Tuesday, 23 August 2011
Smokestack Lightnin' - Off The Wall
Having recently played Howlin' Wolf''s 1956 Smokestack Lightning with a friend [he on guitar/vocals; me on harmonica] I came across this group and album and obviously checked out their version as well as listened to the rest.
It's a great, raw, rock and blues band and album. They were apparently the 'house band' for the Whiskey-A-Go-Go and the Cheetah Club. In researching the former gig lists, I found them featured a few times mainly in 1969, the year of Off The Wall's release: March 18-23, 1969 listed with Taj Mahal; July 2-6, 1969 listed with Love; July 23-27, 1969 listed with Sir Douglas Quintet [apparently replacing Flock who dropped out]; October 1-5, 1969 listed with Dunn and McCashen; December 10-14, 1969 listed with Bobby 'Blue' Band, and December 24-25 listed with Bread. I did find one reference to February 12-14, 1971 listed with Crabby Appleton, but I stopped looking for more as the point is they clearly played there! What did impress was the list of amazing bands that played this club around that time - how I would like to go back and be there.....
Opening track Watch Your Step poprocks with its R&B beat and female backing vocals, and second track Long Stemmed Eyes [John's Song] has elements of The Byrds and Creedance Clearwater Revival intertwined. Third track, Willie Dixon's Three Hundred Pounds of Heavenly Joy is a straight rock'n'roller. Fourth track Something's Got A Hold On Me showcases the powerful and gravelly voice of Ronnie Darling. The first 'heavy' track is fifth song Light In My Window with its strong lead guitar and the growling vocals again of Darling. The first blues infused track is the sixth, I Idolize You with its Paul Butterfield Blues Band sound [backing chorus and brass orchestration] - this is superb. Seventh track Who's Been Talkin' continues the blues, with the vocal again extremely strong, and the harmonica playing putting mine to shame. Penultimate track Well Tuesday wouldn't be out of place on a Stepponwolf greatest hits album, whilst last track, the 12 minutes plus Smokestack Lightnin', lets me know how it should be played, all members in the the band - Rik Eiserling [guitar], Kelly Green [bass], Ronnie Darling [vocals/percussion] and Art Guy [drums] - getting their moments to solo and shine.
The bonus track is a reprise of Smokestack Lightnin' by Howlin' Mart and Harpoon Glenn and it is an acoustic, softer version........oh sorry, that's a recording I mentioned at the beginning of this........
The Doors would watch Smokestack Lightin' perform at the Whiskey and you can sense that Morrison's love of the blues would have been fully satisfied by their playing with such a raw energy, simplicity and feel.