Junior Wells & The Aces – Live in Boston 1966

January 01, 1970

(Delmark)

 

www.delmark.com

 

Is an event for which patrons pay (with a door charge and/or
drinking) really a party? The idea can sometimes seem like an over-orchestrated
conceit. Spontaneous gatherings and house parties that loosely parse the
amenities (vodka and mixers over here; shrimp and hummus over there; keg and
less etiquette-capable folks in the back yard) tend to yield some of life’s
best times. My fondest memories of living in Manhattan include plodding home
with a knapsack bursting with Greenmarket finds. When that bag had started to
feel unbearably ponderous, about eight blocks North of my place, I’d happen on
musicians who’d set up in Washington Square Park, who were often doing
something wonderful. I could feel it before I could hear it, as they’d
invariably be surrounded by other delighted passersby; serendipitous amalgams
of population segments otherwise fairly unlikely to hang together.

 

When Junior Wells greets the crowd at Club 47 he means
serious party business, an ethos that pokes its way through the relatively
shambling opener, “Feelin’ Good.”  Wells,
nee Amos Blakemore, had left his crack regulars in Chicago and was onstage with
the Aces: Louis and Dave Meyers (guitar/bass) and kit-banger “Professor” Fred
Below. He had a history with these guys but you can hear the rust peeling off
for the first few numbers. The arcane recording’s sound can be a bit
distorted/muffled – impatient listeners accustomed to polished remixes might
combine these factors for a “What’s the big deal?” rating.

 

But there’s something in the feel of the thing; the “feels
so good” of the thing, along with the faith and anticipation you sense from the
audience, that tells you to let the needle keep riding the disc. “No soul… no
soul… NO soul — you gotta have a hole in your soul if you don’t feel it,”
Wells exclaims after strolling through Big Maceo’s well-trodden “Worried Life
Blues.” Which could point to a dull sojourn in blues academia if he didn’t follow
by responding to a growled “Yee-eah
from some corner: “Is the Wolf in
here someplace?” The crowd erupts in laughter. He continues, “I thought this
was my show! I didn’t know that Howlin’ Wolf was here tonight too.” In a fell
swoop, he’s transmitted that he’s gnawed plenty on the bone at the crux of the
blues but that he’s about a good time – matter of fact, that good time’s on its
way to the kind of roll that will be related the next morning over coffee.

 

Chicago-based, Delmark Records has left Junior’s
between-song patter intact, which raises memories of experiencing live shows
secondhand before it was made easier by videos. This is how it was back in the
day: Huddling by the speakers, drinking in the nuances of experiences you’d
missed; imagining what wasn’t spelled-out – kind of like what folks say they
had with radio before TV elbowed its way into the entertainment mix. The show
caught on Live in Boston 1966 was
certainly a blow-out, gaining momentum as it chugged away from the depot. After
that last bit of repartee, the kind of committed boogie that brought smiles on
the streets of Chicago
in the ‘60s jumps out with  the
seven-plus minutes of “Junior’s Whoop.” One pities the poor hip-challenged
listener who can’t respond as nature intends to Blakemore’s scat-like
emissions: “Whoop… whoop… whoop.
Whoop a dooba-dooba-dobba…” Sporadic
Yeahs!” peel from a crowd we know is
mopping its faces: Louis Meyers’ guitar, now fully revved, throws some Hubert
Sumlin-style electricity behind Blakemore’s ecstatic harp comments.

 

The slow pace of “That’s All Right” isn’t my favorite brand
of blues, but I’ve been to enough shows of this nature to know its pacing is
demanded by the workout the band’s just given the audience. True or no, the
anecdote between it and “Look on Yonder’s Wall” brings comedy to tragedy; damn
if the cuckold isn’t determined to get his ya-ya’s out. “Look on” is required homework
for fans of The Fab T’birds and The Nighthawks who haven’t delved into their
sources.

 

It’s Christmas in July when “Hideaway” is unleashed. One of
the best blues boogies ever conjured, Freddie King’s tune has that riff that
Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, and a slew of other players have been unable
to resist. Junior and the Aces bet their lives on its sexy strut capability.
Before closing with the almost funky “Theme,” Wells reassures the crowd it’s in
good company with “Got My Mojo Workin’.”

 

DOWNLOAD: The
whole shebang, or you’ll miss the experience. If you must: “Got My Mojo
Workin’,” “Hideaway,” “Junior’s Whoop” MARY LEARY

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