Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.
It was pretty easy to separate the men from the boys in this shootout. A quick drop of the needle on each side would immediately answer our number one question: “How BIG is the sound?” The copies that lacked top end extension or heft in the bottom end were just too uninvolving. This is the BLUES, baby — you think it’s supposed to sound small and distant?
Another problem we ran into on many copies was excessive smoothness. When a copies was overly rich or smeary, it usually lacked the “gritty” feel that music like this should have.
I don’t know about you, but if I’m listening to the blues I am not looking for glossy sound. Give me the texture and the detail that Willie Dixon put on the tape. I don’t want his sound to be “fixed” after the fact.
The sound and the arrangements here are perfectly suited to Willie’s material. Since most vintage blues recordings leave a lot to be desired sonically, and most modern “hi-fi” blues recordings are less than engaging musically, this album is the cure for the blues-lovin’ audiophile’s blues!
The material here is TOP NOTCH — Dixon was one of the blues’ greatest songwriters, responsible for Spoonful, Hoochie Coochie Man, Little Red Rooster, Back Door Man and other songs you’ve probably heard your favorite classic rock band covering.
A copy such as this gives you more detail and texture, more extension up top and real weight to the bottom end — absolutely crucial for this music.
The Real Blues Power
We had an absolute blast with this one. It’s the rare blues recording that has the audiophile goods, so it was a real treat to hear an album that could deliver authentic blues music with such strong sonics.
Four of the nine songs on I Am the Blues – “Back Door Man”, “Spoonful”, “I Ain’t Superstitious”, “The Little Red Rooster” – were originally performed by Howlin’ Wolf.
“Back Door Man” and “Spoonful” were recorded by Howlin’ Wolf in June 1960 featuring bass work by Willie Dixon, piano work by Otis Spann, drum work by Fred Below, and guitar work by Hubert Sumlin. “The Little Red Rooster” was recorded in June 1961 with guitar work by Howlin’ Wolf and Hubert Sumlin, piano work by Johnny Jones, bass work by Dixon, and drum work by Sam Lay.
“I Ain’t Superstitious” was recorded in December 1961 with Howlin’ Wolf, Hubert Sumlin, and Jimmy Rogers on guitar, Henry Gray on piano, Willie Dixon on bass, and Sam Lay on drums.
The songs “You Shook Me” and “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man” were first recorded by Muddy Waters. “I’m You Hoochie Coochie Man” was recorded on January 7, 1954 with Waters on vocals and guitar, Little Walter on harmonica, Jimmy Rogers on guitar, Otis Spann on piano, Willie Dixon on bass, and Fred Below on drums. “You Shook Me” was recorded on June 27, 1962.
“The Seventh Son” was recorded by Willie Mabon in 1955. “I Can’t Quit You, Baby” was not even released on Chess Records, instead it was recorded and released by Otis Rush on the Cobra record label.
Back Door Man
I Can’t Quit You Baby
The Seventh Son
I Ain’t Superstitious
You Shook Me
(I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man
The Little Red Rooster
The Same Thing
The material is superb, consisting of some of Willie Dixon’s best-known songs of the 1960s, and the production is smoothly professional…