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James Cotton Band - Buddah Blues

  by Lisa Torem

published: 15 / 4 / 2018

James Cotton Band - Buddah Blues
Label: Retroworld
Format: CD Box


First-rate reissue of three albums which blues-harp/vocalist/songwriter James Cotton recorded for Buddah Records which features exhilarating live/studio tracks, classics and originals.

Born in Tunica, raised by a “chicken” and “train” playing mother, orphaned at nine, mentored by Sonny Boy Williamson, and refining his chops in Muddy Waters' band, as a partner with Howlin’ Wolf, James Cotton’s bio alone could stir up a congregation, but his devout love of the blues harp, rough-hewn and versatile voice and arranging skills are what makes him stand out as a legend in the American blues pantheon. For Buddah Records, James recorded three albums in the 1970s. Disc One, ‘Live & On the Move’ (1976) begins with James, courting the crowd. “Is everybody feeling alright?” he wails, on the first of seventeen live performances. His audience is up for his antics. They clamour for more. Short but sweet, the instrumental ‘Cotton Boogie’ includes incredible drum fills and interplay between members, not to mention an industrial touch of funk. ‘One More Mile’ features exhilarating tempo shifts. On ‘All Walks of Life,’ Cotton unearths vivid descriptions: “When I lost my mother, that’s the one that broke my heart.” Delightfully, Cotton flirts with the acoustic piano phrases on ‘Born in Missouri’. Slow-moving, the tempo allows Cotton’s vocals to emote and escalate. ‘Flip, Flop and Fly’ (C. Calhoun, Lou Willie Turner) is simply fantastic fun and worth the price of the entire CD! Alongside swaggering call and response, Cotton’s surprisingly high range comes calling on ‘Got My Mojo Working’. On another classic, Jackie Brenston’s ‘Rocket 88,’ the bright, explosive sax illuminates. In contrast, ‘Goodbye My Lady’ has an old-world charm, and is cast in a quasi-Americana manner. ‘I Don’t Know’ comes along at the right time, with its tongue-and-cheek tenor. One of the best here, though, is ‘Caldonia’. Cotton’s comical ingenuity prevails, when he portrays a love struck suitor and then a screeching, disapproving mother. ‘Boogie Thing’ makes one wonder if ZZ Top picked over the flames of this sizzler. The electric guitar is staggering, but there’s plenty of room for a chorus of male voices to embrace the excitement. It’s just too good not to dance to… ‘Good Morning Lil’ School Girl’ features a part in which Cotton lets his harp mirror his line with prowess. ‘Help Me’ is a slow brew that percolates in such a pretty fashion that you’re bound to take another sip. The bass and blues harp frolic like happy honeymooners. Before embarking on ‘Fannie Mae,’ Cotton assures, “Right now, we’re going to stay with the blues,” although this track sounds more like a fusion, with lots of nonstandard textures and rhythms, battling for attention. Yet Cotton’s voice croons effortlessly above the soundscape, a true professional. ‘Hot ‘N’ Cold’ is incredibly catchy. “All we want if a groove something that’s got to make us move,” the chorus bellows, featuring virtuosic Allen Toussaint, helming keyboards, but ‘Teeny Weeny Bit’ returns to pure funk and includes another cantankerous sax solo. ‘Blow Wind Blow’ features, too, bone-chilling interaction. The predictable “cheating” lyrics are dressed up in a three-piece suit. ‘How Long Can a Fool Go Wrong?’ contains one of the best blues harp solos on the record. The closer, ‘Next Time You See Me’ is piano-driven, a welcome change at this juncture. Cotton’s upfront vocals pitted against the swinging keys are pure genius. This is a brilliant send off. Disc 2, ‘High Energy’ (1975) contains versions of songs already mentioned, but the one-off here is ‘Chicken Head,’ which boasts fantastic studio production. Imagine how James Cotton would have sounded, standing in your living room? The performance is that clear and sonorous and the emotion runs deep, as well. Whilst ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Music’ sounds a bit coerced, ‘James’ Theme’ is the real deal; a return to instrumental, hold-no-prisoner’s perfection. Disc 3, ‘100% Cotton’ (1974) features the outstanding instrumental ‘Creeper Creeps Again,’ which clocks in at nearly seven minutes, yet the time floats by. ‘Burner,’ another ambitious instrumental thrills with slick drums and some of Cotton’s most enterprising blues harp performances. ‘Fatuation’ left me wanting more, but the closer ‘Fever’ appealed to all the senses, with Cotton pulling out all the stops as a dynamic vocalist and purveyor of finesse. After recording these fine discs with Buddah, James Cotton engaged in a myriad of other projects. He worked alongside Muddy Waters and Johnny Winters, and also went back in the studio with the likes of Steve Miller, Hubert Sumlin and more. Chicago’s Alligator Records gladly signed the bluesman in 1984, where, thereafter, he recorded several more chestnuts.

Track Listing:-
1 Cotton Boogie
2 One More Mile
3 All Walks of Life
4 Born in Missouri
5 Flip Flop and Fly
6 Mojo
7 Rocket 88
8 Goodbye My Lady
9 I Don't Know
10 Caldonia
11 Boogie Thing
12 Good Morning Little Schoolgirl
13 Oh Baby, You Don't Have to Go
14 Help Me
15 Hot 'N Cold
16 Teeny Weeny Bit
17 Blow Wind Blow
18 How Long Can a Fool Go Wrong
19 Hot 'N Cold
20 Chicken Heads
21 Hard Time Blues
22 I Got a Feelin'
23 Weather Report (The Weather Man Said)
24 Keep Cookin' Mama
25 Fannie Mae
26 Caldonia
27 Rock 'N Roll Music (Ain't Nothing New)
28 James' Theme
29 Boogie Thing
30 One More Mile
31 All Walks of Life
32 Creepers Creeps Again
33 Rocket 88
34 How Long Can a Fool Go Wrong
35 I Don't Know
36 Burner
37 'Fatuation
38 Fever

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