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By Times staff

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 28, 2000


MUDDY WATERS, ROLLIN' STONE: THE GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION (MCA) -- McKinley Morganfield so loved the music of his local Mississippi blues heroes Robert Johnson and Son House it inspired him to pick up a guitar, rechristen himself Muddy Waters and make some noise of his own.

Thick slide guitar playing and a voice so gritty and powerful it raised the hairs on your neck punctuated Waters' urgent music.

After moving to Chicago in the late 1940s, Waters defined the Windy City's legendary blues scene, unleashing his slippery Delta-roots sound on primal numbers such as Gypsy Woman and I Can't Be Satisfied

Fifty years ago this summer Chess Records released Rollin' Stone, a landmark recording that inspired one of rock 'n' roll's greatest bands, a magazine and a Bob Dylan hit. Rollin' Stone: The Golden Anniversary Collection, a two-CD set of Waters' recordings from 1947 to 1952, celebrates that song and 49 others, including two rare outtake recordings. The collection features the blues giant with minimal accompaniment on early tunes -- just his voice and guitar and piano -- and later with a full band.

Reknowned blues harp master Little Walter and guitar maestro Jimmy Rogers are featured on several tracks. It's a treat to hear Waters' first recorded versions of signature tunes I Can't Be Satisfied and I Feel Like Going Home. Grade: A

- GINA VIVINETTO, Times pop music critic

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T-BONE WALKER, BLUES MASTERS: THE VERY BEST OF T-BONE WALKER (RHINO) -- Texas-born troubadour Aaron "T-Bone" Walker spent his youth walking Blind Lemon Jefferson from bar to bar in Dallas so the elder guitarist could play for tips. Walker eventually split for Los Angeles in the 1930s to work as a dancer for saxophonist Big Jim Wynn's band. But soon Walker got the itch to play and invented modern electric blues when he plugged his guitar into an amplifier way back in 1940. He dazzled club goers with a wild stage show involving acrobatic splits and behind-the-back guitar playing.

The Very Best of T-Bone Walker offers up the very riffs that later would be ripped off -- lovingly -- by B.B. King, Chuck Berry and Eric Clapton. It contains the best of Walker's recordings from 1945 to 1957, such as Bobby Sox Blues, Call It Stormy Monday and, of course, T Bone Shuffle. I'm a sucker for the smooth and sublime I'm Still In Love With You, with its bleating horns and Walker's ripe solo. Also, two thumbs up to the rollicking piano and bass raver Hypin' Woman Blues with its pristine riffage. Delicious. Grade: A

- G.V.

* * *

DAVID MURRAY OCTET, OCTET PLAYS TRANE (JUSTIN TIME) -- Saxophonist David Murray may be the hardest-working man in the jazz business, based on the sheer bulk of his recorded output. Variously leading quartets, big bands and other ensembles, he released about 35 discs as a leader during the '90s, paying tribute to the likes of the Grateful Dead and Don Pullen, and venturing beyond jazz to explore African and Caribbean styles.

Murray's octet, last heard on 1996's Dark Star, tromps around on truly sacred ground this time, applying his brawny, rangy tenor attack and highly individualistic arrangements to John Coltrane's music. It's a match, if not quite made in heaven, that's uniformly intriguing. He eases us into the concept by beginning with a version of the familiar Giant Steps with two saxophonists, a trumpeter and noted trombonist Craig Harris playing an orchestration of Coltrane's original improvisation. Then it's time for Murray and Harris to rampage. And they do, with solos hinting at the musicians' avant-jazz leanings.

Murray skates hard across the changes of Naima, a beloved Coltrane ballad abetted by shimmering flute-topped backgrounds. The rambling, moody India, with Murray on bass clarinet, Ravi Best on muted trumpet and steadily rolling tabla drums, sounds like an acoustic version of Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis. Lazy Bird swings hard.

And Murray turns a 15-minute version of A Love Supreme: Part 1 Acknowledgment into a personalized showcase for his own heady approach. Now that's an achievement worthy of the song's composer. Grade: B

- PHILIP BOOTH, Times correspondent

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RYDE OR DIE VOL II: RUFF RYDERS COMPILATION (UNI/INTERSCOPE) -- Ryde or Die Vol. II, like its predecessor, rounds up an impressive stable of talent and lays it down over the not-inconsiderable production skills of Swizz Beatz.

But unlike Vol. I, it's nothing new.

DMX again has brought together MCs from throughout the 50 states, including Snoop Dogg, Scarface, Redman, Busta Rhymes and Trick Daddy. The album also rolls out Yung Wun from Atlanta. But despite the diverse crowd, the album never really rises to the heights it should.

The first track, WWIII, is tight and grooving. As is typical of DMX, the song has about as much to say as a Juicy Fruit wrapper. But the principal MCs on the track are Snoop Dogg and Scarface, and that goes a long way. Swizz Beatz makes it hip-hoppable, and Snoop and Face drive the rhymes home with their distinct styles.

And that sums up the album. Some nice-sounding tracks, but nothing to blow a speaker over. And definitely nothing to think too hard about. The only track with any substance is Holiday, a laid-back, melancholy rhyme about life as a dealer. "You can nod your head to this like it's only a rap," Styles intones, but it's more serious than that. At least, he makes it seem that way.

DMX's production makes him seem more talented than he actually is. On this album, the talent is there -- DMX only shows up on one track, The Great, which, of course, is about how great he is and isn't that great. But the album as a whole has the opposite problem. There's plenty of talent but nothing to say. That makes Vol. II little more than a smooth ryde to nowhere. Grade: C

- GERRY DOYLE, Times staff writer

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