Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chris Barber: "Memories Of My Trip" (2011/2012) CD Review

The new Chris Barber two-disc retrospective, Memories Of My Trip, is one of the best anthologies I've ever heard.  The music here is all phenomenal, and a lot of it is stuff you may not have heard, for some of these tracks were previously unreleased.  But certainly you know the players - Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Mark Knopfler.  And you know a lot of the tunes (there is a ten-minute rendition of "Georgia On My Mind" that is wonderful).  It's two and a half hours of music - blues, jazz, and a bit of gospel.  Chris Barber, for those who aren't familiar with him, plays trombone and bass, and also does some of the vocals.  He has been around for a long time (he turned eighty-two just a week ago), and these recordings span many decades.

Another reason to own this collection is its extensive liner notes, with remembrances by Chris Barber himself regarding these tracks.  Very cool.

"Memories Of My Trip"

Memories Of My Trip begins with its title track, a great acoustic blues tune that features Brownie McGhee on vocals and guitar. Recorded in 1959, this song mentions Chris Barber's band members ("And they had a singer called Ottilie Patterson/Dick, Graham and Eddie, Monty, Pat and Chris/How can I forget memories of my trip"), and was Brownie's way of thanking them for the good times.

"When Things Go Wrong"

I've always known this song under the title "It Hurts Me Too."  But under either title, this is a great tune.  And this is a wonderful rendition, with female vocalist Ottilie Patterson singing lead. (Most versions I've heard have had male lead vocals.) And of course the horn section is wonderful - featuring Chris Barber on trombone, Pat Halcox on trumpet, and Monty Sunshine on clarinet. There is also some great work by Sonny Terry on harmonica. This recording is from 1958.

"Weeping Willow"

"Weeping Willow" features Eric Clapton on vocals and guitar.  It's always great to hear Eric Clapton do some real blues, and this one with a bit of New Orleans jazz flavor. It's interesting how lines from one song would find their way to others: "Well, I lay down last night, tried to take my rest/Lay down last night, tried to take my rest/But my mind kept rambling like the wild geese in the west" will be familiar to anyone who's heard "I Know You Rider."  This recording is from 2010, but its fantastic and authentic sound could lead you to believe it was from the 1940s or 1950s.

"Kansas City"

The first disc features a rendition of "Kansas City" with Muddy Waters on vocals and guitar that was recorded at the Capital Jazz Festival in 1979. The recording isn't of the best quality, but as Chris Barber explains in the liner notes, a member of the audience recorded it and handed him the cassette after the show.  And now we all get the chance to hear it.  How cool is that?

"Goin' Up The River"

"Goin' Up The River" is one of the CD's coolest tracks (in a collection where every track is cool). Recorded in 2006, this is a nice long version, and it features Jeff Healey on trumpet, guitar and vocals. I love the guitar work on this track. This song has a wonderful, slow groove, and there is some nice work on piano by Brian Graville. And of course Chris Barber's solo is so smooth, so great.  This track was originally included on the Jeff Healey & The Jazz Wizards album It's Tight Like That.

Van Morrison

The first disc features three songs with Van Morrison.  The first is "How Long Blues," recorded in 1998.  It's a delicious mix of trombone, banjo and harmonica.  Van Morrison is on vocals, guitar and harmonica, and his voice sounds great. This is seriously good live track.

The second, "Goin' Home," was recorded on that same date. This song features the same musicians as on "How Long Blues," but has an expanded horn section (Pat Halcox, John Crocker, John Defferary). Van Morrison is on vocals and guitar.  "Goin' Home" has a great easy-going jazz groove that will absolutely lift your spirits.

The third, "Oh Didn't He Ramble," was recorded many years earlier, in 1976.  It is a ridiculously fun track that features Dr. John on piano, as well as some great work by Ollie Brown on drums.  Insanely, this track was not released until this collection, and is yet one more reason to grab a copy.

"Another Sad One"

The first disc ends with a short instrumental track by guitarist John Slaughter, who died in August of 2010, when this album was first being put together.

"St. Louis Blues/Missouri Special/St. Louis Blues"

The second disc begins with a great live track from 1962 that features Ottilie Patterson on vocals.  And boy, she really belts this one out, giving a fantastic vocal performance - "You know that I hate, hate everybody/Lord, I hate everybody in your town."  I love this kind of slow, mean, dark blues/jazz.

"St. Louis Blues" then moves right into "Missouri Special," picking up the tempo.  This is a fun one to dance to.  And then it effortlessly switches gears back to "St. Louis Blues."  This track features Edmond Hall on clarinet.

"High Society"

The second disc has a very cool rendition of "High Society," also from 1962. This track features Edmond Hall on clarinet, Ian Wheeler on clarinet, Pat Halcox on trumpet, Eddie Smith on banjo, Dick Smith on bass, Graham Burbidge on drums, and of course Chris Barber on trombone. There is some truly impressive and spirited playing on this track, and it's one of my favorites.

"Rock Candy"

Okay, "Rocky Candy" kind of blew me away.  In a way, it's a really simple groove.  But it's also a great tune, a fast-paced instrumental gem from 1966.  And it features Keith Emerson on organ (yes, from Emerson, Lake & Palmer). Lee Jackson is on bass, and Alan Turner is on drums.  If this song were about half as good as it is, I could imagine it in one of those mid-1960s black and white New York grindhouse films, with awkward women stripping to it.  There are lots of false endings, which normally annoy me, but for some reason totally work for this song.

"Tea Party Blues"

"Tea Party Blues" has nothing to do with those right-wing wackos. This song is a great, groovy instrumental tune, complete with finger snaps and delicious bass line reminiscent of "Fever."  (That's Gary Simons on bass.)  And on top of that, there are some great performances on horns - Jonny Boston, James Evans and Chris Barber.  This track was recorded in 1993.

"Jack Teagarden Blues"

"Jack Teagarden Blues" is one of the most interesting tracks in this collection. It features Eddie Durham on trombone, as well as Chris Barber on trombone. It's like this wild, bizarre conversation between the two of them, and it is seriously a joy to listen to.  Even if you can't pick up this collection, make an effort to somehow listen to this track.

Mark Knopfler

The second disc concludes with three tracks featuring Mark Knopfler, all recorded in 2000.  The first is a groovy rendition of "Blues Stay Away From Me."  The second is a fun ragtime instrumental titled "Dallas Rag."  And the third, "'Til The Next Time I'm In Town," is probably the sweetest tune of the whole collection.  I particularly love Mark Knopfler's vocals on this one.

CD Track List

Disc One
  1. Memories Of My Trip
  2. When Things Go Wrong
  3. Do Lord, Do Remember Me
  4. Weeping Willow
  5. Kansas City
  6. Love Me Or Leave Me
  7. Can't Be Satisfied
  8. Diggin' My Potatoes
  9. Goin' Up The River
  10. How Long Blues
  11. Goin' Home
  12. Oh Didn't He Ramble
  13. Lonesome Road
  14. I'll Be Rested
  15. Precious Lord, Take My Hand
  16. Couldn't Keep It To Myself
  17. Another Sad One
Disc Two
  1. St. Louis Blues/Missouri Special/St. Louis Blues
  2. High Society
  3. Rock Candy
  4. Georgia On My Mind
  5. Rose Room
  6. C-Jam Blues
  7. Tea Party Blues
  8. Jack Teagarden Blues
  9. Tailgate Boogie
  10. Winin' Boy Blues
  11. On The Sunny Side Of The Street
  12. Blues Stay Away From Me
  13. Dallas Rag
  14. 'Til The Next Time I'm In Town
Memories Of My Trip was released last year on April 18th in the UK, and is scheduled to be released May 8, 2012 in the U.S. through Proper American.

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