Thursday, September 13, 2012

Charlie Musselwhite – Stand Back! Here Comes Charley Musselwhite’s South Side Band

Charlie Musselwhite (Vanguard Records spelled his first name wrong) was already a music veteran by the time this 1966 album was recorded and released. He was born in Mississippi, moved to Memphis in time to witness the birth of rockabilly & rock’n’roll and then traveled to Chicago where he hung out with the masters – Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Buddy Guy and more – and became good friends with John Lee Hooker. After Elektra Record’s success with the similarly-styled Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Vanguard signed Charlie and executed this blues masterpiece.

Leading a band consisting of Harvey Mandel on guitar (a major talent, who went on to many more things, including playing with Canned Heat at Woodstock, John Mayall and even the Rolling Stones!), Barry Goldberg on keys, bassist Bob Anderson and legendary drummer Fred Below, Jr. Charlie sings and blows a mean, powerful harp – again, not unlike Paul Butterfield. And like Paul, this is pure Chicago blues, dirty, gritty, and utterly terrific. You would never think that this was a young (22 at the time!) white man – this oozes just like the “real” thing – he obviously learned his lessons sitting in with the leaders of the scene.

This set combines Musselwhite originals, a couple by other band members and some well-chosen (and now well known) covers. Mining some of the same material that Johnny Winter used early on (for instance, “Early in the Morning”), Charlie makes this his own, from his distinctive (and great) voice and amazing harp playing to the superb backing from the group. He covers the range of the blues, with cool instrumentals (“Cha Cha the Blues”, “Chicken Shack”), minor chord moodiness (“Christo Redemptor”), stompers (the oft-covered “Help Me” – man, what a harp tone!), upbeat (claiming Elmore James’ “Stranger Blues” as his own “Strange Land”), slow and sultry (“39th and Indiana”), and just plain rockin’ (4 P.M.). All around great stuff!

Any fan of Chicago rock’n’blues should own this one and display it proudly right next to all of the giants!