The History of the Albums – n°280
By 1965, some of the Blues Revival had already taken root, congratulating itself on having accomplished its mission. Yes, a lot of music lovers don't know this because the Blues still sounds like a traditional style that is too old and that doesn't touch many people today, probably because of its complexity, its sometimes dusty quality and its temporal detachment, however I think that we don't realize what we owe to the Blues. Let's start with a few examples with the roots of R&B, Rock n Roll, Pop Rock etc... Let's remember that the British arrived on American soil in 1964 with a solid Blues soul, which will continue until the middle of the 70s. All guitar lovers are not supposed to ignore the importance of the Blues with its multitudes of techniques nowadays basic or electrification which is one of the ingredients of Rock, nor even the ideal songwriter in the construction of emotions in the writing of his songs. In short, Blues is part of almost all music, even if it is a particle of DNA. So let's go back to the main idea of the subject. Young people, researchers and specialists began to bring the heritage of the blues back within everyone's reach at the end of the 50s, in parallel with the stars already present and those who hadn't shone for a very long time. It was the Blues Revival. Except that in the middle of the 60s, when the whole new generation had acquired its bases, what remains of the Blues? The answer is simple, there's still a marvel to be discovered or to be searched for like an archaeologist. Let's now head to Chicago, one of the emblematic places of the Blues, to welcome today the most interesting Blues album of the year 1965: Hoodoo Man Blues by Junior Wells' Chicago Blues Band. Since the beginning of the 60s, only the legends Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf or Jimmy Reed have kept their status among the best Chicago Blues of the time, but nevertheless the year 1965 will reserve some surprises, like a kind of fluctuating harvest, in which Otis Spann, Homesick James, Billy Boy Arnold and of course Junior Wells and Buddy Guy will be the main actors.
Originally from Arkansas and born in 1934, Junior Wells can be considered a Bluesman crossever in the sense that he is neither among the traditional Bluesmen of the roots, nor among those who revolutionized the genre with the electrification, but rather those who initiate the contemporary Blues. It's rare enough to point this out but although he started his career timidly in the early 50's, Junior Wells shone in the 60's as a refreshing artist for the genre at a time when the Blues was going through a kind of trough. In addition to being an excellent singer with a powerful voice, Junior Wells is known as one of the precursors of harp-style, and remains one of the best harmonica players in history. His partner Buddy Guy, with whom he shares the spotlight in Junior Wells' Chicago Blues Band, was born in 1936 in Louisiana. Buddy Guy is an exceptional guitarist, who influenced a great number of legendary guitarists in the world of Rock including Jimmy Hendrix, the Rolling Stones or the 3 guitar heroes of the Yarbirds. Aside from sharing the same city, Chicago, where they eventually moved to, and a love of the blues, which they both began their careers in the early 50's, Wells and Guy are both spiritual children of legend Muddy Waters. Junior Wells had a simpler start to his career, quickly integrated into the Blues circuit and on vinyl from 1953, he joined Muddy Waters' band and enjoyed some esteemed success in the late 50s before being more discreet afterwards. Buddy Guy had more trouble, he was certainly integrated in bands of the Blues circuit, but he had a lot of problems with labels because his style was too spectacular and too misunderstood for the time. Yet Buddy Guy was a very talented avant-gardist who had already anticipated a lot of things. Moreover it is from the success of Hoodoo Man Blues that their respective careers will really start.
Finally the chance finally turned positive for the 2 bluesmen when an absolute fan of Junior Wells, producer Bob Koester of Delmark Records decided to give almost total artistic freedom to record an album. That's when Wells summoned Buddy Guy in whom he saw incredible potential. It's the kind of fairy tale that rarely happens in music history, usually it's the artist who has to convince the label to have the means and as much freedom as possible, but the producer accepts only if he sees a great potential for commercial gain. Here it's quite the opposite, especially since the blues didn't sell much in the mid-60s, after the Blues Revival's resolute period. So first of all I would like to thank Bob Koester for being the artistic example par excellence, because without him we probably wouldn't have this magnificent album and probably no explosion of Wells and Guy's careers in the eyes of a wider public. However the task was not so simple, first of all Buddy Guy who was under contract with Chess managed to get a deal on the condition that he would perform under another name in the credits, and the promotion of the album went rather badly, especially with refusals from the radios. However, the album silenced all the critics when it was released, becoming one of the most emblematic and successful blues references of the 60s. Hoodoo Man Blues is therefore the first album recorded by Junior Wells and Buddy Guy, accompanied by musicians chosen by Wells and backed by a great production team. Recorded over several sessions in September 1965, the objective of the album was clear, to make the best and most striking Chicago Blues without thinking about singles and marketing. The album is therefore composed of 12 tracks, more than half of which are original Wells compositions. Unlike the Blues of the 50/60's or the stereotype that one can make of the genre, the album Hoodoo Man Blues exudes a completely sensational rhythm and soul. The album shows all the power, all the charisma of the duo, articulated on a groovy and poignant blues that sparkles. It's a wave of freshness and modernity that comes to animate our body and mind. Wells's writing and humor demonstrate remarkable spontaneity and formidable efficiency. The alliance between the harp-style fulgurances and Buddy Guy's surgical play shocks like a volcanic reaction, delivering all the necessary intensity. It's a concentrate of pure talent, thanks to Wells' intelligence, who doesn't hesitate to navigate at times in rhythm and blues singing mode, and all the genius of guitarist Buddy Guy, who covers us with technical flashes. To note also the exceptional work of the bassist and unknown Jack Myers. Hoodoo Man Blues has all the ingredients for a successful evening.