On the heels of the off-Broadway production of “Piece Of My Heart: The Bert Berns Story,” comes this unbelievably great collection of songs from the history of Bert Berns, a guy who really should be in both the Rock’n’Roll Hall Of Fame and the Songwriters Hall Of Fame. Hell, he should be there just for co-writing “Twist And Shout”! “Hang On Sloopy: The Bert Berns Story Volume #3” (Ace) is amazing in that all 26 tracks are stand-out winners. This comparatively unknown pioneer songwriter/producer/arranger/musician never made it out of 1960s alive. He died of heart failure in 1967 at the age of 38. The thing about Berns is that he knew he would die young so he lived his life at 100 m.p.h. An early trip to Cuba infused his sound with a salsa-based soul and the knowledge he harbored about his weak heart infused his music with a grit and drama that was more real than anybody imagined. Wilson Pickett (“Teardrops Will Fall”) certainly didn’t know. Berns kept it hidden. But in his short time on the planet, in an era where the artists were merely fulfilling the visions of the producers, composers and arrangers, he made some of the greatest music of them all. Amongst the gems here are artists like Ben E. King, Freddie Scott, Isley Brothers, Drifters, Erma Franklin, Garnet Mims, LaVern Baker, Shirelles, Patti LaBelle & The Bluebelles, Soloman Burke, Van Morrison, The McCoys and Lulu. But it’s all quintessential Bert Berns, and, as such, soulfully heartbreaking.
It was November 11 1966 at Temple University in Philadelphia when saxophonist John Coltrane totally freaked out the 700+ in attendance. In a frenzied experimental cacophony of spiritual delirium that had most in the audience glued to their seats in wonder, awe, curiosity, shock and inspiration, this famous show also had people walking out. It was too intense. More talked about than actually ever heard, “Offering” (Verve) has “Naima” (16:28) and “Crescent” (26:11) on one disk and “Leo” (21:29), the title track (4:19) and “My Favorite Things” (23:18) from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s 1959 “The Sound Of Music” on the other. With his wife Alice Coltrane on piano, Pharoah Sanders on tenor sax and piccolo, Rashied Ali on drums, Sonny Johnson filling in for Jimmy Garrison on bass and various percussionists, ‘Trane blew wild on soprano sax, tenor sax and flute. The liner notes by Ashley Kahn make for great reading. Michael Brecker was in the audience that night and says he’ll never forget it. Be brave. This does not go down easy. But it’s good for you.
Tough to relay info when his website is in Italian but suffice it to say that “Spaghetti Juke Joint” (Appaloosa) by Fabrizio Poggi & Chicken Mambo is Fab’s 18th album (he’s also written two books), the follow-up to “Juba Dance” with Guy Davis in 2013. This longtime singer/songwriter/harmonicat can shout the blues with the best of ’em. Here he rages on material by Sonny Boy Williamson II, Slim Harpo, Little Milton, Junior Parker, Tom Waits, Blind Lemon Jefferson, BB King, Big Joe Williams and his own originals with help from his new band plus super-musicians Sonny Landreth, Ronnie Earl and Bob Margolin. It ain’t nothin’ but a house party and don’t bother knockin’.
You can tell by the cover of Brad Hatfield‘s “For A Change” (self-released) that this guy’s got the blues. When he was 25, he was seriously injured in a construction accident and left paralyzed. He had been playing guitar for 15 years at that point. When that became impossible, he took up harmonica. His first album, “Uphill From Anywhere,” earned him a nomination from The Blues Foundation Awards for “Best New Artist.” This Cincinnati native writes all his own material and blows his bad-ass harmonica when he’s not belching out such soulful originals as “Back Door Scratchin’,” “Behave Yourself,” “Drink Drank Drunk,” “Swamp Poker” and eight others with his tight tight band of guitarist Bob Britt and pumpin’ pianoman Kevin McKendree (on loan from Delbert McClinton) plus bassist Tommy MacDonald (Buddy Guy) and drummer Tom Hambridge (George Thorogrood).