NORAH JONES Not Too Late. 2007 German Blue Note Records limited edition 13-track vinyl LP, her third full length release and most solid and fluid record to date, displaying a control of nuance that she is famous for live, including the single release ‘Thinking About You’, within a gatefold picture sleeve. This example remains factory sealed from new.
Big Mama Thornton – In Europe (1966) Big Maybelle – “Gabbin’ Blues” And Other Big Hits (1968)
Each of these ladies would qualify as the perfect embodiment of what a blues belter would be. Raw, primal and powerful; the roadmap for rock n’ roll. If you haven’t had a chance to check out Big Maybelle, check out the music link below and be amazed. Big Mama’s down there as well but I figure she needs no introduction.
JOHN MAYALL Blues From Laurel Canyon. 1968 UK first issue 12-track stereo LP, front laminated gatefold picture sleeve with lyrics inside & WITHOUT die cut mono/stereo hole. This would have had mere weeks in the shops before being replaced with the normal ‘first’. How many were produced, we don’t know, but in thirty plus years of trading we’ve only ever seen one before.
“The Best of Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band” 1968, Vanguard Records. Occasionally I find records propped up next to my turntable and this one appeared today for our “should it stay or should it go?” project. This is my first listen, in fact first awareness, of Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band and it’s what you’d expect: old-timey, folky, rural blues and ragtime jug music complete with fiddle, banjo, kazoo and washtub bass filtered through the lens of 60′s kinda-hippies. The band was active from ‘63 to around ‘67 or ‘68 and played the Newport Folk Fest in ‘64. Most of the tracks on this comp are covers: one of the best is “I’m a Woman” written by Lieber and Stoller (not that old-timey, written in ‘62 and made famous by Peggy Lee) and sung by Maria Muldaur. “Fishing Blues,” first recorded by “Ragtime Texas” Henry Thomas in 1928, isn’t too bad – I’m pretty sure that my folks and their friends would play this one on their makeshift jug band while hanging out in the early 70′s. The rest is mostly too camp, too “juggy” for my tastes, especially tracks like “Boodle Am Shake,” “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me” (which would actually be rocking but the prominent kazoo solo kinda ruins it for me) and while the sad fiddle on “Never Swat a Fly” is lovely, the lyrics are just silly and there’s an inappropriately placed kazoo solo (again). I think this one is going to go.
Taj Mahal “The Natch’l Blues” 1968. Today, May 17th, is Taj Mahal’s birthday (b. Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, 1942). I met Taj Mahal once, back in June 1976; I was just shy of my 5th birthday but it was a truly memorable experience. My parents are of the Vietnam War-era generation – my dad went into the Army reserves and was not deployed but some of their friends did see active combat while others left for Canada. One of their friends lived in Canada for several years (I don’t know how many but by the late 70′s he was back in the States, living not far from Three Mile Island when the nuclear meltdown happened in ‘79) and we traveled fairly frequently to Toronto to visit. In 1976 we all went to the Mariposa Folk Festival, an annual music fest that took place at a variety of locations in and around Toronto over the years (it’s still going on, this year in Orilla, Canada). In ‘76 it was held on the Toronto Islands and access to the Fest was by ferry (no automobiles except for some service vehicles are permitted on the islands). Though 1976 was the dawning of the punk and disco era, grassroots, blues and folk music associated with 60′s hippie culture was still pretty strong and fests like Mariposa flourished; here’s a group shot of my parents and their friends outside of the Toronto apartment where they lived the weekend of the festival (I’m the little girl in the pink dress).
Check out this homespun pamphlet chock full of events from that summer: headline performers of course but also music workshops, “song swaps,” kids’ events, arts and crafts, indigenous peoples presentations, comedy, storytelling, and on and on. I remember a lot of sitting around on blankets, picnics and music. Here’s a few photos of me, the crowds and a music stage.
Me eating raisins: You Can’t Push Me Down (you probably could, I was really little)
My mom looking at the program, me napping (again).
My parents’ friends from Toronto.
Picnicking (my Dad has the white t-shirt on)
This photo is labeled “Harmony 101″ – I’m not sure if that is the name of the group or if it’s some kind of Master Class.
Anyway, Taj Mahal performed that weekend, as a solo act but also as part of some of the interactive music forums that were sprinkled throughout the Mariposa programming. Here is the one photo I could find in our collection – he clearly was super-popular (people are standing up!) so it was hard for my parents to get a good photo shot.
The curfew for Mariposa on the Islands was 8:30 pm and the venue needed to be cleared out by then. Everyone would troop to the ferries, crowd on and go back to the mainland – the Toronto city center isn’t far from the Islands. The last evening – Sunday June 26th – Taj Mahal performed on a couple of stages, including as part of the last performance of the event: Making Music Together along with several other artists including Ken Bloom, Penny Lang, John Arpin, Bill Usher and Gilles Losier. I’m pretty sure at some point during the concert it started to rain. Hard. Torrential downpour. I don’t know where they came from but someone had massive clear tarps for people to hold over their heads, under which about 10-12 people could walk. I found myself walking under a tarp (not holding it of course, I was like two feet tall!) next to Taj Mahal through puddles and mud. We boarded the ferry and I remember standing next to him, dripping wet, during the ride back to the mainland. I have no idea what we talked about but I do know that he was genial – laughing and looking down at tiny me.
I’ve only seen Taj Mahal perform one other time, in either ‘91 or ‘92. During college I occasionally volunteered at the Barrymore Theater in Madison, WI so I could see free concerts (some friend hooked me up with that sweet deal). I think at that show my job was to check people’s wristbands or hand stamps for re-entry at the door, causing me to miss a large portion of his performance but I did get to see a few songs, standing by the door at the back of the venue.
BARBARA LYNN You’ll Lose A Good Thing. Rare 1962 UK 7" vinyl single with four-prong centre on the collectable Sue label, a great deep Soul nugget, includes Lonely Heartache, Sue Company die-cut sleeve. The vinyl has light scuffs leaving it VG- a nice copy.
Whenever life has presented challenges, I’ve always turned to music to help me get over. Invariably, a album or song presented itself as the soundtrack to whatever problems needed solving. From Sinatra and Billie Holiday to Twisted Sister and Manowar, music always served reliably where humanity could not.
You don’t need religion to have faith, it is universal. So Is the music of Mavis Staples. It’s the message. This album uplifts, the songs shine light on those universally positive thoughts and sentiments we all need to hear. Have a little faith.
SUNNYLAND SLIM Slim’s Got His Thing Goin’ On. 1969 UK 11-track stereo LP on the blue Liberty label, front laminated pinched spine picture sleeve. The sleeve shows just a little light shelfwear, mainly to the unlaminated back, and the vinyl isnear ‘as new’ – a lovely copy.
JOHN MAYALL Blues From Laurel Canyon. Rare second issue 1968 UK red Decca unboxed logo label 12-track MONO vinyl LP, the first album from Mayall post-Bluesbreakers break-up featuring the talents of a young Mick Taylor and the legendary Peter Green. The front-laminated gatefold picture sleeve shows some light edgewear and a couple of areas of laminate creasing and lift along the spine, while the vinyl has some light spindle wear and surface scuffs, but none of the marks can be felt. An excellent example.