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On Top


© & (p) 1992 Deluge Records, Inc.

Described by Blues Access as the best record this master of blues and boogie-woogie piano has ever made. On Top is a quiet record, allowing the master plenty of room to work his magic.

Pinetop is ably supported on this record by his old friend from the Muddy Waters Band, Jerry Portnoy, on harp, and a most impressive lineup of New England based players - Mudcat Ward on bass, Peter Parcek on guitar, Steve Ramsey on drums and many prominent guest artsist.

The task was simply to help Pinetop bring his music home and that was accomplished. the result is a wonderful documentation, and pinnacle, of Pinetop's distinguished career in blues.

Produced by Bob Kempf and Randy Labbe
Executive Producers: Randy Labbe and Steve Bloch

The Songs

  1. Kidney Stew
  2. Just Keep On Drinking
  3. Down In Mississippi
  4. Five Long Years
  5. Yancey Special
  6. Four Hand Strut
  7. Since I Fell For You
  8. Pinetoppin'
  9. Little Girl
  10. Look On Yonder wall
  11. Worried Life Blues
  12. Just a Gigolo
Please see liner notes for specific song credits.

The Players


Recorded at Syncro Sound, Boston, MA by Keith Walsh and Bob Kempf
Assisted by Tamora Gooding and Steve Drown (January, 1992)
Mixed at Syncro Sound by Bob Kempf, assisted by Steve Drown and Gretchen Simpson
Edited at Syncro Sound by Perry Geyer
Mastered at Northeastern Digital by Jonathan Winer
Photography by James Fraher
Design by Michael Yoder, Portland, ME
Digital Images by Lianne Bergeron and Nia Kellogg, Camden, ME
Thanks to John Perkins, Mike Markowitz, Gretchen Simpson, Rosie Rosenblatt, Patrick McCarthy, Peter Guralnick, Mike Collins, the crew at Syncro, and special gratitude to Tracy and Susan.

Reviews and Comments

Pinetop Perkins - On Top
By: Sigmund Finman

Pinetop just won't stop. On Top is his second new release and his third album this year. This one's the best and you should have no trouble finding it.

His career is a long and illustrious one. In 1943, he joined James "Peck" Curtis' band on the King Biscuit hour and he continued there through the late '40s working with Sonny Boy Williamson. During the early '50, he recorded for Sam Phillips' highly influential Sun label. In 1969, he joined Muddy Waters' band after Otis Spann left.

He kicked this album off with a jumping version of Eddie "Cleanhead" Vision's "Kidney Stew." He digs right in on the opening riffs with Jerry Portnoy and Peter Parcek on harp and guitar. They continue riffing behind his vocals and his break. A really sweet ensemble. He gives Johnny Young's "Just Keep On Drinking" a resolute reading yet the song has a mellow, gospel feel to it because it's a 16-bar blues in 6/8 time.

Eddie Boyd's "Five Long Years" is slow, dark and mournful, accented by Portnoy's chromatic harp. Jimmy Yancey's "Yancey Special" is a boogie woogie shuffle which gets a crisp, riffing run through. "Since I Fell for You" features Pinetop's resigned vocals and piano playing, and he's played Muddy Waters' "Little Girl" ever since he was with Muddy. This version reflects how that band sounded. "Yonder's Wall" is another rocking shuffle. Pinetop shouts and struts his way through this cooking version.

Pinetop's original numbers show him quite capable of writing catchy tunes. One is a good natured, up tempo jam where everyone steps out. The other is a four-handed strut with David Maxwell joining him at the piano. Both men really get it on with this jumping boogie woogie.

Portnoy, who was also with Muddy during the last five years, plats unamplified harp bringing Sonny Boy to mind while Parcek, who is a fine guitarist, here recalls Jimmy Rogers. Their ensemble work is evocative of the master.

This is not a faded memory of a once great artist. It's a hot and rocking, soulful and mellow album by an established master. Pinetop is in fine form and encourages his sidemen to rise to the standards he sets. Everyone digs in and their playing is really exciting. If you're looking for a first rate Pinetop disc, this is it.

Blues Access

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