Showing posts with label Blues Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blues Reviews. Show all posts


Rock-Blues Review: Steve Cropper-Fire It Up

Release Date: April 23, 2021

Label: Provogue



If you have any familiarity with Booker T. and the MG’s or all the music coming out of the legendary Stax label, then you know the name, Steve Cropper. All that music I have always appreciated and the craft of Cropper on the six-string leading the way. You won’t hear his name mentioned amongst the greats such as Clapton, Beck, and of course Hendrix. My thought is that he was recognized in his genre and all his contributions to countless recordings including his solo recordings. He played at a very high level and continues to do so as the new release Fire It Up will attest. He is right up there on the list with the big boys as far as I am concerned.

Fire It Up features Cropper at his level best with Nioshi Jackson (drums), Roger C. Reale (vocals), and Jon Tiven (bass, sax, keys, harmonica, background vocals, with shared production duties with Cropper). Some other names contributed that you will recognize as well are Felix Cavaliere, Anton Fig, Simon Kirke, the list is extensive. All of that fine talent coming together to lend a hand gives Fire It Up some flow and cohesiveness that adds to the spark of that amazing guitar playing on display from start to finish.

There are thirteen cuts on the album. After listening to all of them I felt as though there was nothing that seemed out of sync or so different that it stood out as the one track that would be left in the can for future consideration. This is quality rock and blues with a strong underpinning of soul that comes through the vocals nicely.

I think the versatility that Cropper offers on this release is exceptional. “Bush Hog, Pt. 1” is a snappy instrumental to kick things off. The title track is a funky bluesy burner with Reale on vocals to complete the song. As things move along you hear will so many of those sweet crisp licks from Cropper. My favorite amongst many was “Heartbreak Street” and “She’s So Fine,” which sounded like a good choice for a single release to create a buzz about the album.

Cropper is 79 years young and he still has that fire burning in his belly. He floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee (thanks for that line Muhammad Ali) on this recording. The band he pulled together to support him certainly does Fire It Up at every turn making this a classic offering that stands as one of the best releases I have heard this year.

Keith “MuzikMan” Founder
March 22, 2021


01. Bush Hog, Pt. 1    
02. Fire It Up        
03. One Good Turn        
04. I'm Not Havin' It        
05. Out of Love        
06. Far Away     
07. Say You Don't Know Me        
08. She's So Fine        
09. Two Wrongs        
10. Heartbreak Street        
11. The Go-Getter Is Gone        
12. Bush Hog, Pt. 2        
13. Bush Hog


Blues Review: Robin Trower, Livingstone Brown, & Maxi Priest-United State of Mind

Release Date: October 9, 2020

Label: 2020 Manhaton Records  


The ultimate trio – Robin Trower, Maxi Priest, and Livingstone Brown, teams up to bring forth United State of Mind. The album projects a blend of Reggae and Blues that emboldens the title of the record as “United.” Having worked with Maxi Priest and Robin Trower both on an individual basis, Livingstone Brown finally brought the trio together to create this 9-track masterpiece. Browne provided the studio space and engineering skills, as well as some of the instrumentation. Meanwhile, Maxi Priest lent his vocals as Trower plays through with his sleek, smooth stylings.

The album begins with the title track, “United State of Mind,” which separates itself from much of the rest of the record. The premier track, maintains a more upbeat, faster sound, with melodramatic lyrics whereas the rest of the tracks, apart from “On Fire Like Zsa Zsa,” carry the opposite effect. The sound and tempo are distinguishingly slower and more relaxed, while the lyrics often offer an introspective feel and message or a positive outlook. Regardless of the concept surrounding each track, it is far from your typical Blues record. The fusion of two genres appeals to the typical Blues connoisseur’s yearning for a new and different sound.

“Are We Just People” is the most thought-provoking piece of the album. It asks the age-old questions we as humans often wonder but, we cannot begin to comprehend what the answers could honestly entail. “Should we just keep pushing? I’m thinking I should take some time…begs the continuum question, how far, is too far? And what is it, that we ultimately want to uncover? On the flipside, “ Hand to the Sky” lights up United State of Mind as it speaks of rejuvenation, rebirth; and lifting the spirit of the audience.

The continuation of newness and rebirth continues on “Good Day.” And you might think to yourself…”I thought this was ‘Blues’?” Well, yes it is, however, Blues can also paint pictures and tell stories rather than just concentrate on the negative and sadness of a life or situation. This song, expresses just how much 24 hours can change a man and his mindset. Following up, “On Fire Like Zsa Zsa” is a cool track with a wicked game to play. This woman ‘Zsa Zsa’ will wrap you up in her clutches if you don’t know how to play her game to your advantage.

We come back down from our feel-good, jam tracks, to discover “Bring It All Back to You.” This piece yearns to make things right with a former lover and even the attempt to talk things out seems to slip the singer up. Combine the struggling lyricism with the emphasis on Trower’s gliding staccato-like guitar structure, you get a soothing but heart-aching composition. “Walking Wounded” follows suit in its painful emotion. If the title wasn’t enough to show you, how quickly on a dime, emotions can flip. Sit and listen to how he comes to an understanding that some situations just cannot be fixed.

On the final two tracks, “Sunrise Revolution” is all about being on this quest for answers and truth. And the singer’s answer is in-fact a ‘sunrise revolution’, to shine a light on deceit and the right and clear intentions of so many in our lives; both of powerful and common-man. Then, rounding out the album, “Where Our Love Came From,” is a short mission to get back to a place of stability and order from the singer’s point-of-view in a relationship of his. Whether it is past or present is unclear, but the track does well in not saying too much and leading out with a cool, tender guitar solo that gradually decrescendos in the listener’s ear.

Key Tracks include: “Are We Just People,” “Good Day,” “On Fire Like Zsa Zsa” and “United State of Mind.”

Gregg Keniston - Staff
February 5, 2021

Track Listing:

01. United State of Mind
02. Are We Just People
03. Hand to the Sky
04. Good Day
05. On Fire Like Zsa Zsa
06. Bring it All Back to You
07. Walking Wounded
08. Sunrise Revolution
09. Where Our Love Came From



Blues Review: Junior Wells-Blues Brothers

Release Date: November 6, 2020

Label: 2020 Cleopatra Blues


The blues is quite possibly THE genre that is one-hundred percent raw emotion. Given its title, not only is it a solemn color, but it also represents intensity and how the artist might harness that intensity to symbolize their hurt or sorrow. Junior Wells, a pioneer in his time, spent over 40 years crafting his style and paving the way with a “blues-harp” style. This newly remastered collection of Wells’ recordings along with some of the greatest blues guitarists of our current generation. Blues Brothers is a grand ode to the talent and legacy that sadly Junior Wells left for us in 1998.

“Blues Hit Big Town” is a calm introduction that allows the listener to sway into the beat of the music and get them acquainted with the vocal stylings of Mr. Wells. It sets the table for what awaits the listener throughout the record. Sliding into the next track, the fun commences with a jive-sounding, tongue-in-cheek, “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl,” which is a funky bass-induced piece.

“Messin’ With the Kid” sounds like old times, trying to tune radios to the right station to avoid the most static. But, that static and raspiness is what brings the element of flashback and former city-street vibe of jazz and big-band, bluesy culture. “Scratch My Back” starts off sounding very much like the wild-wild-west but, then progresses into a lively and exciting dialogue, while at the same time keeping steady with a mid-tempo vibe to try to entice his love interest in a little bit of a rendezvous of sorts.

We come back down as listeners a bit, as “Worried Life Blues” acts as the bridge between the first and second half of the album. Wells is clearly swooning over someone either he had or someone of whom has since departed from his life in some capacity. Picking up the rear of track five, “When the Cat’s Gone” is a slick, short,  fun song that brings up the imagery… at least to me, of Tom and Jerry. “Lovey Dovey” is a pure, feel-good moment in the record that reminds us that the blues, while often dealing with sorrow or hurt, has its moments of complete opposite effect in positivity. Rather, it just utilizes the same technique as it’s somber counterparts.

“You Got to Love Her with a Feeling” might be the lowest point of the record as it seems to be the most traditional style of blues rhythm and overall tone. “Two-Headed Woman” is a rush of questioning the singer questioning the woman in his life because of her split personality but, he puts up with it because to him “there’s nothing we can do about it. “Snatch It Back” is a snappy jive that sounds much like a 60s dance move or that of which the song might be a dance number through the entire song.

Upon the end of the album, “You Don’t Care” is a dismissive song of used-to-be friends or partners of what sounds to be like a disagreement or cheating scandal between them gone wrong. With both parties telling each other off, adhering to their motives and feelings alone, they “don’t care” how the other person now is dealing with the aftermath. “It’s a Man Down There” is alluding to how the singer perceives that another man might be living amongst the underworld because of a nefarious deed. But, he just doesn’t know for certain if it is.

“Hoodoo Man Blues” is a nice wind-down song to end out the album. It is an overall instrumental piece that soothes the listener’s ear. The track’s sudden divergent rifts within points of the song provide a little jolt of excitement within the overall relaxation of the piece.

Key Tracks include: “Two Headed Woman,”Messin’ With the Kid,” “It’s A Man Down There.”

Gregg Keniston - Staff
January 12, 2021

Track Listing:

01. Blues Hit Big Town (feat. Colin James)
02. Good Morning Little Schoolgirl (feat. Pat Travers)
03. Messin’ With the Kid (feat. Tyler Bryant)
04. Scratch My Back (feat. Albert Castiglia)
05. Worried Life Blues (feat. Mike Zito & James Montgomery)
06. When the Cat’s Gone (feat. Harvey Mandel)
07. Lovey Dovey (feat. Eric Gales)
08. You Gotta Love Her with a Feeling (feat. Kirk Fletcher)
09. Two Headed Woman (feat.Guitar Shorty)
10. Snatch It Back and Hold (feat. Joe Louis Walker)
11. You Don’t Care (feat. Popa Chubby)
12. It’s A Man Down There (feat. Bernard Allison)
13. Hoodoo Man Blues (feat. Joe Louis Walker)


Blues Review: Dion-Blues With Friends

Release Date: June 5, 2020
Label: Keeping The Blues Alive

Dion was born, Dion Francis DiMucci in Bronx, New York. Throughout his career, he has seemingly done it all. Although at 80 years old (almost 81), you could expect that. While his musical beginnings link back to 1957, it was not until 1960 that Dion went solo and started to experience some true momentum in his music. Having gone through several different phases in his career, he has fiddled with so many different genres from rock to Christian, and R&B. I mean who else can form several different bands, break out into a solo career, and genre hop so effortlessly to arrive at 80 with such a short album discography? That has been revealed through Dion’s ventures with the Belmonts, himself, and revolving from Christian back to secular music. Recently he released Blues With Friends.

When “Blues Comin’ On” starts up, you immediately understand why the “blues” could be both uplifting and also get you right in the gut. It starts the album off with a very positive chord and tone, while the lyrics are reflective and not exactly light and positive. “Kickin’ Child” is a cruiser of a tune. With the top-down and the wind blowing through your hair, it offers a continuation of a feel-good spirit. Then you get the jazzy-influenced “Uptown Number 7” to conclude the trio of overall positivity.

“Can’t Start Over Again” at first, sounds like a country song. It’s like the singer is a rolling stone trying to find his way. But, when you listen more closely, it’s more of a heartbreak that acts as a roadblock in his life because the point of a do-over is so tough to comprehend. “My Baby Loves to Boogie” bounces right back to a funk beat. The song is a great way to step onto the dancefloor and…boogie. I’m reminded of the Blues Brothers here. “I Got Nothin’” is a cool message of letting a partner know that one might not have a lot of material goods or a lavish lifestyle, but in the end, they do have the capability to still make one another happy. “Stumbling Blues” is a great play-on song lyrically of the way we often feel when we first become infatuated with a new love interest.

Moving forward, “Bam Bang Boom” is a happy ode to a woman who gave new meaning to the singer’s life and he seemed he couldn’t be more thrilled because of it, just like that. “I Got the Cure” lays out the singer’s confidence in himself as well as for the perfect remedy of a bad day or mood. The album then switches up to “Song For Same Cooke (Here In America)” which is a wonderful reflection on the famed singer, Sam Cooke. It spoke of a bond between the two artists that went deeper than just music.

“What If I Told You” is a twist on the typical cheating or wronged love song. The song tells of how the singer is on to his lover’s actions and feelings (or non-existent feelings) towards him and toward someone else. Knowing he is above the tomfoolery of the back-and-forth of a breakup or fight, he just gives off premonitions of how aware he is of her actions.”Told You Once In August” pairs well with the prior song. Another cheating song told in a different form, holds more of a western vibe to it this time around.

Rounding out the final tracks, “Way Down (I Won’t Cry No More)” sings of hurt and pain from love but, speaks more to the redemption of the singer’s attitude. He will in-fact, rise above this temporary pain of betrayal and be better for experiencing it. This leads us to the finale. Although sounding initially like a somber tune, a very positive, reflective message shines through.

Speaking of the Lord, Dion directs the listener to always look towards God to overcome the greatest adversity. This last track is an opposite mirror effect of his first track “Blues Comin’ On” where the lyrics are gloomy, but the tone and sound are both happy; whereas “Hymn to Him” is sounding more slow and dark but, a very powerful message prevails.

Key tracks include: “Hymn to Him,” “Kickin’ Child,” “Stumbling Blues.”

Gregg Keniston - Staff
June 30, 2020

Track Listing:
01. Blues Comin’ On
02. Kickin’ Child
03. Uptown Number 7
04. Can’t Start Over Again
05. My Baby Loves To Boogie
06. I Got Nothin’
07. Stumbling Blues
08. Bam Bang Boom
09. I Got The Cure
10. Song For Sam Cooke (Here in America)
11. What If I Told You
12. Told You Once In August
13. Way Down (I Won’t Cry No More)
14. Hymn To Him



Blues Review: Shirley King-Blues For A King

Release Date: June 19, 2020
Label: Cleopatra Records, Inc.

Powerhouse? Check. Musical family lineage? Check. Try as you might, to find a smoother summer sizzler than Blues For A King, you won’t have much luck. Shirley King, the daughter of famous blues legend B.B. King, arranges a collection of 11 feel-good tracks of classic covers and original pieces. Not much is known of Ms. King personally. She was born in 1949 and unfortunately, most of her adult life remains spotty, other than the fact that she was an exotic dancer since 1969. In 1990 she switched over to the blues and has done her father’s legacy well.

Looking at the artwork for this record, it is simple and colorful. Much like the genre it embodies, the album is bold and captivating utilizing color and animation. Blues finds a way to show the same concepts keeping the lyric structure symbol and coloring the singer’s tone beautifully with the emotion of often strife and trouble.

With two albums under her belt, Blues For A King soars into the stratosphere with songs holding mainly a strong, upbeat tone. Select songs such as “Can’t Find My Way Home,” “Gallows Pole,” and “Hoodoo Man Blues” do carry a more serious, darker sound but, not so much so that it completely changes the mood of the entire record for the listener.

“All My Lovin’” and “Feelin’ Alright” starts the album off as  “good morning world, how are you today?” and “sultry meets self-confidence” songs respectively. How can you not turn the volume up when the singer exudes so much love of life. “I Did You Wrong” is far from wrong at all. It acknowledges the pain the singer caused her significant other, feeling nothing but remorse for her part in a failed relationship. She then wants to reach out somehow to attempt to repair the damage in front of her.

We turn the volume back up to 11 when “That’s Alright Mama” comes blaring on. It’s an ode to what comes through every child vs parent situation, regardless of age, in terms of big decision making. One party might be uncomfortable with a decision like moving on or out, while the other party objects to any notion of the idea. “Can’t Find My Way Home” is calling upon those who live with their heads in the clouds or who might feel superior to other people or a group of persons. In this case, the singer is struggling to focus on the journey back to her home to spend more time searching for something greater than her home, not acknowledging a sense of superiority; rather comfort in simply being a wanderer for the time being.

“Johnny Porter” resembles a lot of a similar story-teller song “The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia.” It speaks of a child who is making careless, destructive decisions on the streets. Meanwhile, his mother is worried sick about his well-being. The song is a coming-of-age combined with testing waters theme like no other.

This “Feeling Good” rendition is smokey, intense, and powerful where it often is light, bright and airy. Though, it still manages to keep a positive tone with the obvious lyrics and guitar accompaniment. “Give It All Up” is the honeymoon phase of life. Ready to throw caution to the wind and feel some constant goodness in her life, Shirley King is laying it all down for the one she loves. Then, we arrive at “Gallows Pole.” Another darker song on the record shows how human life can turn into a value for some people, with not a care in the world to rethink their action.

“Hoodoo Man Blues” is a struggle to find out why everything seems to be going topsy turvy in the singer’s world at the moment. She calls out for the Lord but, it seems the message isn’t getting through. Rounding out Blues For A King, a wonderful cover of “At Last,” makes the album shine and feels as though there is peace among the blues.

Key tracks include: “That’s Alright Mama,” “At Last,” and “Gallows Pole.”

Gregg Keniston- Staff
June 11, 2020

01. All My Lovin’
02. Feelin’ Alright?
03. I Did You Wrong
04. That’s Alright Mama
05. Can’t Find My Way Home
06. Johnny Porter
07. Feeling Good
08. Give It All Up
09. Gallows Pole
10. Hoodoo Man Blues
11. At Last 


Blues Concert Review: Vanessa Collier At The Stationery Factory

Vanessa Collier Rocks The Blues At The Stationery Factory In Dalton, Massachusetts
November 23, 2019

It was another great night at the Stationery Factory to get people warmed up for the Holiday season. Vanessa Collier performed her blues-rock, jazz, soul, and funk selections for a very appreciative audience.

In 2019, she was again nominated in two categories at the Blues Music AwardsContemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year and Instrumental - Horn for the second year in a row. On May 9, 2019, she won the Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year. To her credit and all-around talent, she is being recognized and worthy of the respect received by the blues community and her peers.

Vanessa is a fine vocalist and saxophone player and she also plays the steel guitar. Her killer band is made up of some accomplished players including Charles Hodges on keyboards, Laura Chavez on guitar, TK Jackson on drums, and Daniel McKee on bass. They produce a great sound to compliment Vanessa’s strong vocals and animated saxophone playing.

Vanessa featured many tracks from her most recent release Honey Up. She did inform the audience that she would be going back in the studio in January to start recording a new album. 

What a potential audience and fan base can expect from Vanessa is a great combination of blues-rock, jazz, soul, and funk. That is exactly what she gave us last night and man was it jam-packed with energy! Notable was her kick-ass six-string slinger Laura Chavez. She demands your attention the way she plays and accordingly coaxed many exclamations of respect from the audience during the evening. I spent a lot of my time looking back and forth between both ladies.

The songs that hit home where “The Fault Line,” a real funk-blues workout, “Sweatin’ Like A Pig, Singin’ Like An Angel” and “Love Me Like A Man.” At one point during the concert, she sat down at the front of the stage and started playing her sax then in a short period got up and came out into the audience. She just kept on jamming nonstop, to the delight of everyone there. That was the highlight of the evening and one amazing display of musical virtuosity. 

There is no doubt that Vanessa is a hardworking and entertaining individual that finds it easy to speak to her audience and enjoys telling the stories behind the song’s origins. This always makes the entire experience more meaningful. I can only speak from my perspective but judging by the reaction of those in attendance, they appreciated everything she had to offer as well. 

If you appreciate the blues in a live setting you won’t see a better show than Vanessa Collier. Her reputation is stellar in the music community and she has carved her path to success in her way as an indie artist. I have a lot of respect for individuals like her. It was nice to see her come out to the merch table a few minutes after the encore and sign her swag. I appreciated it and got a copy of her CD Honey Up.

I look forward to her recording coming out in 2020 and would not hesitate to attend another concert by this fast-rising star.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
November 24, 2019

Founder of:

Review Provided By  


Blues Review: Bob Margolin-This Guitar and Tonight

Release Date: October 25, 2019
Label: Independent
Making music for nearly 50 years now, Bob Margolin is the current face of Blues. Born in 1964, Margolin began playing guitar at the age of 15 and quickly started getting gigs at local restaurants. Not long after that, he was recruited by Muddy Waters in 1973 and went on to receive 3 Grammys by his side. In the ’80s, however, Margolin left Muddy to go solo and started diving deep into the world of Blues. As the years went on, he began to receive more and more recognition, leading him to win “Best Male Blues Artist” and “Best Traditional Blues Album” in 2016. After his most recent album “My Road” was a success, there’s been much excitement about the release of his upcoming album This Guitar and Tonight. Not only does this album meet the high expectations set by thousands of his listeners, it exceeds them through each song’s
heart wrenching and personal sentiment. 

This Guitar and Tonight is wonderfully emotional, it's a brief look into Margolin’s emotive side. Throughout the title track, Margolin wails into the mic about his former sorrows regarding a woman. He describes how his guitar and Blues are the only constants in his life, stating “The only thing that’s right is this guitar and tonight” while discussing an issue with a love interest that is troubling him. Margolin proceeds to sing about the same sorrows in several other songs to highlight the dismal events in life so many people can relate to it. The singing style that Margolin takes on is indicative of the Blues genre and causes the readers to empathize with him and relate to his troubles. Margolin’s ability to tap into the emotions of the listeners is a wonderful example of the extent of his talents, he describes woe and despair in a way that is personal and intimate. 

One of the most intriguing parts of this album is its political take. In the song “Evil Walks in Our World,” Margolin highlights the maliciousness currently seen in today’s political atmosphere, singing “Open racism, antisemitism, families separated, kids in cages, evil walks in our world.” Whereas multiple other tracks discuss issues with love affairs, this song gets more serious and talks about the holes in our society: the injustice and inequity so apparent in the United States today. Margolin gives his take on the current political atmosphere in a heart-wrenching manner that perfectly depicts the despair and hurt felt all across the United States, he uses his fame to bring attention to topics that directly affect and hurt a huge population in the United States and calls them out for what they are with no shame, evil. Margolin also expresses his political opinions during the song “Dancer’s Boogie.” The cheery and upbeat song takes a detour from the rest of the album to tell the audience to get up and dance with the song. This is Margolin’s call for unity: by telling everyone to come together and dance, he’s telling his listeners to ignore race, sex, political parties, etc. and find peace with one another.

The rest of the album tells the story of a woeful character expressing his tragedies in a multitude of ballads, a character that Margolin is perfect for. The combination of Margolin’s sorrowful voice and the use of traditional Blues instruments cause the entire album to feel emotional and intimate. Each song feels like you’re consoling your friend while he goes through a rough album. This Guitar and Tonight is a perfect album for when you’re in the mood to let your emotions out, get mad at the world, or a little bit of both. 

Key Tracks Include “This Guitar and Tonight,” “Evil Walks in Our World,”  “Dancer’s Boogie,” “Blues Lover”

Ana Staff
October 21, 2019

New Age Music Reviews

1. This Guitar and Tonight
2. Evil Walks in Our World
3. Over Time
4. Dancer’s Boogie
5. Blues Lover
6. Good Driving Song
7. I Can’t Take Those Blues Away
8. Together
9. Predator


Rock-Blues Review: Big Brother & The Holding Company-Sex, Dope & Cheap Thrills

Release Date: November 30, 2018
Label: Columbia/Legacy

Brother & The Holding Company with iconic lead singer Janis Joplin, had a sophomore album titled Cheap Thrills that would catapult them to stardom and introduced the world to Joplin. Sex, Dope & Cheap Thrills is a risqué title for an album and it was 1968 so as one can imagine, that title was nixed by the label for fear of public retribution which would equal poor sales. This was a typical reaction from label brass at the time. I think the album would have found just as much popularity regardless of any title it had. This double CD set restores the band’s original intent for that blockbuster release.

Within this set, there is an essential new collection of 30 rare performances including 29 studio outtakes and 25 previously unreleased tracks from the mythic 1968 sessions that generated Big Brother & The Holding Company's Cheap Thrills. This also debuts a previously unreleased live performance of a smokin’ hot “Ball and Chain," recorded live at Winterland Ballroom on April 12, 1968.

As far as I am concerned, Janis Joplin was one of the greatest blues singers that ever graced a stage or studio. I think this set will reaffirm that statement and younger fans will come aboard the Big Brother and Holding Company train after hearing this music. Joplin’s emotion-soaked vocals and painful releases of those emotions can be heard in her vocals and the accompanying music. One listen to “Turtle Blues (Take #4)” tells the story of her mastery over the blues.

What I found extremely interesting was reading the CD booklet included with this set. Some history I was unaware of was brought to light. The notes from Dave Getz and Grace Slick were certainly a great addition to this set. The picture of a very young and beautiful Slick and Joplin gets your mind reeling and wondering what was going on in that particular moment in time. If we only could look at a picture of the past and just step in to check it out real time, that would be amazing. Alas, we can dream of moments such as this and realistically get everything we possibly can from the music, words, and pictures provided.

“Oh, Sweet Mary” is an excellent track (7) on the first disc. The band and Joplin are just cranking it out with the pedal to the metal. I really appreciated her vocals when she sang and didn’t scream but I do realize that was part of how she conveyed the raw emotions of the songs to her audience. “Piece of My Heart” (Take 6) is so convincing. It sounds like Joplin is singing right from her toes directly to her heart. She always did sound that way regardless of what song she sang. “Catch Me Daddy (Take 1)” gets off to an interesting start as the sound engineer tells the band “Keep playing if you fuck up, I want to get something down.” Well, it doesn’t get any more realistic than that! 

The second disc opens with “Flower in The Sun.” The track has a clean sound and the musicianship is spot on of course. Joplin matches that fine playing with her typically emotive singing style. She was “the” blues mama of her day, there is no doubt about that fact. The track is above average and a different take on their style and output of the day. Being a slight step away from what their audience was accustomed to was likely looked at as taking chance, but now we get to hear the more experimental side of the band. “Oh, Sweet Mary” continues on with that method and it takes on a different style and approach than what you heard on disc one and one that I really appreciated. The extended guitar solo is excellent and it really shows just how tight the rhythm section was. This was one amazing band and this particular track proves just how good they were and could be if given the chance to cut loose free-form style in the studio.

Janis Joplin and Big Brother and The Holding Company were the real deal and it simply does not get any more down and dirtier than some of these cuts. This is the way blues rock was meant to sound like, filled with emotion, blood, sweat, and tears. And that is exactly why Joplin showed up at the right time for the band, she was the final piece of the puzzle that made it all happen. Hearing all this archival material is a great way for any music fan to turn back the hands of time and relive the sessions for the first time.

Note From Columbia/Legacy: Of the 30 tracks showcased on the 2-CD edition of Sex, Dope & Cheap Thrills, only five have been previously released: “Summertime (Take 2)” (on a 1993 Joplin compilation); “Roadblock (Take 1)” (on the 1999 Cheap Thrills reissue); “It’s A Deal (Take 1)” and “Easy Once You Know How (Take 1)” (both on the 1999 “Rare Pearls” disc in the Box of Pearls set); and “Magic Of Love (Take 1)” (from the Columbia/Legacy Record Store Day release, Move Over!).

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
November 24, 2018

Founder of:

Review Provided By MuzikMan Reviews & News


 Disc One:

1. Combination Of The Two (Take 3)
2. I Need A Man To Love (Take 4)
3. Summertime (Take 2) *
4. Piece Of My Heart (Take 6)
5. Harry (Take 10)
6. Turtle Blues (Take 4)
7. Oh, Sweet Mary
8. Ball And Chain (live, The Winterland Ballroom, April 12, 1968)
9. Roadblock (Take 1) *
10. Catch Me Daddy (Take 1)
11. It’s A Deal (Take 1) *
12. Easy Once You Know How (Take 1) *
13. How Many Times Blues Jam
14. Farewell Song (Take 7)

Disc Two:

1. Flower In The Sun (Take 3)
2. Oh Sweet Mary
3. Summertime (Take 1)
4. Piece of My Heart (Take 4)
5. Catch Me Daddy (Take 9)
6. Catch Me Daddy (Take 10)
7. I Need A Man To Love (Take 3)
8. Harry (Take 9)
9. Farewell Song (Take 4)
10. Misery’n (Takes 2 & 3)
11. Misery’n (Take 4)
12. Magic Of Love (Take 1) *
13. Turtle Blues (Take 9)
14. Turtle Blues (last verse Takes 1-3)
15. Piece Of My Heart (Take 3)
16. Farewell Song (Take 5)

All tracks previously unreleased except*


Blues Review: Johnny Winter-True To The Blues - The Johnny Winter Story (Box Set)

Release Date: February 25, 2014
Label: Legacy

Johnny Winter has been True To The Blues for a lifetime. Blues rock fans have been the fortunate recipient of his burning desire to play that style of music for five decades.

True To The Blues - The Johnny Winter Story is 4-disc box set that does a nice job of encapsulating an amazing career. Winter pushed the limits of his capabilities and life itself and has somehow defied all odds to survive artistically and in a literal sense. He always comes out the other side a success. Now 70 years old and still burning the flame of the blues, his is truly a miracle of music. This Winter should have been in a box a long time ago due to his drug abuse but here we are celebrating his 70th birthday this year and his incredible contribution to the blues with a different type of box.

This definitive box set offers a booklet with quotes from music legends regarding Winter and several pictures during the course of his career. This is the first career spanning box set for Winter and it makes you wonder what took so long? There are two previously unreleased tracks included to sweeten the pie. “Eyesight to the Blind” and “Johnny Winter’s Intro “ are both culled from the Live At The Atlanta Pop show. This is a nice set however it think it could have been more complete if a DVD of interviews and live performances over Winter’s career were included. For pure musical enjoyment it gets and A+.

Listening to these four discs reminded once again who the king of the white boy blues is. His guitar playing is simply on fire and his vocals are one of the most recognizable in recorded music. His strong rock voice has been one of the greatest live and in the studio. He is revered by his peers and music fans alike around the world.

I have seen Johnny live twice and can tell you he still has that mojo workin’ without a doubt. Having had the pleasure to meet him as well was something I can never forget. The music is what makes the man not the man that makes the music and I would be willing to bet the humble Mr. Winter would agree.

With so many tracks to choose from I found it difficult to focus on anyone in particular. All are notable and stand alone as great accomplishments from where this listener sits. To sit and listen to this entire set is a wonderful experience for any blues fan or music fan interested in rediscovering or discovering one of the all-time great guitar slingers. This is the quintessential blues from one of the greatest players of our time. Besides Clapton, Beck, Page and all the others that took blues rock to another level, Johnny Winter stands alone as one of the unique and most respected purveyors of the genre. True To The Blues is your ticket to one of the greatest shows on earth.

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: ALL

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-Write A Music Review Founder

March 26, 2014

Review Provided By Write A Music Review

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