The Lesser Known Albums From Musicians You Love
Written By Patrick Ortiz
We love the blues; the old, the new, and everything in between! There is always great blues music to hear, and as always, I encourage you to check out the up and coming sensations who are making a splash on the scene and brining fresh jams to your ear holes. You can start here if you like https://jbonamassa.com/blues-musicians-to-watch-in-2018-2/
For music lovers, the internet and various streaming services have become an extreme blessing, but also a haunting curse. In a matter of 30 seconds or less, you can stumble on five different artists that span multiple genres and that will lead you to spending hours glued to your computer; and before you know it, after starting with jazz music, your constant searching and clicking has opened the door to new-age metal polka music. Ok, so that was an over exaggeration, but you get my point. There is a lot of music out there to be discovered.
As a result, with so many amazing musicians out there, we often limit ourselves to either one or two of the artist’s albums, or even just a handful of songs. We have heard “The Thrill Is Gone,” “Layla,” “Pride and Joy,” and a bunch of other blues classic hundreds of times. But what about the lesser known hidden gems within the musician’s catalog. Unfortunately, a lot of great music gets lost which is something we really have to try and remedy. So, let’s do that now!
Today I would like to take us out of our musical comfort zone and explore other noteworthy albums by some of our favorite blues musicians. All of these selections are not necessarily unknown but are the ones that may be overlooked and underappreciated.
Let’s get started!
Blues is King – B.B. King
B.B. King was one of the greatest bluesmen to ever pick up a guitar. His simplistic, single-note solos and his signature vibrato, coupled with his silky-smooth voice, are synonymous with the blues and are still replicated to this day. He is the major source of inspiration for many modern blues artists, especially our very own, Joe Bonamassa. King has an abundance of notable tracks like “Everyday I Have the Blues,” “The Thrill is Gone,” and many more. However, his live-concert albums are undeniably powerful and truly show the majesty of his playing.
The go to B.B. King album is the quintessential blues album, Live at the Regal. The concert was recorded at the Regal Theater in Chicago and released in 1965. The reaction to this album was staggering and it is still highly regarded today; with good reason, because this is really a stellar collection of music.
However, an album that was recorded just two years, Blues is King often gets overshadowed by its predecessor. This album showcases a musician who is fully confident in his abilities and who has grown in musically maturity. He tends to rely a little less on his big band on his album and allows his powerful voice to take over the International Club in Chicago. Of course, his solos are always a masterclass of proper blues guitar techniques, but in my opinion, B.B. King is more deliberate with his offerings on Blues is King. His phrasing is top-notch, and every note is spot on and intentional.
Unfortunately, because of the glowing popularity of Live at Regal, Blues is King did not receive the attention it deserves. Also, it is one of Joe Bonamassa’s favorite blues albums, so don’t just take my word for it.
Standout Track: “Gambler’s Blues”
In Session – Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan
Well, it doesn’t get much better in the blues world than these two brilliant guitarists; put them together and you have one of the most burning blues guitar albums you will ever listen to. In Session is a live recording that took place in 1983 at a small TV studio in Canada.
The mouth-watering set consists mostly of Albert King’s tunes with the popular “Pride and Joy” added in for good measure. The collaboration was set as one of two sessions for live television. Funny enough, King was reluctant to agree to the performance because he didn’t really know who Stevie was. Once he realized “Vaughan was the ‘skinny kid’ that he let sit in when he played in Texas” King was more than happy to jam. A lot of heavy blues fans are familiar with this album, but it is overall underappreciated for what it is: a showcase of two of the most legendary blues guitarists in history.
Standout Track: “Overall Junction”
There’s One in Every Crowd – Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton has been a member of some of the greatest bands in history, is the only three-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has 18 Grammy Awards, and too many other accolades to type. He is one of the most formidable bluesmen to come out of Britain, solidifying the impact of the British Blues movement on the US.
Eric Clapton has been featured on so many notable albums that it is easy to let a great one slip between your fingers. In 1974, after a three-year hiatus to recover from a heroin addiction, Clapton returned to music in glowing fashion and with a fresh perspective on life. With his second solo studio album 461 Ocean Blvd., Clapton shifted gears from fiery blues-rock solos to more relaxed and laid-back vibes.
Due to the album’s success, Clapton decided to continue with his love for the “Tulsa Sound” which is essentially adding a mix of rockabilly, and country into his blues pot. However, although this album was released just one year later, the reception was surprisingly low. The album as a whole may not be as powerful as 461 Ocean Blvd. but the additions of acoustic and reggae music is a welcoming difference to his more blues-rock approach. If you love his other similar records, don’t skip this one!
Standout Track: “Little Rachel”
Performing This Week… Live at Ronnie Scott’s – Jeff Beck
I am probably gonna get the most flack for this one. Jeff Beck, our favorite outlandish blues-rocker, has many standout records, both live and in the studio that demand recognition, and many of them have. Beck fans are the real deal and eat up every morsel of music he dishes out.
However, one of my favorite Beck albums that I have listened to way too many times is Live At Ronnie Scott’s. Ronnie Scott’s is one of the best Jazz clubs and a go to gig location in London. This album showcases some of the best and most popular tunes Beck had been playing for years and featured one his greatest band lineups, including the all-powerful Vinnie Colaiuta on drums and the small but fierce Tal Wilkenfeld on bass. It is an all out Beck-tastic jam and one that should be in your collection!
Standout Track: All of them, but “You Never Know” is a cool place to start
Takin My Time – Charlie Musselwhite
Charlie Musselwhite is one of the leading pioneers of the blues harmonica and has been around through the best moments of music. He has played with everyone from Canned Heat to Paul Butterfield and Mike Blooomfield and has even won a Grammy for his duo with the great Ben Harper. With his name on well over 60 albums, Takin My Time is a powerhouse, harp centered blues album that features Musselwhite playing his ass off at the highest caliber! Also, Robben Ford is shredding the guitar!
Standout Track: “Finger Lickin’ Good”
White Trash – Edgar Winter
Known for his catchy riff song “Frankenstein” and for being an albino musician, Edgar Winter was a popular blues musician mainly in the 70’s. Together with his insanely talented brother Johnny Winter on guitar, Edgar had many successful bands and albums throughout his career. One that stands out is the 1971 album White Trash featuring a new-found band he called Edgar Winter and the White Trash.
This album is a great blend of blues-eyed soul singing, blues, and horn-driven rock and roll!
Standout Track: “Keep Playing That Rock and Roll”
Ice Pickin’ – Albert Collins
Albert Collins, also known as the Ice man and the “Master of the Telecaster” was a Texas blues forerunner known for unusual tunings, using a capo, and of course for using a Tele. In general, Collins should be recognized more for his contributions to the genre. His 1978 album is a great place to start, with all of the signature Albert Collins twangy licks you could ask for.
Standout Track: “Ice Pick”
Blues By Green – Peter Green
Peter Green is a vastly underrated guitar player. He is extremely versatile, melodic, and a creative songwriter. He was one of many notable players to play with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers which helped to jumpstart his solo career as well as his stint with Fleetwood Mac.
A cool album that goes unnoticed is Blues By Green where Peter pays homage to his blues heroes with a collection of great hits.
Standout Track: “Born Under a Bad Sign”