I'm one of the few crits I know of who cites James Montgomery's rockin' shakin' 1973 to 1978 LP span as a reference for excellence in jumpin' blues music. That set of slabs has ever been a cornerstone in my collection, after which I fell away from following the guy (and a lot of others) due to 50 hour work weeks in the aerospace job I took on and the appearance of my pen and typewriter in other genre venues (progrock, avant-garde, etc.). Thus, it's hardly surprising that I now find the whiz bangs at the VizzTone label picking the gent up, 'cause those cats wield a sharp ear for GOOD good-time music. This latest extravaganza comes loaded down with a marquee full of stars: Johnny Winter, Aerosmith's Joey Kramer and Brad Whitford, James Cotton, DMC, and the Uptown horns, and James himself hasn't changed a bit, still pumping out great, heels kickin', energetic, vibrant blues rock. It was he who prepped me to fall head over heels for Andy Fairweather Low's stint at A&M and Warner Bros. and then Buster Poindexter (David Johansen) decades after, so, man, I owe that guy!
Of course, I was never alone when it came to appreciation of the cat's talents, not as concerned fellow musos anyway, as Montgomery has played with and opened for such mega-names as The Allman Bros., Bruce Springsteen, Steve Miller, B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, and a boatload of others. It takes no more than the very first cut here, written by the band, which rings out in a blaze from the Uptown Horns succeeded by James' sassy carefree vocals. Behind him is always George McCann, who oft reminds me of George Terry (played beside Clapton on some key LPs) in his chordal work and rhythms. Then comes a version of Same Thing that bases in Z.Z. Top but lays a veneer of Foghat on top, and McCann steps out for infectious slide work and an electric grind.
Johnny Winter, Montgomery's boss man for four very rewarding years, steps into the slide zone too, on the percolating Little Johnny, working the lead line for all its worth, McCann backing him up on a straight fiery electric. James hops on the barreling train with his harp and be careful, y'all, 'cause smoke'll start pouring out of your speakers. Have water ready to put 'em out, as, take it from me, gin tends only to make things worse. Burnishing the classic Hit the Road, Jack with a velvety smooth pulse, James gears down a midnight road, stars twinkling overhead, velvety black all around, and nothing but the open highway for miles and miles. McCann sets up lines a la Buck Dharma (!) and Frank Marino (!!), and Montgomery succeeds him with that oh-so-righteous harmonica of his once again.
I'd like to tell ya that you can take a breather on this or that cut—you know: knock back a cocktail and catch your breath—but that'd be a lie. Awright, awright, so McCann's Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is is a layback, and okay, okay, so is his way the hell cool instrumental, River's Edge—geez!, I admit it—but they crop up so far into the disc that you'll be more in a daze than anything else, sidling up to the bar to get ready for the next hoppin' interlude; thus, my advice regardless is this: get them dancing pants and happy feets ready, you're going to need 'em. In fact, bring an extra pair of each.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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