Red Lightnin’ 1977 / Angel Air 2013
The Windy City’s slinky hepcat’s most timely return to England to dig in with THE ‘HOGS.
It’s hard to measure the impact of Billy Boy Arnold’s songs on the UK blues scene. The Chicagoan’s “I Wish You Would” covered by such premiere league rockers as THE YARDBIRDS and David Bowie, he shook the Albion soil back in the ’60s, yet it was only in the year of punk that the 41-year-old Arnold recorded one of his best albums in London, accompanied most sympathetically by Tony McPhee and a couple of future GROUNDHOGS. The original release of this album might be titled “Checkin’ It Out” but, while reclaiming the aforementioned classic with much gusto and a hint at “Immigrant Song”, BB puts a surefire crunch in his delivery, as the new era allows for the unarticulated obscenities which opener “Dirty Mother Fuyer”, is full of – all 7 fuzzy minutes of it, shot through with sharp guitar riffs and lascivious harp.
Punky to the pulp in “Eldorado Cadillac”, the main man is heard giving instructions and instigating immediacy for the wild glam of “Christmas Time” and the loose, echo-drenched “1-2-99”, while some other cuts here hint at rehearsals: the axe duel in instrumental “Rising The El” could hardly be spontaneous. But “Sweet Miss Bea”, as polished as it comes, rumbles quite infectiously, with all the bells and no whistles in McPhee’s solo, whereas Little Walter’s “Blue And Lonesome” catches Arnold in his most lachrymose mode and overlaps lyrically with the sped-up and unison-driven “Catfish”, one of the bonuses here, the real gem of which is “It’s Great To Be Rich”, where BB’s harmonica reigns and runs amok. Talk about right place and time, then. They don’t make blues like these anymore.