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
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.
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Last Update: March 27, 1996 12:15 PM