Friday, July 24, 2020

McQ's Best Of 1969 Vol 3 - B.B.'s Badass Bluesdown

Kicking off our 1969 genre specific mixes with possibly my favorite of the bunch. Definitely right there with Croony, Croon, Croon for sheer good-time entertainment value.

Suffice it to say, led by veterans B.B. King and Wilbert Harrison, newcomers Koko Taylor and Johnny Winter, and a seeming endless pool of gifted, passionate blues-rock acts on both sides of the pond, the blues had a crazy great year in 1969, and we've got a good chunk of the very best right here.

Like all of our upcoming '69 theme mixes this year - because the year was just so damn deep - this mix goes much longer than our traditional eighty minute run time.

So, to help make listening more manageable, it's been broken down into two sets and an encore, but however you attack it, don't miss John Mayall's stunningly chill acoustic blues tidbit So Hard To Share or Boz Scagg's/Duane Allman's beyond epic encore number Loan Me A Dime.

Here's the Spotify link.  Enjoy!

SET 1 (Winter Is Coming)

1. Love You Like A Women - Koko Taylor (2:11)
2. Live With Me - The Rolling Stones (3:33)
3. So Excited - B. B. King (5:34)
4. Black Magic Woman - Fleetwood Mac (2:47)
5. Black Hearted Woman - The Allman Brothers Band (5:10)
6. I'm Easy - Boz Scaggs (3:08)
7. As Good As You've Been To This World - Janis Joplin (5:25)
8. Be Careful With A Fool - Johnny Winter (5:15)
9. I'd Rather Go Blind - Chicken Shack (3:17)
10. Kow Kow Calqulator - Steve Miller Band (4:27)
11. I Woke Up This Morning - Ten Years After (5:31)
13. So Hard To Share - John Mayall (7:04)
14. The Ministry Of Bag - Jack Bruce (2:48)
15. Hustled Down In Texas - Johnny Winter (3:31)
16. Oh Well (Pt. 1) - Fleetwood Mac (3:32)
17. Sissy Strut - King Herbert & The Knights (3:45)
18. Midnight Rambler - The Rolling Stones (6:53)

SET 2 (Lucille's Lullaby)

19. You're Losing' Me - B.B. King (4:53)
20. Juicy John Pink - Procul Harum (2:04)
21. Insane Asylum - Koko Taylor & Willie Dixon (4:24)
22. Got Love ' Cause You Need It - Steve Miller Band (2:27)
23. Stop Messin' Round - Fleetwood Mac (2:50)
24. Let's Work Together - Wilbert Harrison (5:36)
25. Whipping Post - The Allman Brothers Band (5:17)
26. Monkey Man - The Rolling Stones ( 4:11)
27. Highway 61 Revisited - Johnny Winter (5:07)
28 & 29. Cryin' Won't Help You Now/You're Mean - B. B. King (16:24)


30. Room To Move - John Mayall (5:02)
31. Loan Me A Dime - Boz Scaggs (12:32)
32. Little Bit Of Rain - Karen Dalton (2:37)

Now Meet The Bluesdown Players:

Koko Taylor: Tennessee-born blues belter Koko Taylor's 1969 eponymous debut (Strong Recommend) was one of the last hits for Chicago's Chess Records label, and is now only available digitally, but it is so worth seeking out.  We're featuring the album's knock-out opener Love You Like A Woman and the grippingly gritty Insane Asylum, Koko's duet with gruff-voiced producer/principal songwriter Willie Dixon, but many of the album's songs that we've left off this mix, Twenty-Nine Ways, I'm A Little Mixed Up, Don't Mess With The Messer, Yes It's Good For You, and the immortal Wang Dang Doodle, are every bit as impressive as what we've included. Featuring instrumental support from blues legend Buddy Guy and future Blues Brother Matt "Guitar" Murphy, Koko Taylor the album is a slice of 60s blues heaven and not to be missed.

The Rolling Stones: The Stones delivered one of their all-time greats, Let It Bleed (Highest Recommend) in 1969.  In fact, judged purely on the songwriting strength, it might be their best effort, but for me, the album's subpar production, with its muted, autumnal vibe, has always knocked the record a notch below the other members of big four (Beggar's Banquet, Sticky Fingers, and Exile On Main Street) in the same way the poorer production of Dylan's Blonde On Blonde knocks it a notch below Highway 61 Revisited and Bringing It All Back Home. That said, Let It Bleed still rates as McQ's second best album of 1969, and we're raiding it for three of its baddest, most blues-rocking-est deep cuts here - the Boston Strangler tribute Midnight Rambler, the so cool Live With Me, and the now forever-linked with a coked-out Ray Liotta jam Monkey Man

B. B. King: B.B.'s 1969 breakout Completely Well (Highest Recommend) is the album that made him an international superstar, and whatever the record may have lacked in terms of the grittier, tighter playing and deeper lyricism of his earlier works, it more than made up for in sheer jammy, rip-roaring catharsis. As album's title and B.B.'s smile and the beams of sunshine on the cover clearly imply, this is blues designed (even when The Thrill Is Gone) to make the listener feel "completely well." We're mining it heavily here, profiling its knock-out opener I'm So Excited, the almost as good You're Losing Me, and the epic "done-me-wrong" tandem  Cryin' Won't Help You Now / You're Mean

Fleetwood Mac: Yes, younger music fans, Fleetwood Mac was around in the 60s, but even though Mick Fleetwood and Christine McVie (then Christine Perfect) were already part of the outfit back then, they were nothing like the platinum AM monsters they would morph into in the mid-seventies. In 1969, they were a straight-up, highly inventive, blues-rock juggernaut. And prolific as well. The band released two full-lengths stateside in 1969. The first, English Rose (Solid Recommend - pictured above) was basically a destructive repackaging of their 1968 UK Release Mr. Wonderful, which kept the best half of Wonderful's tracks - including Stop Messin' Round - and replaced the other half with five superior new numbers and their UK Hit single Black Magic Woman.

The band's second US release of 1969, Then Play On (Mild Recommend) was even wilder, an imperfect but adventurous exploration of near every nook and cranny in the blues rock spectrum. We're going with part 1 of Peter Green's hard-hitting Oh Well as Then Play On's representative cut here, but fans of 60s blues rock would be crazy not to check the album out in full if they haven't heard it before. 

The Allman Brothers Band: The Allman Brothers Band launched their career firing on all cylinders with their blistering, hard-charging first album, The Allman Brothers Band (Solid Recommend). Loaded with raging, no-nonsense blues-rockers that also incorporated significant touches of jazz, country and psychedelia, the record was a game changer that basically laid down the template for the Southern-Fried sound that would  dominant the American South's hard-rock scene from much of the 1970s. We're profiling two tracks here, the lively, take-no-prisoners Black Hearted Woman, and the original studio recording of what would become the band's definitive live track, Whipping Post

Boz Scaggs: We already touched on the crazy development story behind Boz Scagg's self-titled second release (Solid Recommend) in the write up for 1969 Vol 1 - Nancy's Favorites. Here, we focus on a two of Boz Scaggs the album's bluesiest jams, the laid-back, big-brass workout I'm Easy, and that simply off-the-charts collaboration with Duane Allman, Loan Me A Dime, one of the most epic sustained builds in all of blues-rock history. 

Janis Joplin: So we already touched upon Janis Joplin's impetus for making I've Got Dem 'Ol Kozmic Blues Again Mama (Solid Recommend) and it's searing track Try (Just A Little Bit Harder) on Nancy's Favorites.  Here, we dive a bit deeper into the album with, of all things, As Good As You've Been To This World, a Bee Gees cover - but one Janis has completely transmogrified in her own inimitable style. Love the minute and a half long instrumental introduction to this song.

Johnny Winter: Having landed the largest advance in recording industry history in 1968 after wowing the crowd (and record executives) in a guest cameo at a Mike Bloomfield concert, Johnny Winter roared into 1969 like a full-force Texas gale, making his presence felt with his first two studio releases, Johnny Winter (Solid Recommend) and the aptly titled Second Winter (Solid Recommend). Very much of a piece, both records featured tons of high energy covers, a few originals, ample support from brother Edgar, Johnny's extraordinary fretwork and his far less extraordinary singing. Johnny Winter pictured above was recorded with his original Progressive Blues Experiment Band, and featured future concert staples Good Morning Little School Girl and a standout version of B.B. King's Be Careful With A Full which represents the album on this mix here. 

Second Winter, recorded with Edgar and a new group of Nashville studio aces, has the odd distinction of being one of the few three-sided releases of the modern era. It was albino axeman's intent to cull his material down to a single record, but when push came to shove, he and Edgar couldn't part with anything they'd recorded, so the decision was made to group the covers on disk 1, and all the originals on disk 2's side three. We're including a song from each disk here,  Johnny's lively take on Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited, and for my money, the best of his '69 originals from either album, Hustled Down In Texas.

Chicken Shack: A popular British blues act of the mid-late 60s that never really broke through in the states, their hit cover of Etta James I'd Rather Go Blind is most notable today as being one of the first US charting songs of lead vocalist Christine Perfect career. Perfect, who had been voted Melody Maker's best British vocalist for two years running, would, as we have already learned, leave Chicken Shack just months after this song took off to join new husband John McVie in Fleetwood Mac.

The Steve Miller Band: Following the departures of Boz Scaggs and Jim Peterman, Steve Miller strove to straddle the line on many of the day's popular genres with 1969's Brave New World (Solid Recommend) delivering a mix of songs near equal parts psychedelic-rock, blues-rock and country-rock. We're profiling one of those songs on our upcoming Psychedelic Fade mix, and two of Brave New World's bluesiest numbers here, including the backwood's flavored Got Love Cause You Need It, and the arrestingly unique Kow Kow Calqulator, one of my favorite deep cuts from any band in 1969.  And for those that want to dive even deeper, definitely check out album closer My Dark Hour, a loose jam Miller recorded with just Paul McCartney after McCartney had had a contract fight with his fellow Beatles in the same studio and needed to blow off steam. That jam would form the backbone of Miller's mega '76 hit Fly Like An Eagle

Ten Years After: Released right on the heels of the Alvin Lee-led outfit's fiery Woodstock performance, third full-length Ssssh was Ten Years After's first stateside smash and would launch a very successful half-decade for the psychedelic blues rockers.  As with most Ten Years After efforts, the lyrics on Ssssh are pedestrian at best, but the musicianship often wows, a dichotomy perfectly encapsulated in the album's hard-rocking bluesy closer I Woke Up This Morning included here. 

John Mayall: After losing yet another lead-guitar protege to another big-time act when Mick Taylor left to replace Brian Jones in the Rolling Stones, John Mayall decided to disband The Bluesbreaker, and pursue a quieter, more acoustic, less pyrotechnic (and lead-guitar heavy) direction.  The result, The Turning Point (Strong Recommend), recorded live in one night at the Fillmore East, was one a hell of a salvage job. Composed entirely of Mayall originals, The Turning Point is one of the best acoustic blues albums you will ever hear, highlighted by a pair of glorious tracks we're including here, the majestic So Hard To Share, and the "you know it even if you don't think you know it" classic Room To Move.

Jack Bruce: Tributed to one Cream's tailors, who had recently passed, Jack Bruce's 1969 solo debut Songs For A Tailor (Mild Recommend) was a much more varied beast than his efforts with Cream, exhibiting an appreciation for jazz, pop, and orchestral constructs that were just not part of the Cream lexicon.  But that doesn't mean the album was devoid of blues-rockers, far from it, and we're presenting my favorite bluesy number from the album, the hipster funk-fest The Ministry Of Bag, here.  

King Herbert & The Knights: Not much to say about Canadian R&B outfit King Herbert & The Knights. They had a minor hit with this super likable, superior cover of the Meter's Cissy Strut, then disappeared. But we thank them for this tasty little gem.

Procul Harum: Trapped amidst all the precise, gentle keys and harpsichords and twee literate orchestrated tales of old deck hands lost at sea was a future Hendrix-caliber axe-slinger just dying to get out, and for two-brief minutes smack dab in the middle of A Salty Dog(Strong Recommend), guitarist Robin Trower got his one chance to bust loose our one inclusion from the prog-classic here, the gloriously minimalistic Juicy John Pink.

Wilbert Harrison: Already deep into an R&B career that hadn't produced a hit since his #1 1959 cover of Kansas City, Wilbert Harrison dusted-off one of his most popular early 60s numbers, Let's Stick Together, cribbed a new set of slight altered lyrics, retitled the song Let's Work Together, and the most enduring song of his career (and one of my favorites on this mix) was born. The song would go on to be a hit for other artists as well, most notably Canned Heat and, reverting back to the Let's Stick Together version, Bryan Ferry.

Karen Dalton: After all the fireworks that have come prior, we close our Badass Bluesdown mix with the eccentric cool down track Little Bit Of Rain from the most unusual album represented here, Karen Dalton's mostly forgotten (except by Pitchfork, who recently ranked it as the 52nd best album of the 60s) blues-folk classic It's So Hard To Tell Who's Going To Love You The Best (Solid Recommend).  Driven by Dalton's highly idiosyncratic singing style, So Hard To Tell... is far from conventional listening, but a real grower and worth seeking out for fans of both the blues and 60s folk. 

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