Mickey’s back, and he’s plenty blue
THE BLUESMASTERS FEATURING MICKEY THOMAS The Bluesmasters Featuring Mickey Thomas (Direct Music Distribution)
If you’re a purist, you might need some convincing to spend some time with a collection of blues classics recorded by the golden-throated singer who has fronted Jefferson Starship since the late ’70s. After all, you have to look pretty hard and squint quite a bit to conjure a path from “We Built This City,” “Jane” and “Sara” back to “Cherry Red,” “Rock Me Baby” and “Can’t Get No Grindin.'”
As if to remind us where that path might lie, Mickey Thomas reprises his first hit, “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.” Thomas recorded that song for his old boss, Elvin Bishop, who penned the No. 3 hit from 1976. For Bishop, the song was a left-field pop hit from a blues guy; for Thomas, it was a pop song with a bluesy side he would quickly abandon for stadium rock.
Welcome Mr. Thomas back into the blues fold. He acquits himself quite well on this 11-song set with the Bluesmasters. Guitarist and producer Tim Tucker put together a band that includes standout harmonica player Doug Lynn and drummer Aynsley Dunbar (who varied resume includes both stints with John Mayall and Journey) and, on two tracks – officially certified Chicago bluesman Magic Slim. Slim adds his down-home vocals and lead guitar to solid versions of Muddy Waters’ aforementioned “Can’t Get No Grindin'” and the Albert Collins hit “Get Your Business Straight” (actually written by his wife, Gwendolyn, not the “Phil Collins” credited on this disc!).
Thomas has powerful pipes and treats the material with respect and class. The song selection sticks with familiar material from the blues songsbook: Joe Turner’s “Cherry Red,” Etta James “I’d Rather Go Blind,” Willie Dixon’s “Third Degree” (written for Otis Rush), Robert Johnson’s “Walkin’ Blues,” Muddy Waters’ “Rock Me Baby.” The new version of “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” featuring a bluesy harmonica intro, sounds fresh and soulful, but it’s hard not to miss Bishop’s signature guitar riff. Overall, Thomas and the Bluesmasters break no new ground but deliver an entertaining set.
Local note: Thomas and the Bluesmasters recorded some of the album at The Ranch in Broomfield and mixed it at Colorado Sound in Westminster.
IGGY AND THE STOOGES Raw Power: Legacy Edition (Columbia/Legacy)
This 1973 pre-punk classic, mixed by Iggy Pop’s buddy, David Bowie, is about as raw as they come. National Public Radio recently named Pop as one of its “50 Greatest Voices.” Huh?
But NPR wasn’t referring to the Pop’s God-given vocal chops but rather his fiery delivery and fearlessness. It’s all here on “Search and Destroy,” “Gimmie Danger” and “Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell.” A second disc, titled Georgia Peaches, features a raucous Stooges gig recorded in Atlanta in October 1973. It sounds like the band is playing to just a handful of people – maybe that’s why this recorded-for-radio performance never got any airplay — but Pop engages the tiny crowd head-on, even threatening one patron to a fight. It’s hilarious and over the top. And real. Raw Power indeed.
The Deluxe Version of the set, available only at iggyandthestoogesmusic.com, adds a bonus disc of outtakes, a DVD documentary with interviews and concert footage and a hardcover book.