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Electro-fi (ELECTRO3450)

Intro/Shawn’s Shuffle, I’m Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town, Georgia On My Mind, Get Out Of My Life Woman, Blues On The Green, Band Outro Jam, Shake, Rattle & Roll, Under Yonder Blues, I Got My Mojo Workin’ and Hey Joe.

During the introductions to this live concert recording from Kitchener, Ontario in 1991 the MC announces to the crowd that the gig was being recorded and a ‘tape’ of the performance should become available in a ‘very short period of time’. I don’t know what period you would consider to be covered by ‘short’ but 25 years?

Thankfully, the good folk at Electro-fi have recently re-discovered the tapes and this now allows us to enjoy a rather marvellous live set from a tremendous blues guitarist at the height of his powers but at a point in his career where a fuller and proper recognition of his extra-ordinary talents had yet to materialise.

Having previously toured and recorded as a featured guitarist in the bands of many blues and rhythm & blues giants (including Johnny Otis, Etta James, Bobby Bland, B.B. King, Albert Collins and more), Brown’s talents as a skilled and inspired blues guitarist of great fluidity and inventiveness were only more widely acknowledged later in the 1990s upon joining the then-fledgling Electro-fi label. For this label, Brown went on to release a series of successful solo albums in his own name and starred as guest guitarist on albums for the label by his friend Snooky Pryor.

This CD is made up of recordings taken from two killer sets in March 1991 featuring Mel’s superior guitar alongside John Lee (keyboards), Randy Coryell (drums) and Leo Valvassori (bass). Also on stage was guest guitarist, Denny Freeman, an old friend of Mel’s from their days together in the house band at Antones, the legendary blues club in Austin, Texas.

The ten tracks included here consist of a few Brown originals in amongst versions of classics and standards, each providing a launch pad for Brown, Freeman and the band to stretch out and play their blues in their own way. The sound quality is superb, the playing is uniformly high, and the set is  beautifully paced, - at turns, thrilling and vibrant on up-tempo rockers (like Shake, Rattle & Roll and Shawn’s Shuffle), lyrical and poignant on slower numbers (such as Georgia On My Mind and the instrumental Under Yonder Blues) and unbelievably funky elsewhere (on Allen Toussaint’s Get Out Of My Life Woman). And, if you thought Jimi Hendrix had the last word on Hey Joe, tune in here to the 11 minute closer to this album.

A thunderously stirring live album and a must-have for lovers of excellently played and presented electric blues guitar.

Review Date: June 2016

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