Harvest 1969 / Esoteric 2013
The humble beginnings of one of the longest serving Albion blueswailers – with much twang and less bang.
More than four decades in action but with no original member in the current line-up, CBB have never made it out of the third echelon of British purveyors of American music. Too purist to venture out of the comfort zone as FLEETWOOD MAC or CHICKEN SHACK did, a city’s name in the band’s initial name speaks volumes, while loudness isn’t one of their debut characteristics. Yet there was a schtick in the band’s initial phase, namely Arthur Wood’s keyboards shining not only in the hilarious closer, Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer”, but also in supporting role to Peter Haycock’s six-string both on the brawny readings of staples like Howlin’ Wolf’s “How Many More Years” or Big Bill Broonzy’s “Mean Old World”, that pushes this record to a heady start, and a string of original compositions, quite notably on instrumental “Twenty Past One”.
For all the dexterity, though, effects don’t apply here and solos don’t fly off the blocks, Colin Cooper’s vocals, unlike his incendiary harmonica, not adding too much to the overall catchiness, and it’s when less strict approach is taken that the sextet sound really interesting. Playing-wise, the band’s own loose “You’ve Been Drinking”, where piano plays around organ, and the cover of Jimmy Reed’s “Insurance” and Lee Hazelwood’s “A Stranger In Your Town”, with their twinning of regular and slide guitars, stand out and link nicely with Big Joe Turner’s “Wee Baby Blues” – unplugged, yet with gentle vibraphone in its pulsating vein. On the compositional front, nothing comes near “And Lonely”, which stretches for almost 9 minutes drawing a bridge between “As The Years Go Passing By” and “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and projects startling maturity from its deep combination of churchiness and mundane desperation; “Stormy Monday”, one of the cuts that didn’t fit on the album and one of the bonuses here sounds pale in comparison. If the rest was as strong, the desolation row position wouldn’t have been an option for CBB.