Junior WELLS – Calling All Blues (1957-1963) 2000
Following his recorded debut as a leader for States Records, Junior Wells signed with Mel London, producing a number of sides for the producer’s Chief and Profile imprints. Perhaps best-known for his spectacular harmonica playing, this period, documented on Calling All Blues, saw Wells emerging as an outstanding vocalist as well. A consummate performer with a firm grasp of the range of emotions the music can produce, Wells wrings every drop of feeling out of the lyrics. The singer growls, shouts, howls, moans across these 24 tracks including two versions of his great “I Could Cry” and other classics like “Little By Little,” “Cha-Cha-Cha in Blue,” and “Lovey Dovey Lovey One.” While it has a great deal of overlap with the collections from Paula Records, Calling All Blues remains a fine introduction with no glaring omissions. The bulk of the compositions come from three sources: his employer, London; the “poet of the blues,” Willie Dixon; and Wells himself. While the recording quality may be shaky at times, it’s to be expected and in fact only adds to the feeling of authenticity emanating from the music. It’s like stepping inside a hot, sweaty room for a forbidden peek at a late-night jam session. Wells and company imbue the material with such intensity, it can almost be overwhelming at times. For the most part, the singer leaves his harp alone, but the handful of harmonica moments are memorable. On the instrumental title track, he lays into his instrument, battling for space amongst piercing guitar and piano leads. Only when the music is tempered by the more popular forms of rock & roll and R&B on songs like “I’ll Get You Too,” “One Day (Every Goodbye Ain’t Gone),” and “I Need a Car” does it begin to lose its potency. Leading up to the sessions that produced Wells’ classic 1966 album Hoodoo Man Blues, this is electric blues at its fiery best.
By Nathan Bush, All Music Guide.
These late-50s and early-60s recordings for Mel London’s Chief, Profile, and USA labels are available in a number of different guises. The Paula label has one, P-Vine has one, and Fuel Records released this rather handsomely pacakaged and nicely annotated collection back in 2000.
There is no major difference between any of them, though. The P-Vine disc (titled “Messin’ With The Kid”) has a couple more tracks, alternate takes to the masters, but it’s basically all the same stuff.
Producer Mel London provides some of the songs himself; the rest is mostly Wells’ own originals, with a few covers of songs by Willie Dixon and Tampa Red added to the mix. And there’s some juicy prime rib here, or prime Junior as it is. The sizzling 1961 single “Messin’ With The Kid” is one of Wells’ very best and most intense vocals performances, and the title track is a smouldering instrumental featuring slide guitarist Earl Hooker (and it’s one of the few to really feature Wells’ harp as well). And we get a terrific, gritty cover of “It Hurts Me Too”, too, and a powerful slow blues, “I’m A Stranger”.
It’s a shame that London decided to downplay Junior Wells’ harmonica, though, especially when he does it in favour of a hideous-sounding organ. Wells was a terrific, powerful singer, and this set presents Junior Wells the singer rather than Junior Wells the harpist, which is certainly good enough. But we could have had both his singing and his harmonica playing, which would have been better!
Songs like “You Don’t Care”, “I’ll Get You Too,” the too-sweet “One Day”, and the inane “I Need a Car” are too much pop and mainstream rock n’ roll for me, and probably for most other blues fans as well, which means that this set doesn’t match Wells’ earliest and much tougher recordings, the phenomenal early- and mid-50s sides gathered on “Blues Hit Big Town”.
By Docendo Discimus.
“Calling All Blues” is, first of all, a veritable savior (it has been awhile since anything I hadn’t heard before came out by Wells). This disc offers a look at Wells prior to the release of his incredible “Hoodoo Man Blues.” There is a lot of great material here, including several originals of songs which would become staples in Wells’ performances. The bands backing Junior are very good. If there’s one area I fault this album (besides the fact that it’s not “Hoodoo Man.” But what other album is?) it’s the lack of harp playing. Wells had one of the finest tones ever achieved on the instrument, and there is precious little of his phenomenal vibratos on this disc. That complaint aside, this is definitely Junior Wells and he is definitely in good form as far as the quality of music goes. I recommend it, but know that this is not Junior Wells the harmonica player. This is Junior Wells the singer.
By Alex Harpskier.
01. Two Headed Woman 2:41
02. Lovey Dovey Lovey One 2:12
03. I Could Cry 1957 Version 3:10
04. Cha Cha Cha in Blues 2:22
05. Little by Little 2:33
06. Come On In This House 2:22
07. You Don’t Care 2:20
08. Prison Bars All Around Me 2:28
09. Calling All Blues 2:34
10. Galloping Horses A Lazy Mule 2:34
11. Messin’ With The Kid 2:15
12. You Sure Look Good To Me 2:25
13. So Tired 2:13
14. Universal Rock 2:31
15. I Could Cry 1961 Version 2:53
16. I’m A Stranger 2:41
17. The Things I Do For You 2:19
18. Love Me 2:08
19. It Hurts Me Too (When Things Go Wrong) 2:40
20. I Need Me A Car 2:21
21. I’ll Get You Too 3:04
22. One Day (Every Goodbye Ain’t Gone) 2:51
23. She’s A Sweet One 3:01
24. When The Cat’s Gone The Mice Play 2:20