elton John, “It Ain’t Easy,” which included that hilarious, over-the-top proto-rap patter that was “Don’t Try To Lay No Boo-gie Woo-gie On The King Of Rock And Roll!”  Baldry moved to Canada in 1978, and Stony Plain’s Holger Petersen recorded him over the course of five albums between 1991 and 2001.  The collection,  “The Best Of The Stony Plain Years,”  draws from that period, along with two previously-unreleased cuts and a duet with Jimmy Witherspoon on vocal and Duke Robillard on guitar.

A brief example of his early acoustic work from 1958 leads things off, as the stripped-down “Good Morning Blues” cleverly segues’ into his 2001 version, from his album, “Remembering Leadbelly.”  “I’m Shakin” is full of that big voice and humorous inflections set over a stop-time, rhumba beat.  The traditional “Midnight Special” is given a REALLY traditional read, featuring clarinet and tuba that give it a ragtime feel.  “Dimples” was recorded at the Edmonton Folk Festival in 1978, and is a fine example of Baldry’s reverence for John Lee Hooker’s “endless boogie.”   “Insane Asylum” is a sweet, minor-key, slow-blues that pairs John wth the equally-big-voiced Kathi McDonald, while “Midnight Hour Blues” pays its respects to the smooth, sophisticated blues of Charles Brown and Jimmy Witherspoon.

And, the John and “Spoon” duet was our favorite.  Taken from the CD “Jimmy Witherspoon With The Duke Robillard Band,” (SPCD 1252), “Times Gettin Tougher Than Tough” finds both men bringing the humor to today’s economic woes, where “the undertaker’s got a union and it costs too much to die!”  Duke’s smooth guitar blends easily amongst these two old friends, who go back as far as the Sixties, when “Spoon” toured England.

Long John Baldry was one of the great voices of the British blues explosion during the Sixties, influencing the Stones, Clapton, and countless others.  “The Best Of The Stony Plain Years” is a fine introduction to his works!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

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