Thursday, August 1, 2002
The first song on Popa Chubby''s newest recording, The Good, The Bad and The Chubby, is worth the price of the whole CD. "Somebody Let the Devil Out," written in response to the 9/11 attack, kicks off with traditional Delta blues slide guitar work-good and muddy on acoustic dobro-then picks up drums and soulful harp, gathering momentum like a coming storm. Then Chubby''s vocals kick in, almost rapped rather than sung, and the complex range of horror, anger and confusion that we all felt come pouring out.
In the song, Chubby, a native of the Bronx, tells of trying to comfort his kids: "I said yeah honey they can''t hurt you/ Or me or your mama or your sister too/ And I said a little prayer as I lied... Somebody let the devil out/And it''s going to take a long shoe to kick him back down to hell..."
It''s a song that blends the oldest traditions of blues music with the most modern of themes and sounds and sets the tone for the rest of the album. There''s a simmering anger to the song that carries throughout the 13 original songs on the album, even the love songs, like "I''ll Be There for You," with its jazzy saxophone accompaniment. "Tell me you''ll never love anyone else/I''ll be there for you/And when the police are called for domestic dispute/I''ll put down the gun, I swear I won''t shoot/I''ll be there for you..."
Throughout the album, Chubby''s relentless guitar work and buzz-saw vocals deliver an irresistible power that transcends passing fads in blues music. It''s old-style blues, the kind that was sung by guys who weren''t finished dressing until they tucked a pistol in their belt and a razor in their shoe. And it''s new blues, too, a blend of electric and acoustic, with rhythms and progressions borrowed from rock and rap, and incorporating contemporary themes. All in all, The Good, The Bad and The Chubby adds up to a totally satisfying album.
MAGIC SLIM & THE TEARDROPS/BLIND PIG RECORDS
MagicSlim''s has been described as "the last real Chicago blues band" and this album, produced by Popa Chubby, makes a strong case for the truth of that description. There''s a fat, rich sound to Slim''s propulsive guitar work that accompany his raw, earthy vocals as Slim slashes through the 10 original songs on the album. It''s not that Slim is really charting any new territory with this album, but he delivers the old sounds with such intensity and power that they sound new.
The 65-year-old musician was born in Mississippi, where he learned to play guitar. Honing his craft, he worked in cotton fields during the week and played honky tonks on the weekends, before moving to Chicago and forming his own band when he was about 30. It''s the kind of traditional blues training that that almost ensures a soulful end product, and Blue Magic is the proof.
On the album''s opening track, "I''m a Bluesman," Slim sings, "I got the blues baby, I play ''em from my heart...," and the rest of the album goes on to prove it. From the slightly funky, "Chickenheads" to the soul-hollering "How Many More Years" to the slow-tempo, almost country-style blues, "I Started Loving You Again," Slim gives a lesson in how to make the old sounds come alive.
TheEssential Earth, Wind and Fire
EARTH, WIND AND FIRE
Thefirst post-hippie African American showband to really fuse the theatrics of hard rock, soul voicings, costumes and other arena trappings with great success on both stage and radio, Earth, Wind and Fire were sole owners of the mantle of champs in their era. With Sly burned out, P-Funk unable to completely connect with the "vanilla suburbs" and Tower of Power''s rotating frontman problems keeping them on the bench, EWF was the biggest and best, one of the few mid-70''s acts whose pomp didn''t open them to ridicule and whose dazzle wasn''t a pasted-on, contrived to death afterthought like their only white competitors, KISS.
While their lyrical platitudes and extollations have become somewhat tacky, like neon-astrological signs or shag pile carpeting, the music still pounds ass with a serious precision, beginning with their toughest track ever, "Mighty, Mighty" and going through their biggest hit, "Shining Star" and all of their other radio moments. Counterpointing lead singer Maurice White''s churchiness against the ecstatic falsetto of Phillip Bailey as signature, this is unstoppable rumble, not crippled by excessive jamming or cheesy disco moves and always underpinned by the nimble fingers of one of the greatest bassists ever to strap on a Fender, Verdine White.
Yeah, it falters a little during the Beatles cover (with goofy scat singing and ensemble harmonies that are 100 percent showoff) and neither they nor the Emotions can save "Boogie Wonderland" from being the polyester-suited embarrassment that it''s been for 25 years, but for the most part, this is the great soul/rock/jazz/funk gumbo delivered just slick enough to be world-wide palatable. And it''s still pretty edible way past it''s peak. So dig in.