I listened to a lot of new music this past year; 750 albums and over 10,000 individual recordings! Amongst all that music there were four notable Posthumous recordings that I believe are worth your attention and your ear!!
Dr. John – Things Happen That Way (Rounder Records 2022)
He was born Malcolm John Rebennack and he was a mainstay of the New Orleans music scene as I grew up. His first album Gris Gris released in 1968 featured Caribbean and New Orleans influences that melded easily with the psychedelic spirit of the time. The persona of Dr. John the Night Tripper emerged in those days borne on the wings of emerging album oriented rock FM stations and stage show performances featuring outlandish fashions and eccentric creativity replete with allusions to the voodoo mystique of his hometown.
Over his career, Dr. John released 30 studio albums and contributed to dozens of others by artists that most of us know. At the time of his sudden death in June of 2019, he was working on a recording that became the material for the 2022 release, Things Happen That Way. It is a distinctive recording featuring contributions by Willie Nelson, Willie’s son Lukas, Dr. John’s life long hometown friend Aaron Neville, and some great vocals by Nashville artist Katie Pruitt on End of the Line and Holy Water. Dr. John’s rendition of the Traveling Wilburys End of the Line is absolutely spot on! And I enjoyed Funny How Time Slips Away, Ramblin’ Man, Sleeping Dog Best Left Alone, and the prophetic Guess Things Happen That Way.
On Dr. John’s first album Gris Gris in 1968, he recorded a tune, I Walk On Guilded Splinters that has always been one of my favorites. And it is fitting for his last recording that he comes full circle on his career with a rerecording of this fabulous song (and my favorite on an album) that is a touching close to the storied life and career of Dr. John.
The Doors – Paris Blues (Rhino Records 2022)
Over 51 years after his death, the final known studio recording of Jim Morrison and The Doors has been released. Paris Blues is a song that was recorded sometime before the L.A. Woman album in 1971. Morrison died in July of that year and in the ensuing years, neither Robby Krieger or Ray Manzarek felt inclined to release it on a series of posthumous recording which were uneven snippets of live recording and outtakes featuring an often drunk and unintelligible Morrison.
Doors diehard fans have been aware of the song recording for a long time but it was thought lost forever when Manzarek took the studio tape home and his young toddler accidentally taped over a very small portion of it. Through the use of modern digital recording techniques, the song was been resuscitated and is the title cut of a new recording released by Rhino Records. The album includes two other previously unreleased songs, I Will Never Be True (an original) and a cover of Robert Johnson’s Me And the Devil Blues. There are a couple of other songs recorded live at a political event for Norman Mailer back in 1968 and three songs featuring Albert King that were released originally on Live In Vancouver 1970.
To be blunt, Paris Blues is a keeper as a single but the rest of album is only of interest to die hard Doors fans and record collectors fleshing out their Doors discography. My theme for my shows on the internet and my blog is based on the Door’s tune, Roadhouse Blues. I love the mental imagery associated with this song of friends getting together at a roadhouse and havin’ a good time drinking and smoking while listening to blues based rock tunes. And I have tried to flesh out that imagery with contemporary blues, blues rock, and “head music” during my roadhouse blues shows over the years. For me, this “new” recording is a sad reminder of both Jim’s love of the blues and the way he squandered his talent in a haze of smoke, booze, and hard drugs. I am still mad at him about it. But every show that I do and every line that I write about blues music is a testament to the influence of Jim Morrison and The Doors music on my life.
Janis Joplin & Jorma Kaukonen – The Legendary Typewriter Tape: 6/25/64 Jorma’s House (Omnivore Records 2022)
Back in the day, the Queen of the Psychedelic Blues was Janis Joplin. Like Johnny and Edgar Winter, Janis had been raised in the Golden Triangle of East Texas. She burst onto the national music scene in 1967 in San Francisco as part of the Big Brother & the Holding Company band at the Monterey Pop Festival. And two years later, she was enshrined in the annals of music history with her performance at Woodstock.
Janis first went to San Francisco in 1963 and during a two year stint there Janet’s drug use got her arrested for shoplifting and she developed a reputation as a “speed freak”. But no one could deny her talent amongst the local San Francisco artists including Jorma Kaukonen, later to become an original member of Jefferson Airplane. Jorma had met her soon after arriving in California at a local club where other aspiring artists including the Grateful Dead were playing. They hit it off and Janis asked him to play with her for some gigs she had going. During 1964, Jorma invited Janis to rehearse with him at his home. As Jorma’s wife Margareta typed a letter to her parents in Russia in the background, Jorma and Janis used a Sony mono tape recorder to rehearse and then listen to the playback. That one day rehearsal in June of 1964 would become known at the Legendary Typewriter Tape. It has been available for years as a raw bootleg. Now it has been mixed professionally (and legally) and released by Omnivore Recordings.
For Joplin fans, this recording is pure magic. Janis is sittin’ in a living room singing the blues that she most certainly lived in her own life. For me, the recording brings to mind another great blues woman, Memphis Minnie, who eventually settled in my hometown of New Orleans. Both had charming southern drawls and a vocal delivery that takes the blues right down into your soul.
Even as a rehearsal tape, I love Janis’ renditions of Trouble In Mind, Hesitation Blues, Long Black Train, Nobody Knows You When You Are Down and Out, and Daddy Daddy Daddy. All are blues standards and she does justice to all of them. The enhanced quality of the new release should make it more accessible to blues lovers, not just collectors. Janis ended her life tragically with a heroin overdose in 1970 at the age of 27. This recording reinforces just what a rare and genuine blues talent Janis was. It is just so sad to think of all the great music she could have made if she had lived into her eighties like Koko Taylor and Etta James.
Sven Zetterberg – Rain On (The Lost Session) (Parma Records 2022)
One of the all time great Swedish bluesmen Sven Zetterberg passed away in December of 2016 at the age of 64. He was never well known to the general public in North America but what a talent he was. His voice was equally at home singing classic blues, soul and Rhythm & Blues and his artistry on the guitar and harmonica were matched by his songwriting skills. As sometimes happens, he did a studio session in 1999, as he was beginning a solo career, that was put in the can and saved for another day. It is an incredible recording that has been released by Parma Records entitled Rain On (The Lost Session).
As a testament to how highly Sven was regarded by American blues artists, Kim Wilson (The Fabulous Thunderbirds) appears on two of the songs on harmonica; I Ain’t from Mississippi and Start from Scratch. For me personally, I best loved Sven when he was belting out R&B and soul songs and there are a couple on the recording that are jewels; the title cut Rain On and That’s All I Need. And as examples of his straight up blues talent there are You Oughta Be Ashamed and Blues in My Heart.
I can not figure out for the life of me why this recording was not issued back in 1999 or 2000. My only guesses are that because he released his first solo album in 1999 (Blues From Within), the tracks on this recording were put on hold or there was a disagreement between music business entities (which happens more often than it should) that put this recording session to the side. Whatever the case, I am glad the Parma Records has released the recording now. It is a lasting testament to a bluesman who helped bring the good news of the blues to a whole generation of European blues audiences. Now, posthumously, North American audiences will get another chance to appreciate his talent.
#blues #bluesmusic #bluesrock #bestof2022
Ben Vee started out spinning songs on terrestrial radio and at nightclubs back in the 1970’s in his home state of Louisiana. After a career in the construction business, he returned to DJing in 2011. He now hosts two shows each week on http://www.bluesmusicfan.com and writes about the blues at http://www.benveeblues.com from his home in Connecticut. He also has a personal 24 hour stream devoted to the Roadhouse Blues… WRHB as well as a Youtube channel.