Archive for the Long John BALDRY Category

Long John BALDRY – It Ain't Easy 1971

Posted in BLUES, Long John BALDRY on December 4, 2010 by whoisthemonk

Long John BALDRY – It Ain’t Easy 1971
1992 Issue. LECD 9.01235

Blues

In order to fully appreciate Long John Baldry’s 1971 album, It Ain’t Easy, it helps to know a little about the events leading up to its release. At the dawn of the 1970s, the British blues pioneer was sitting on the sidelines of rock, pondering his imminent plunge to the bottom after two wild rides to the top in the UK. His career had begun in the late ’50s and early ’60s, when the 6’ 7”, white, gay Englishman had become the unlikely father of the British blues, helping to promulgate the African-American art form in the London clubs with Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies’ Blues Incorporated, and later discovering Rod Stewart, whom Baldry featured in his band the Hoochie Coochie Men. Next came England’s “first supergroup,” the legendary, if ephemeral, Steampacket, starring Baldry and Stewart with Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll. Additionally, Baldry directly inspired Mick Taylor, Keith Richards, and Brian Jones to form the Rolling Stones and even demonstrated to a young Eric Clapton that white English boys could in fact play the blues.
Then came a bittersweet misstep; he transformed himself into an Engelbert Humperdinck-styled balladeer and went, literally, to Top of the Pops in 1967 with a sappy hit called “Let the Heartaches Begin.” While it probably netted him a few pounds, he all but stained his blues legacy in Britain forever, becoming the darling of housewives and schoolgirls, an audience he secretly had little time for. In the meantime, John Mayall, Clapton, and others stole his blues mantle out from under him. After the demise of his band, Bluesology—which launched the career of Reggie Dwight, the future Elton John—Baldry’s career soon dissipated into in a boozy haze of artistic and commercial recession.
By 1971, a despondent Baldry sat in his Muswell Hill, London flat, feeding his pet goat and finding himself suddenly in the rearview of history at the precise moment when his protégés, Rod Stewart and Elton John, were catapulting to rock stardom in the US.
To save himself, Baldry signed with Faces manager, Billy Gaff, who urged him to get back into the blues-based rock business, with not a moment to waste. Gaff enlisted Baldry’s two star protégés, Stewart and John, to pay back their mentor by producing what would become his American debut.
It Ain’t Easy features balls-up bluesy rave-ups with electric guitars screeching, back beats thwacking, and gospel-tinged female vocalists surrounding your charismatic host, Long John Baldry—a charming English sophisticate who sang like a man with a throat full of Mississippi gravel.
Stewart and John each produced one side of It Ain’t Easy in separate studios and on opposing schedules. This gave the album, in its side-segregated vinyl form, a slightly schizophrenic feel. The Rod Stewart side is more in keeping with his Every Picture Tells a Story album, while the Elton John side works with the piano-fied sonic palette he had employed on his own Tumbleweed Connection.
The first thing you hear, however, is the barrelhouse boogie of pianist Ian Armitt, vamping behind Baldry’s autobiographical spoken word soliloquy, “Conditional Discharge”, in which Baldry recounted his late ’50s arrest for busking in London’s Wardour Street. He then slams seamlessly into the album’s rocking manifesto, “Don’t Try to Lay No Boogie Woogie on the King of Rock & Roll.” It’s one of the great one-two punches in the history of recorded rock, and FM and underground radio frequently played the two as one long song.
The album benefits from great songs, such as Elton John’s “Rock Me When He’s Gone”, the Faces’ “Flying”, and Randy Newman’s “Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield”, while throughout these recordings his raspy baritone seems to celebrate his return to his rock and blues roots. Thus, he seems genuinely thrilled to dig into Willie Dixon’s “I’m Ready”, and his incendiary duet with Maggie Bell on the Leadbelly classic “Black Girl” brims with authenticity.
Released by Warner Brothers in 1971, It Ain’t Easy could not have come out at a better time. For while it may have been harder to convince UK audiences that Baldry had come down from lounge heaven, the untainted American rock audience saw it as a kind of debut. Baldry at last had a chance to tour in the land that had so inspired him in the first place. In fact, It Ain’t Easy was so well-received in America that, in 1972, Warner Brothers brought the whole team back for a follow-up, Everything Stops for Tea, which features cover art by guitarist Ronnie Wood.
Baldry’s career plot after that was not, in fact, easy. And, while over the next few decades he would comeback and then go away again, It Ain’t Easy remains a classic album, and a great example of career reinvention and temporary redemption.
**
It Ain’t Easy features a British blues/rock lineup befitting the man behind the Long John Baldry moniker. This album returns Baldry to a decidedly edgier and hipper audience, with a literal cast of all-stars on some of the more adventurous material he had covered to date. This is no doubt due, at least in part, to the involvement of rock superstars Rod Stewart and Elton John. (In fact, John confesses to have taken the last name in his stage moniker from Baldry’s first.) Among their contributions to the project, Stewart and Elton divided the production tasks — each taking a side of the original album. Immediately, Baldry sheds the MOR blue-eyed pop soul image. The backing band on Stewart’s side include fellow Face and future Rolling Stone, Ron Wood, on electric guitar and acoustic guitarist Sam Mitchell, who appeared on many of Stewart’s early-’70s solo albums. His contributions to this side are numerous, including an especially potent solo on Leadbelly’s “Black Girl.” This authentic duet featuring Maggie Bell on co-lead vocals is a definite return to the Mississippi Delta for the song which is also known as the bluegrass standard “In the Pines.” Other highlights from Stewart’s sector include the humorous and self-biographical leadoff track “Conditional Discharge,” which is paired with the full-tilt boogie of “Don’t Try to Lay No Boogie Woogie on the King of Rock & Roll.” Arguably the oddest cover version on this album is also among the best; “Morning Morning” from head Fug Tuli Kupferberg is given new and surprisingly fresh life by Baldry. Highlights from Elton John’s side include Randy Newman’s “Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield,” which would have fit perfectly on John’s Tumbleweed Connection album. Additionally, “Rock Me When He’s Gone” was actually recorded by John, although his version remained unissued until the 1992 odds and sods compilation Rare Masters. ~ Lindsay Planer. AMG.
**
Easy Roger Pope- Drums
Caleb Quaye- Guitar
Maggie Bell- Vocals
Ray Jackson- Mandolin
Sam Mitchell- Guitar (Steel), Guitar
Ian Armitt- Keyboards
Ian Duck- Harmonica, Vocals
Dave Glover- Bass
Elton John- Piano
Rod Stewart- Vocals
Ron Wood- Guitar
Alan Skidmore- Saxophone
Long John Baldry- Vocals
**
01. Introduction: Conditional Discharge   3:15
02. Don’t Try to Lay No Boogie-Woogie on the King of Rock and Roll   3:26
03. Black Girl   2:50
04. It Ain’t Easy   4:52
05. Morning, Morning   2:38
06. I’m Ready   4:15
07. Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield   4:12
08. Mr Rubin   4:00
09. Rock Me When He’s Gone   5:01
10. Flying   6:50
**

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Long John BALDRY – On Stage Tonight Baldry's Out Live 1993

Posted in BLUES, Long John BALDRY on November 20, 2010 by whoisthemonk

Long John BALDRY – On Stage Tonight Baldry’s Out Live 1993

Blues

Long John Baldry was one of the early leaders of the British blues-rock scene. His deep, parched voice was ideally suited for the blues, and his penchant for playing with musicians that would one day find fame in the rock world was surpassed in British blues circles only by John Mayall and Alexis Korner.
Legendary British blues cornerstone Long John Baldry has a long history of leading amazing bands and putting on incredible ‘live’ shows. This is his first ‘live’ release, captured at the Fabrik Club in Hamburg, Germany, and includes a retrospect of his blues influences, his many hits and that amazing voice. There’s a smokin’ live version of Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie On The King Of Rock n’ Roll, and I’d Rather Go Blind featuring Kathi McDonald. Long John Baldry and his band at their best on a hot night.
**
On Stage Tonight – Baldry’s Out! nicely rectifies a 30-year oversight: the gentleman has never previously released a live recording. Captured in Germany, the disc blends the strongest tracks from Baldry’s It Still Ain’t Easy comeback album with … updated past greats. And it just wouldn’t be Baldry (especially live) without the ferocious backing of longtime soulmate Kathi McDonald. While Baldry’s blues can sometimes be a tad too “polite,” On Stage Tonight captures that unique smoky growl in top form.
By Roch Parisien.
**
Like Cliff Richard, Chris Farlowe, Slade, Blur, and eel pie, Long John Baldry is one of those peculiarly British phenomena that doggedly resists American translation. As a historical figure, he has undeniable importance. When he began singing as a teenager in the 1950s, he was one of the first British vocalists to perform folk and blues music. In the early ’60s, he sang in the band of British blues godfather Alexis Korner, Blues Incorporated, which also served as a starting point for future rock stars Mick Jagger, Jack Bruce, and others. As a member of Blues Incorporated, he contributed to the first British blues album, R&B at the Marquee (1962). He then joined the Cyril Davies R&B All Stars, taking over the group (renamed Long John Baldry and His Hoochie Coochie Men) after Davies’ death in early 1964. This band featured Rod Stewart as a second vocalist, and also employed Geoff Bradford (who had been in an embryonic version of the Rolling Stones) on guitar.

In the mid-’60s, he helped form Steampacket, a proto-supergroup that also featured Stewart, Julie Driscoll, and Brian Auger. When Steampacket broke up, he fronted Bluesology, the band that gave keyboardist Reg Dwight — soon to become Elton John — his first prestigious gig. He was a well-liked figure on the London club circuit, and in fact the Beatles took him on as a guest on one of their 1964 British TV specials, at a time when the Fab Four could have been no bigger, and Baldry was virtually unknown.

Ironically, his greatest commercial success came not with blues, but orchestrated pop ballads that echoed Engelbert Humperdinck. The 1967 single “Let the Heartaches Begin” reached number one in Britain, and Baldry had several other small British hits in the late ’60s, the biggest of which was “Mexico” (1968). (None of these made an impression in the U.S.)

The commercial success of his ballads led Baldry to forsake the blues on record for a few years. He returned to blues and rock in 1971 on It Ain’t Easy, for which Rod Stewart and Elton John shared the production duties. The album contained a tiny American chart item, “Don’t Try to Lay No Boogie-Woogie on the King of Rock’n’Roll,” and Stewart and John split the production once again on the 1972 follow-up, Everything Stops for Tea. Baldry never caught on as an international figure, though, and by 1980 had become a Canadian citizen. He continued to record, and did commercial voice-overs as well as the voice of Doctor Robotnik in children’s cartoons. After battling a severe chest infection for several months, Long John Baldry passed away on July 21, 2005, while hospitalized in Vancouver.
By Richie Unterberger. AMG.
**
Not knowing much about Long John Baldry, I took a chance when buying this CD. Here’s my tip: make sure you’ve heard a lot of blues (not just the famous classics) before buying a blues CD. Like so many other Blues favorites Baldry’s best songs seem so much un-like his other tunes. They are up-beat and have great sing-along lyrics. However, most of the other stuff on BALDRY’S OUT is repetitive, somewhat off-key, and not catchy at all. It’s hard to believe since Baldry’s voice is so damn powerful and soul-touching. Maybe that’s because most of the songs on the album do what the blues do: utilize lots of instruments and use up a lot of time trying lots of things with them. And that’s just not what this non-blues fanatic craves. On the up-side Baldry strikes a cord with “It Ain’t Easy,” and “Midnight in New Orleans,” two amazing hits that make great use of lyrics, backround vocals, and, of course, Baldry’s voice. For instance there are the lines- “It Ain’t Easy to go ahead when.. you’re.. going down!!!”, and ” Driving down Highway 61, thinking Brother Johnson you are the one…” Overall, these two songs, along with parts of “Stormy Monday Blues,” and the infamous 9+ minute “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie On The King of Rock And Roll” make this CD worthwile. And you gotta love that voice…even when singing German to the Hamburg audience.
**
Long John Baldry (vocals, 12-string guitar, harmonica);
Papa John King (vocals, guitar);
Butch Coulter (vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica);
John Lee Sanders (vocals, saxophone, keyboards);
Kathi McDonald (vocals);
Eric Webster (piano);
Al Webster (drums).
**
01. Everyday I Have The Blues / Times Are Getting Tougher Than Tough 5:57
02. Shake That Thing 4:10
03. Insane Asylum 5:31
04. I’m Ready 6:51
05. I’d Rather Go Blind 6:20
06. Baldry’s Out 4:14
07. A Thrill’s A Thrill 6:05
08. Backwater Blues 5:52
09. It Ain’t Easy 3:55
10. Stormy Monday Blues 5:43
11. Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie On The King Of Rock And Roll 10:15
12. Midnight In New Orleans 4:42
**

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