Continuing Bear Family Records‘ long-running Rocks series, the Germany-based label have compiled an album of recordings by Rock and Roll and Blues artist Jimmy Reed. Like other entries in the series, the album focuses on his up-tempo material over 25 tracks; The remaining 4 are by guitarist and singer Eddie Taylor. Is this worth picking up?
I can admit that while Reed’s name was familiar to me, his recorded material wasn’t. Sure, I’d heard umpteen versions of Baby, What You Want Me To Do, Shame Shame Shame, Ain’t That Loving You Baby and Big Boss Man, but to hear his stamp on them was a beautiful discovery. As a lover of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Boogie Rock and Shuffle based music, there was plenty to admire about Reed’s style. As he made his way through familiar twelve-bar variations, I couldn’t help but move. Those guitar licks, “borrowed” by many a guitarist afterwards, are played and reproduced in such a gutsy way. The studio, including an echo chamber, was used to maximum effect. These are tight grooves filled with such a feeling that I couldn’t wait to restart the album.
- I’m Going Upside Your Head – The guitar rhythm has been used on countless records, but this sounds fresh. Reed’s vocals overloaded in the mix, but it sounded pumping on my stereo.
- I Don’t Go For That – The beat is infectious, and the licks inbetween the verses add nice variation that drive nicely into that consistent rhythm.
- I’m-A-Love You – A nicely laid back vocal with a strong Rhythm and Bluesy vibe and memorable backing vocals
- The Sun is Shining – a mid-tempo groovy plod that shuffles along nicely.
- She Don’t Want Me No More – a familiar sounding rolling Blues number with a neat vocal and blistering harmonica solo played over a tight guitar groove.
- My Bitter Seed – Another memorable Blues number, showcasing the kind of rhythm guitar that takes a strong and competent right hand. Those muted notes give it a laid back vibe, with a big snare cracking through the mix. All layered with soulful vocals.
- You’re Something Else – Features a repetitive bassline that is the basis of so many compositions recorded since. The slightly lower quality recording doesn’t deter from that addictive groove.
- High and Lonesome – A souped up Blues that owes a lot to the people who came before Reed.
- I Ain’t Got You – A real hybrid of styles that throws in everything, yet still sounds toned down.
- I Found My Baby – The call and response between Reed’s vocals and harmonica is pleasant. The rough nature of this recording gives it a raw edge.
The last four tracks are recordings made by singer and guitarist Eddie Taylor, a close associate of Reed. Reed learnt much from Taylor, and it shows in these featured recordings. According to the discography, much of this material was made on the same day as Reed laid down tracks, so both occasionally play on each other’s recordings.
- Bad Boy – A murkier guitar sound – so clear and vibrant yet dirty. Taylor’s vocals filled with emotion.
- E.T. Blues – A frantic instrumental that sounds more like an impromptu jam.
- Big Town Playboy – Similar to Bad Boy. That deep bass doing it’s thing, accompanied by rocking instrumentation and a superb lead vocal
- Train Fare – A fast Blues number that reminds me of later Chuck Berry recordings. This is pure joy in one track, filled to the brim with piano, rhythmic guitar and driving harmonica.
At first, I was sceptical about the inclusion of Taylor’s recordings on this compilation. Once I was aware of their connection to Mississippi and the context and relationship between these two musicians, it became clear it was the correct decision. Recorded around the same time, they slot in nicely at the end as a bonus.
From research, previous releases of his music have lacked a little care; Often attributed to low-quality audio sources, made worse by the less than ideal recording situations in its original application. Bear Family has sourced each recording from their masters, ensuring the highest possible sound. There are occasional lapses in sound, but these are very few.
A Little Something Extra…
A nicely printed digipak houses the CD. Each photograph is printed crisply, with very few artefacts. Inside is a 34-page booklet filled with information. Texas Blues guitarist Jimmy Vaughan wrote the foreword. There is an extensive biography on both Reed and Taylor. Followed by an analysis of their trademark sound, there is also an emphasis on their musical impact. The essay was written by Reed fan Roland Heinrich Rumtreiber. Also included are a nicely presented discography and rare photographs and illustrations.
Bear Family Records has compiled an album that celebrates the more up-tempo material of Jimmy Reed. His energy and charisma etched into these old recordings are, to use Reed’s phrase, something else! The fact that most of these songs were written by Reed, is remarkable. It is an incredible body of work that continues to be sought out for inspiration.
Something that really struck me, was just how influential Reed and Taylor have been to the world of popular music. As a Status Quo fan of 25 years, the three (sometimes more) chord grooves served up here were right up my street. It is also clear The Rolling Stones were heavily inspired. When I’m looking for a piece of Bluesy Rock ‘n’ Roll that flows nicely from track to track, I shall seek this album out.
For those interested in the history and roots of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Blues, this album is for you. If you’re looking for a more exhaustive and varied collection of Reed’s recordings, other albums are available from Bear Family Records.
- I’m Going Upside Your Head
- I Don’t Go For THat
- Baby, What You Want Me To Do
- Baby, What’s Wrong
- I’m Gonna Ruin You
- I’m A Love You
- Shoot My Baby
- Bright Lights Big City
- Take It Slow
- Ain’t That Loving You Baby
- High And Lonesome
- Big Boss Man
- Come Love
- You’re Something Else
- I Ain’t Got You
- The Sun Is Shining
- Let’s Get Together
- Good Lover
- She Don’t Want Me No More
- When Girls Do It
- I Found My Baby
- Pretty Thing
- I’m The Man Down There
- My Bitter Seed
- Shame Shame Shame
- Eddie Taylor – Bad Boy
- Eddie Taylor – E.T. Blues
- Eddie Taylor – Big Town Playboy
- Eddie Taylor – Train Fare