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Robert NIGHTHAWK With Various Artists – And This Is Maxwell Street,Live 1964

Posted in BLUES, Robert NIGHTHAWK on December 5, 2010 by whoisthemonk

Robert NIGHTHAWK With Various Artists – And This Is Maxwell Street,Live 1964
2000 Issue.[Box set]

Blues

On Sunday mornings at Chicago’s famous Maxwell Street open-air market, busking bluesmen would battle with hawkers, preachers, and dancers for coveted space. In 1964 filmmaker Mike Shea chronicled this bubbling scene for his landmark documentary And This is Free; in the process, he preserved stunning examples of raw, informal, gritty, undeniably urban blues, the best of which is included on these two revelatory CDs. Amazingly, legendary figures like Robert Nighthawk and Carey Bell were as likely to show up as any number of local gospel singers and blues pickers. Nighthawk’s tenacious saw-toothed guitar work and Bell’s swooping harp are well documented here, as is the work of lesser-known Chicago players like Johnny Young and Big John Wrencher. However, in this setting, the songs of obscure players like Arvella Gray, who performed solo with a Dobro, and the James Brewer gospel singers seem nearly as important. Rooster Blues’s superb package includes incredibly detailed annotation, which does an admirable job in trying to sort out the correct players and songwriters, and crisp remastering–two things that the unauthorized Rounder single-disc issue lacks–plus a bonus third disc featuring young Mike Bloomfield’s interview with Nighthawk. Like field recordings are to country blues, these street recordings are much more than mere music–they are compelling historical documents.
By Marc Greilsamer. AMG.
**
While efforts continue (bluesman Jimmie Lee Robinson has been on a hunger strike) to preserve the remaining portions of the historic Maxwell Street market area, Rooster Blues has released a three disc compilation, And This is Maxwell Street that presents music that was recorded as part of the making of the film, And This is Free. Some of the music from here was issued on Rounder on lp and cd as Robert Nighthawk, Live on Maxwell Street, which has been repackaged and reconfigured with a some previously unissued selections and including tracks attributed to J.B. Lenoir, Carey Bell and Johnny Young, The Rooster Blues has a full two hours of music and includes also selections from Little Arthur (Red Top/Ornithology which is deleted from the latest version of the Rounder); Big John Wrencher; Arvella Gray, Carrie Robinson; and James and Fannie Brewer. Additionally, Mama Talk To Your Daughter, credited to JB Lenoir on the Rounder is credited to Big Mojo Elem here. And there are several Nighthawk performances here that are not on the Rounder including a Dust My Broom that includes Mike Bloomfield on guitar (possibly being Bloomfield’s earliest recordings). The full range of music here is quite powerful and entertaining including such selections as Nighthawk’s updating of Dr. Clayton’s Cheatin’ and Lyin’ Blues, the fervent gospel singing of Carrie Robinson as well as James and Fannie Brewer, street singer Arvella Gray’s vigorous renditions of Corinna, Corinna and John Henry, and one armed harp wizard Big John Wrencher’s Lucille. Several tracks spotlight Carey Bell, with I’m Ready perhaps being his first recorded vocal. Portions of vendors’ sales pitches and street preachers’ sermons are heard here as well. Providing some context to the recording. The Rounder has a portion of Mike Bloomfield’s interview with Robert Nighthawk which is heard in its entirety (nearly 50 minutes) on the third disc of the Rooster Blues. My advance copy of the Rooster Blues lacks the booklet that should be accompanying it so I cannot comment on this aspect of the package, but because of the more complete reissue of this historic material, clearly is preferable, and a contender for vintage reissue of the year.
By R. Weinstock.
**
Even the most casual fans of classic Chicago blues need to own a copy of slide guitarist Robert Nighthawk’s 1964 album “Live On Maxwell Street”.
And those slightly more obsessed will want to check out this wonderful document, the soundtrack, if you will, to Mike Shea’s 1964 documentary “And This Is Free”. It features all of Nighthawk’s recordings, plus another 18 cuts by artists like Johnny Young, Carey Bell and Big John Wrencher, and it is one of the most impressive live blues albums you’ll ever come across.

The well-written and exceptionally thorough 62-page (!) booklet includes information about every recording, artist’s biographies, interviews, pictures, and all available recording information, and the sound is surprisingly clear and full considering the unusual circumstances. You can sometimes hear a car driving by, a street preacher pops up for a few seconds, and the chatter of the crowd is audible in the background.

This two-hour collection is a rare treat indeed. You can just pop the discs in you CD player and turn it up. No need to program anything out…there is barely the slightest dip in quality along the way.
Disc one opens with singer/guitarist Johnny Young’s excellent, gritty rendition of “The Sun Is Shining”, all clattering drums and simple but effective boogie-styled rhythm guitar, and one-armed harpist Big John Wrencher’s tough “Can’t Hold Out Much Longer” is equally wonderful. You can also hear John Wrencher jamming with guitarists Robert Nighthawk and Little Arthur King on his own “Lucille”, and inquiring about the drinking habits of his fellow musicians: Tea or coffee? Apparently Robert Nighthawk was a coffee-man (“coffee” meaning whiskey. “Tea” was wine).

Other highlights include “All I Want For My Breakfast” by Johnny Young, and pretty much everything by Robert Nighthawk, including the menacing “Cheating And Lying Blues”, an up-tempo “Take It Easy, Baby”, and a couple of songs not included on Nighthawk’s “Live On Maxwell Street”. One is a snippet of Robert Nighthawk doing “That’s All Right” (the Jimmy Rogers tune, not the one by Arthur Crudup that Presley recorded); “Honky Tonk” is a swaggering instrumental boogie, and Nighthawk also lays down a thumping “Dust My Broom” which was omitted from previous issues of this material, perhaps because of the flawed mix which allows the repetitive rhythm guitar playing to drown out Nighthawk’s fluid leads. Bit of a shame, that.

Still, that’s about the only letdown on disc one, and it’s a very minor one. And disc two is equally great. A lively performance of J.B. Lenoir’s infectious boogie “Mama Talk To Your Daughter” has previously been credited to its composer, the man with no first name, but nothing indicates that Lenoir was present when this music was recorded, and this repacked and expanded edition of the Maxwell Street tapes credits Robert “Big Mojo” Elam as the singer. He supposedly got his nickname because of his ability to pull off a rousing rendition of Lenoir’s “Mojo Boogie”.
Harpist Carey Bell, who later became a member of the Muddy Waters band (and is still playing), smoulders on the instrumental “Carey’n On”, little-known singer/guitarist Arvella Gray does a thoroughly authentic sounding solo performance of “John Henry”, and the listener is treated to a couple of gospel numbers:
The James Brewer Gospel Group do a wonderful swinging “When The Saints Go Marchin’ In”, and a rendition of “Fly Away” which is made all the more remarkable by a very enthusiastic harmony vocal by one of the male singers! Also, the (unfortunately truncated) “I Shall Overcome” by singer/guitarist Fannie Brewer is just beautiful.

But, again, the main attraction is Robert Nighthawk (or “Night Hawk” as the liner notes call him, and as he probably spelled it himself). Nighthawk’s magnificent 8 1/2 minute medley of his two biggest hits and best-known songs, “Anna Lee” and “Sweet Black Angel”, has been restored…the previously issued version which edited out two minutes of instrumental bridge, and his single-string solo halfway through the supremely tough “The Time Have Come” [sic!] is quite mind-boggling. Nighthawk was as accomplished a lead guitar player as he was a slide slinger, and his single-string picking is pure liquid fire.
The slow grind of “Love You Tonight” is another previously unreleased number by Big John Wrencher, and Robert Nighthawk’s powerful rendition of Big Joe Turner’s “Honey Hush” takes Turner’s bouncy jump blues into new territory.

The dozen songs by Robert Lee “Nighthawk” McCullum do indeed form the centrepiece of this collection, but literally everything is worth a listen. This is one top-notch blues box set…great annotation, great music, nicely packaged. Five stars and no reservations at all.
By  Docendo Discimus.
**
Cd 1

01. Johnny Young – The Sun Is Shining
02. Big John Wrencher – Can’t Hold Out Much Longer
03. Carey Bell – Juke Medley
04. Robert Night Hawk – That’s All Right
05. Little Arthur King – Red TopOrnithology
06. Carey Bell – Maxwell Street Jam
07. Big John Wrencher – Lucille
08. Arvella Gray – Corinna, Corinna
09. Carrie Robinson – Power To Live Right
10. Robert Night Hawk – Cheating and Lying Blues
11. Robert Night Hawk – Honky Tonk
12. Robert Night Hawk – Dust My Broom
13. Robert Night Hawk – Peter Gunn Jam
14. Robert Night Hawk – I Need Love So Bad
15. Johnny Young – All I Want For My Breakfast
16. Robert Night Hawk – Take It Easy, Baby
17. Unknown – Long Gone John
*
Cd 2

01. Big Mojo Elem – Mama, Talk To Your Daughter
02. Carey Bell – I’m Ready
03. Carey Bell – Carey’n On
04. James Brewer gospel group – When The Saints Go Marching In
05. Robert Night Hawk – Back Off Jam
06. Arvella Gray – John Henry
07. Robert Night Hawk – Anna LeeSweet Black Angel
08. Big John Wrencher – Love You Tonight
09. Robert Night Hawk – The Time Have Come
10. Carey Bell – Cruisin’ In A Cadillac
11. Robert Night Hawk – Honey Hush
12. James Brewer gospel group – I’ll Fly Away
13. Fannie Brewer – I Shall Overcome
*
Cd 3 Interview

01. Musical Introduction
02. Reel 2
03. Reel 3
04. Reel 4
05. Reel 5
**

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