The sixteen albums I´ll review are:
If you don´t want to read my comments on every song, check out my ranking of these thirteen albums. There´s also The ultimate Jimmy Dawkins album compilation.
Fast Fingers is Jimmy Dawkins first solo album. He´d played on some other Delmark releases, but now he headed his own group. This is a good album, but it kind of feels like its´s a Sixties folk blues album, e.g. the market for the album is not the black community but the students at Chicago University. But there are moments of pure enjoyment here! It´s Dawkins first solo album, it´s a solid blues album and it might be the most West Side Jimmy ever recorded.
1971 Jimmy Dawkins went to Europe and when he was in Paris he took the time to record this album. The band is 2/3 French, the only American player is Mickey Baker on guitar (The Mickey Baker?). The liner notes tells it all: "Even the less informed listener will understand, in hearing this collection, the extent that this music, so charged with emotion and contained violence, corresponds to the mixed feelings of frustration and hope of the black population of the great American cities." Well, well. Anyway I kind of like this album, in my opinion it´s one of the best of Dawkins European albums. (Which might say more of the other albums than this...)
|All for business
This is one of the classic albums in blues history. Recorded October 27 and November 1 in 1971 you can feel the dark and cold autumn weather when you listen to the album. The band is hard-core Chicago and Jimmy Dawkins gives ample proof of why he was considered as on of the best guitar players in Chicago at the time. Jimmy plays in his concentrated, yet fluid, style. He hadn´t yet started to break up his playing as he did a couple of years later. This is the Fast Fingers who´s playing.
|Tribute to Orange
Jimmy won an award for "Fast Fingers", an award he got in the French town Orange. This album, recorded during an European tour in November 1971, is Dawkins tribute to the town. When I bought this very ugly looking LP, I had high expectations. After listening to the album for the first time I was very very disappointed and I still am! I almost can´t stand to listen to this album. Let me state that Jimmy Dawkins is great on the album. He plays excellent fluent guitar with a nasty sound and his singing is also among his best. It´s the band that gets to me. They are the worst band, by far, I heard back Jimmy Dawkins. Especially Gatemouth Brown on rhythm guitar and Cousin Joe on piano manage to destroy every good intention Jimmy Dawkins has. This could have been such a good album! Buy it for Jimmy's sake. Listen to the guitar. Try to forget the band. I can´t and that´s why I can´t listen to the album.
|Transatlantic 770 |
The Excello record deal proved to be a big disappointment in Jimmy's career. This album is recorded in London with around twenty musicians, producers and others involved. I guess Excello had a plan for Dawkins, but that Jimmy never fitted in to them. "Transatlantic 770" is overproduced and after Delmark´s solid blues albums this one feels experimental and "freaked out". Too bad. The signs of something good is there. Jimmy´s guitar are at times brilliant and his voice is really good.
|I want to know |
Jimmy Dawkins was among the first who Marcelle Morgantini recorded during her Chicago visits. Jimmy´s band at this time, featuring Jimmy Johnson on guitar, Sylvester Boines on base and Tyrone Smith (prob. Centuray) oin drums, was the toughest and meanest and funkiest bluesband at the time. In fact, these musicians backed several other artists on Marcelle´s recordings. Listen too Hip Linkchain´s album (reissued on Storyville) where Tyrone Centuray plays old time Chicago blues with an amazing intensity and force. With Jimmy Dawkins the music seldom was the old time blues, Jimmy excelled in funky workouts and blue minor key masterpieces. This album was recorded October 16th 1975 at Ma Bea´s and it´s better than the other MCM album Jimmy recorded one year later, mostly because Jimmy and the band works together and because the music is more varied. But, I wouldn´t be without the almost bizarre guitar tone in "Come back, baby".
In 1976 Jimmy Dawkins returned to the Delmark label. The credits for this must go to the albums producer Steve Tomashefsky. He even was ready to pay for the sessions if Bob Koester didn´t like the recordings. The goal with the recordings was to capture how the Jimmy Dawkins band sounded live at the time. If you compare this album with the actual live recordings available from the same time I can´t say the goal is achieved - luckily enough! The live recordings are full of lengthy guitar solos over slow shuffles. Not too inspiring... Blisterstring on the other hand showcases the whole band, not just Jimmy´s guitar. Jimmy Johnson plays excellent rhythm guitar, Sonny Thompson´s piano fits surprisingly well and Sylvester Boines and Tyrone Centuray is a driving solid funky blues rhythm section. I think this is the best band Jimmy Dawkins ever had.
This is a complex album. The first time I heard it, on the ugly yellow and gray vinyl, I didn´t like it. The wahwah effects, the at first hand sloppy backup and Jimmy´s hoarse voice - it all seemed as a big disappointment. Today I think this is the most interesting and most exciting and actually the best album Jimmy Dawkins ever made. Take a look at Blue Dog News 9 for further discussion of Blisterstring.
(In Marty Spaulding´s Real Audio show Sunday Blues , June 13'99 show 2h 50 min, Marty plays this very song
Come back baby
November 10th. 1976. Out from the studio - in to "Big Duke´s". Richard Kirch on guitar. Sylvester Boines on bass and Tyrone Centuray on drums - and Jimmy Dawkins on guitar and vocals. This could have been great. This could have been an epic album! If there had been some people other than the recording engineers in the club... if the band had talked over which songs they´re going to play... What´s left is Jimmy Dawkins´ Guitar - and this takes the album a long way. I wouldn´t be without this album, but I haven´t bought the CD-reisssues on Storyville. If you´re a Dawkins fan(atic) you should have at east one of his 70´s live recordings. The best bet is Storyville´s reissues on CD or try to find the old vinyl "I want to know". The interested buyer should also note that the CD reissue of this album has four extra tracks.
|Hot Wire 81
After "Come back baby" Jimmy Dawkins stopped recording and cut down on his touring. It´d take five years before he returned to a recording studio. The odds that this should be a good album where not high. It´s done during an European tour with very little time in the studio. One fact that turns it into such a good album is the band, Richard Kirch and Sylvester Boines, both who had played with him for years and Jimi Schutte on drums. They make a great band! Around 1980 Isabel recorded several very interesting albums, the one that comes immediately to my mind is Buddy Guys "Blues Giant" album where Buddy for the first time ever managed to play in the studio what he had done on the road for years. It´s interesting to compare Buddy Guys and Jimmy Dawkins Isabel albums - Buddy Guy works up a frenzy and intense climax, Dawkins plays more soft and laid-back than he ever had done before. The fastfinger guitar with a killer tone is gone. Now Jimmy plucks the strings with his bare hands and the tone is relatively soft. Instead it´s his voice which is the important factor. Never before or after have I enjoyed Jimmy's singing more than on this album. The liner notes by Armand Meignan tells it all: "Dawkins has no wish whatsoever to dazzle, he possesses the highest degree of the art of eloquence and relevance."
This is actually the first Jimmy Dawkins album I bought, in the summer of 1987 I think, and since then it´s been one of my favorite LP´s. (I still prefer to play my LP collection!)
|American Livin´ Blues Festival
Not much to say of these tracks. They are recorded during an European tour in 1982. Richard Kirch, Larry Martin, g, Sylvester Boines, b, Abb Locke, sax, and Jimmie Schutte drums backs Jimmy Dawkins. These tracks shows Jimmy Dawkins still could play raw and hot guitar. The sound is not as tough as it could be, although Jimmy's attack is powerful.
|Feel the Blues
In 1984 Jimmy got a contract with John Stedman, owner of the English JSP label. JSP, just as Black & Blue in the Seventies, have been accused of recording some pretty bad stuff. JSP should though have credit for recording several artists who shamefully enough didn´t have record contracts elsewhere, e.g. Buddy Guy, Jimmy Dawkins, Lefty Dizz, Carey Bell and many more. JSP also was one of the first blues labels which foresighted the CD-revolution. Jimmy Dawkins JSP album is unfortunately not one of the strongest albums on JSP, and it´s definitely not one of Jimmy Dawkins strongest albums. Staffan Solding have written the liner notes and his name makes me feel sad and blue. He was the DJ on the Swedish radio program "Mera Blues" for many years. Today there´s no blues programs whatsoever on Swedish Radio. It´s a shame!
Jimmy´s comeback! Recorded during an Icelandic tour this is Jimmy´s first recorded tracks in a long time. The most interesting thing about this album is that Jimmy have found his guitar again. After ten years of thumbplucking Jimmy attacked the guitar as in his younger days. The songs reflects a typical Jimmy Dawkins show, some classics and an original or two in between. The band is a local icelandic one and they do a good job, their leadguitarist is inspired of the white english guitar heroes.
|Kant sheck dees bluze
Jimmy Dawkins recorded a couple of more albums, on the English JSP label, in the eighties. I haven´t heard the live album, but the studio album was for me a big disappointment. After the JSP sessions Jimmy stopped recording and concentrated instead on his newly formed record label, Leric. The first signs of his return to the living (well, at least his return to recording) was the live recordings he cut during an Iceland tour in 1991. The same year Jimmy went into a studio in Chicago with Eddie Lusk on organ, Johnny B. Gayden on bass, Billy Flynn on guitar and Ray Scott on drums, and the result is what I´m going to review. It´s all recorded on one day, June 18, 1991, and as a listener you can notice that. There don´t seem to be no time for rehearsing, second takes or talking the session over. It´s a "get into the studio and play your ass off" feeling. I read this is how Jimmy Dawkins likes to record, get in the studio and blast off. The band works, but they´re not very exciting. Well, well, enough complaining, the songs:
|Blues and Pain
When I saw this album I immediately fell in love! Jimmy Dawkins is standing against a brick wall, looking mean and bitter at the same time. It´d take three year for Jimmy to record again after the Earwig deal. This time he did it on the small Atlanta based label Wild Dog. I was afraid this was going to be another "I got hair on my chest I´d like to show it" album like "Kant sheck dees bluze". Luckily enough this is not the case here. In fact this is not only a good album, it´s in my opinion one of the best albums Jimmy Dawkins made!
|B phur Real
Only a year after "Blues and Pain" was released Jimmy had a new album out. I bought the album with the last nickels deep down in my pocket, I was totally broke. Was it worth living on water and bread for two weeks? No! I could had saved my money and bought food instead. "B phur Real" is not as good as "Blues and Pain". The songs are generally too long and the organ is often replaced with a piano. The production of the album is at the same time tougher and lighter. Jimmy's guitar is higher mixed and the drums are a little heavier, but at the same time the piano gives the production more air.
|Me, my guitar and the blues
Shucks! This album is stone heavy. When I first heard it I was confused, but after playing it loud a couple of times I began to realize the albums potential. This album really is what all of Dawkins last outputs have pointed towards at. Down-home heavy shuffles with drums that´ll shake if not your soul at least your ribs. Sometimes that´s enough.
|1) Blisterstring (Delmark DE-641)||This is the most exciting Jimmy Dawkins album. You never know what Jimmy is going to do. He mixes straight hard-core blues with funky rhythms and it works! The band on this album is also the best Jimmy had. Tyrone Centuray and Sylvester Boines on drums and bass makes a terrifying backup and Jimmy Johnson's second guitar is a perfect mix between the Chicagosoul scratch and deep blues. Note that this band also backed Otis Rush on the ´75 live album. They do a much better job on Blisterstring! The album is a bit uneven, some songs aren´t that good, but when it´s good it´s the most exciting work Jimmy Dawkins ever recorded.|
|2) Blues and Pain (Wild dog 9108-2)||If Blisterstring was a bit uneven, this albums strength is it´s evenness. The first six tracks are killer tracks. I consider this album as the comeback album for Jimmy Dawkins. Great guitar and the best band Jimmy recorded with in the Nineties, especially the drums and the rhythm guitar turns some of the songs from ordinary blues songs to soulful masterpieces.|
|3) Fast Fingers (Delmark DE-623)||The first album always has a certain charm. Jimmy Dawkins sings with an honest voice and his guitar is amazingly intense. Recorded in 1969 this album gives not just hints of what was to come, it´s a document of an artist who knew exactly what he wanted right from the start.|
|4) All for Business (Delmark DE-634)||This is Chicago blues! Jimmy shares the guitar work with Otis Rush. What else do you need to know?|
|5) Hot Wire 81 (Isabel 900.508 also Evidence ECD 26043-2)||Jimmy didn´t record between 1976 and 1981. Hot Wire 81 could then be called a kind of comeback album. Cut during an European tour the Fast Finger Jimmy have changed to Thoughtful Jimmy. The first five tracks are among the best Dawkins have recorded. Often slow, slow, but with an almost hypnotic groove. On Hot Wire 81 you´ll also find the singer Jimmy Dawkins. His voice is great here.|
|6) Me, my guitar and the blues (Ichiban D2-24909-2)||The toughest album Jimmy Dawkins recorded, but not without soul. If you like your blues heavy and if you love shuffles, you´ll love this album.|
|7) I want to know (MCM 900.290)||This is the best of the two Dawkins live MCM albums. The first side on the LP is very strong, especially I want to know where Jimmy´s perfomance is an outstanding example of the doomladen seventies style of blues. I know one song don´t make an album, but if it´s as good as i want to know I´ll buy any album. I wouldn´t want to without Jimmy´s lowdown cut of Rock me baby either.|
|8) Jimmy Dawkins (Vogue LDM 301.49)||I don´t really know why, but I like this album. Jimmy is in great shape, the band is OK and that´ll carry any Dawkins album a long way.|
|9) B phur real (Wild Dog 9110-2)||The songs, the band, the whole concept is the same as on the other Wild Dog albums. But somehow the groove never works and if it ain´t got the swing...|
|10) Come back baby (MCM 900.295)||As I said in the reviews this could have been a great album. The band is the same as on Blisterstring, Jimmy Dawkins is in great shape on guitar, but the poor sound and the fact that all songs (at least on the LP) are similar turns this album from a great album to a rather boring album. Dawkins plays good guitar, but he don´t play with the band, he plays for himself.|
|11) Tribute to Orange (Black & Blue 33.556)||If the band on "Come Back Baby" wasn´t working together with Dawkins, the band here doesn´t work at all. On the first four songs Dawkins plays some of his best guitar ever. Unfortunately the band is the worst he ever played with...|
|12)Kant sheck dees bluze (Earwig 4920)||When I first heard this album I liked it. Now I think it´s boring. Jimmy plays a lot of guitar, but he plays too much. Every song has several guitar solos and after awhile they blur together. I almost never listen to this album.|
|13) Transatlantic 770 (Excello 8024)||Hmmm, the best thing I can say of Transatlantic 770 is that it´s interesting. The song material is in fact quite good and Jimmy Dawkins tries to create something new. Excello, well Ace, have released "Blues for Hippies" which maybe is the best way to describe "Transatlantic 770". Music which have been outdated for 25 years!|
|14) Feel the blues (JSP 1093)||zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....|
Top ten songs (For comments the link´ll take you to the reviews)