Album of the Day: Turban Renewal – A Tribute to Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs (1994, Norton Records)

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ROCK ‘N’ ROLL FREAKS ALBUM OF THE DAY FOR SUNDAY, JANUARY 3:

VARIOUS ARTISTS, TURBAN RENEWAL: A TRIBUTE TO SAM THE SHAM & THE PHARAOHS (1994, NORTON RECORDS)

Track Listing:

1 –Hasil Adkins Wooly Bully
2 –The Lyres* Ring Dang Doo
3 –The Untamed Youth* Monkey See Monkey Do
4 –The Brood (3) Love Me Like Before
5 –Homer Henderson I Wish It Were Me
6 –The Devil Dogs Don’t Try It
7 –John Felice Lil’ Riding Hood
8 –Jackie And The Cedrics* Pharaoh A Go Go
9 –The Fleshtones Medicine Man
10 –Original Ben Vaughn Combo, The* Grasshopper
11 –The Ranch Hounds* Green’ich Grendel
12 –The Naughty Ones Sweet Talk
13 –Handsome Dick Manitoba Ju Ju Hand
14 –Nine Pound Hammer Oh That’s Good, No That’s Bad
15 –Little Richard Elizondo Combo Juimonos (Let’s Went)
16 –The Hentchmen Like You Used To
17 –The Senders Let’s Talk It Over
18 –The A-Bones (I’m In With) The Out Crowd
19 –Great Gaylord* And The Friggs Deputy Dog
20 –The Swingin’ Neckbreakers Struttin’
21 –Roy Loney And The Young Fresh Fellows* I Couldn’t Spell !!*@!
22 –Teengenerate Sorry ‘Bout That
23 –Los Chiflados Del Ritmo The Hair On My Chinny Chin Chin
24 –Flat Duo Jets The Phantom
25 –The Vacant Lot How Do You Catch A Girl
26 –Rudy “Tutti” Grayzell Y Los A-Bones* Wooly Bully Espanol

AllMusic Review by Don Snowden [3/5]

The flood of artist tribute albums is pretty loathsome — too much piggybacking on someone else’s creative coattails just to get heard — but Turban Renewal shapes us more like it, from the name to a dedication to Mattie and Hattie. Take one obscure but deserving artist, assemble the right bunch of in-with-the-out-crowd suspects cum fans, and let ‘em loose on the songbook. It may have prompted Rhino to get its Pharaohization best-of compilation out on CD a couple of years later — but Turban Renewal shows even more clearly how distinctive Sam the Sham himself really is.

See, he may be eternally linked with ’60s garage punk now, but Sam came out of the rhythm & blues, and even those monolithic riff tunes had a lightness and swing to the rhythm, because the players were coming up with black music (and Tex-Mex R&B, in Sam’s case) as a big part of their listening diet. That light feel is missing in action here — it’s almost all rock thud, bash and crash down below in the rhythm section — and nobody comes close to matching Sam’s vocal charisma or charm, either.

There are plenty of worthy performances here — it’s just that the tracks mostly capture one element of Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs’ essence, and the rest escape them. There are solid efforts in the faithful vein (Homer Henderson, Handsome Dick Manitoba, Untamed Youth, and the ever-reliable Fleshtones, although their take on “Medicine Man” captures the exuberance with more of a ? and the Mysterians feel). Others plug into R&B from a guitar-heavy, neo-New York Dolls angle with varying degrees of success: the Devil Dogs, John Felice, Swingin’ Neckbreakers; Ranch Hounds, with their storming take on “Greenwich Grendel,” and the Naughty Ones’ solid R&B groove with harmonica and sax.

Ben Vaughn’s accordion-driven “Grasshopper” gets the charm, Ray Loney’s “I Couldn’t Spell !!*@!” catches the slyness, and the two power pop outings are surprisingly good (The Brood and the Vacant Lot’s backing harmonies and drum drive on “How Do You Catch a Girl”). Plenty of crash and burns, too, from the merely unmemorable — Chiflados del Ritmo, Flat Duo Jets — to badly misconceived — Great Gaylord’s unfunny “Deputy Dog,” Nine Pound Hammer’s totally wrong Ramones-blast through “Oh, That’s Good,” or Hasil Adkins doing a one-rockabilly-wildman-band thrash on “Wooly Bully”.

Can’t say anything on Turban Renewal really cuts the originals, but it’s stronger overall than it sounds at first listen, and probably gave a lot of these bands a cool cover version for their live sets. Tell you the best thing about it, though — it’ll send you scurrying off to track down that Rhino Sam the Sham compilation. And, damn, that sucker will sure sound good.

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Album of the Day: John Mayall with Eric Clapton, Blues Breakers (1966, Decca)

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ROCK ‘N’ ROLL FREAKS ALBUM OF THE DAY FOR SATURDAY, JANUARY 2:

JOHN MAYALL WITH ERIC CLAPTON, BLUES BREAKERS (1966, DECCA)

Track Listing:

All Your Love 3:38
Hideaway 3:17
Little Girl 2:36
Another Man 1:47
Double Crossing Time 3:04
What’d I Say 4:28
Key To Love 2:08
Parchman Farm 2:22
Have You Heard 5:56
Ramblin’ On My Mind 3:08
Steppin’ Out 2:30
It Ain’t Right 2:45

AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder [5/5]

Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton was Eric Clapton’s first fully realized album as a blues guitarist — more than that, it was a seminal blues album of the 1960s, perhaps the best British blues album ever cut, and the best LP ever recorded by John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Standing midway between Clapton’s stint with the Yardbirds and the formation of Cream, this album featured the new guitar hero on a series of stripped-down blues standards, Mayall pieces, and one Mayall/Clapton composition, all of which had him stretching out in the idiom for the first time in the studio. This album was the culmination of a very successful year of playing with John Mayall, a fully realized blues creation, featuring sounds very close to the group’s stage performances, and with no compromises. Credit has to go to producer Mike Vernon for the purity and simplicity of the record; most British producers of that era wouldn’t have been able to get it recorded this way, much less released. One can hear the very direct influence of Buddy Guy and a handful of other American bluesmen in the playing. And lest anyone forget the rest of the quartet: future pop/rock superstar John McVie and drummer Hughie Flint provide a rock-hard rhythm section, and Mayall’s organ playing, vocalizing, and second guitar are all of a piece with Clapton’s work. His guitar naturally dominates most of this record, and he can also be heard taking his first lead vocal, but McVie and Flint are just as intense and give the tracks an extra level of steel-strung tension and power, none of which have diminished across several decades.

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Album of the Day: Johnny “Guitar” Watson, The Best of the Modern Years (2005, Metro Blue)

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ROCK ‘N’ ROLL FREAKS ALBUM OF THE DAY FOR FRIDAY, JANUARY 1:

JOHNNY “GUITAR” WATSON, THE BEST OF THE MODERN YEARS (2005, METRO BLUE)

Track Listing:

1 Hot Little Mama
2 I Love To Love You
3 Don’t Touch Me
4 Too Tired Johnny
5 Those Lonely, Lonely Nights
6 Someone Cares For Me
7 Oh Baby
8 Give A Little
9 Three Hours Past Midnight
10 Ruben
11 Love Me, Baby
12 She Moves Me
13 Love Bandit (aka Gangster of Love)
14 Lonely Girl
15 Ain’t Gonna Hush
16 Hot Little Mama No. 2 – (Take 1, take 1)
17 I Love to Love You – (Take 1, take 1)
18 Three Hours Past Midnight – (take, take 2)

AllMusic Review by Sean Westergaard [4.5]

Although Johnny “Guitar” Watson had already recorded some sides for Federal (including the astonishing instrumental “Space Guitar”), the majority of those tunes featured the piano-playing Young John Watson. It was when he began recording for the Bihari Brothers’ RPM subsidiary of Modern Records that he “became” Johnny “Guitar” Watson and his amazing legacy really began. The songs are solid West Coast blues, but they’re brought to the next level by Watson’s impassioned vocals and his incredible biting, staccato guitar solos. Watson’s tenure at RPM was short-lived (as were most of his label relationships) and all these tracks were recorded in 1955, but they were wildly influential on a number of great guitarists and still hold their power 50 years down the road. This material has been released umpteen times over the years, but the remastering of this compilation has more clarity and warmth than the others. Johnny “Guitar” Watson recorded some great material for a variety of labels, but the real meat of his blues legacy is on these RPM sides. Fans of tough ’50s blues and great blues guitar owe it to themselves to check this stuff out. Recommended.

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