Only a handful of American blues artists have gained the financial rewards that come with international success. Memphis Slim was one of those elite performers. His brand of blues runs the gamut from R&B to folk-and, after experiencing the warm welcome given to him and his co-stars on the blues boom package tours of the early Sixties, he decided to settle in Europe.
His recording career began in the late Forties with his band, the House Rockers, when he enjoyed Billboard R&B chart status with 'Blue And Lonesome' and 'Angel Child', both recorded for Miracle Records of Chicago. This live set, recorded in London at Ronnie Scott's in 1986, finds him in reflective mood, covering all aspects of his prolific output and ably backed by a quartet of British blues stalwarts.
'Mother Earth' has proved a perennial favourite, having been recorded several times since the original Premier label version was cut in 1950. The 1959 Vee-Jay and Bluesville recordings are the better-known renditions due to their general availability - but since Chess Records have acquired the rights to the Premium masters, the listener can now compare all three versions with this live rendition. Slim sings with feeling a truly moving piece of blues-writing that hits home with some tight support from his band.
Ex-Manfred Mann frontman Paul Jones brings his Chicago-styled blues harmonica to the bandstand as guitar and electric bass help recreate memories of those house-rocking rhythm and blues days. 'Rock This House Tonight' has nothing to do with rock'n'roll, as all blues fans know - and Slim puts this fact across in no uncertain terms, his delivery abounding in sly humour and underlined with fleet-fingered runs that almost ignite the keys. Jones also helps out most effectively on the lonesome sound of 'Four Hundred Years'.
'Steppin' Out', the title track of our set, originates from the same Vee-Jay sessions as 'Mother Earth': Slim uses it to rest his vocal chords and display his undeniable talents as a pianist as he attempts to destroy the piano! Drummer George Collier maintains a steady backbeat as ever, pacing th leader's expertise on this attacking number.
'If You See Kay' is a song that really needs to be heard to fully appreciate the song's true meaning. Slim speaks his very clever lyrics over some delicate plucked guitar that tells an amusing love story with the pianoman's feelings summed up so well in the song's title. The immortal Muddy Waters is remembered with 'Feel So Good', while the inimitable Slim Gaillard joins the proceedings for a four-handed piano workout on the suitably titled 'Tribute To Gaillard'.
'Baby Please Come Home' quickly establishes a rapport that allows Slim to open up his world of blues. The pertinent question 'Where Do I Go From Here' is punctuated by typically thundering chords and deft right-hand touches that underwrite his unique style. The mood becomes intimate wtih 'Didn't We' as the big man exercises his keyboard mastery before bringing his romantic side to bear with 'Christina', his sensitive ivory caresses making this tune all the more tender.
'Beer Drinking Woman', a popular number from a 1959 Folkways session, is resurrected and imbued with all the humour of the original. This jovial mood continues, to the delight of the audience, on 'Animal' before some serious philosophising on 'What Is This World Coming To?' and a joyous 'Bye Bye Blues' bring this fine show to a rousing end.
Memphis Slim died in 1988 in Paris, where he had made his home. Regrettably, the world will never enjoy the likes of a bluesman of his stature again ... but you can, with this fine recording.
Mixed at Milo Music
With Paul Jones & Slim Gaillard
Recorded live at Ronnie Scott's, London
Also availbale on videocassette Cat No. HEN 2 039
Other titles available in this "Live At Ronnie Scott's London" series:
Taj Mahal ESMCD 002 (CD) ESMMC 002 (Cassette) HEN 2 161 (Videocassette)
Curtis Mayfield ESMCD 003 (CD) ESMMC 003 (Cassette) HEN 2 151 (Videocassette)
Nina Simone ESMCD 013 (CD) ESMMC 013 (Cassette) HEN 2 017 (Videocassette)
Art Blakey & The Jazz Massengers ESMCD 014 (CD) ESMMC 014 (Cassette) HEN 2 019 (Videocassette)
Chet Baker ESMCD 015 (CD) ESMMC 015 (Cassette) HEN 2 044 (Videocassette)
Roy Ayers ESMCD 017 (CD) ESMMC 017 (Cassette) HEN 2 162 (Videocassette)
Chico Freeman ESMCD 018 (CD) ESMMC 018 (Cassette) HEN 2 041 (Videocassette)
Anita O'Day ESMCD 019 (CD) ESMMC 019 (Cassette) HEN 2 040 (Videocassette)
All tracks licensed from (P) 1985 Wadham Film Ltd.
(C) 1990 Castle Communications PLC
Putney Bridge Road
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