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Junior Wells & The Aces "Live In Boston 1966"

I will be the first to admit that Delmark's new release, Junior Wells & The Aces "Live In Boston 1966" was kind of hard to get through, in a good way, I mean. You see some of the Tracks were so good when listening to them for the first time that I had to back track a few of them just so I could quickly give them another listen, before continuing on. My first detour came at Track 4, "Worried Life Blues", "one of the most covered of all blues songs" which was written by Major "Big Maceo" Merriweather in 1941. Another detour was hit at "That's All Right", a Jimmy Rogers classic. I really have not repeated songs before on previous reviewed Albums before listening to the whole Album, but Junior Wells & The Aces "Live In Boston 1966" was just that kind of exceptional one.

Junior Wells was born Amos Blackmore on December 9th, 1934 in Memphis, Tennessee and was learning his first Harp licks at the age of 12 from another future legend, Little Junior Parker. In the early 1950's when Fred Below came on board as a drummer for the then Deuces, The Aces were born. When Little Walter left the Muddy Waters Band, it was Junior Wells whom jumped in to take his place and not to be out done, The Aces joined Little Walter. 

Junior Wells & The Aces "Live In Boston 1966" marks a reuniting between Junior Wells and The Aces. By the time of this recording, which some believe may have originally been a bootleg or radio broadcast, Junior Wells was in the midst of redefining himself and had started leaning a bit more towards, R&B, Soul, and Rock N Roll.

Junior Wells & The Aces "Live In Boston 1966" is a wonderful look into the music of a important blues Legend and shows us just how versatile, unique, and creative of a showman Junior Wells was. This is highlighted by the banter of Wells' in between each song, so much so, that the banter is listed as their own tracks and go on upward of over 3 minutes on Track 15. This banter with the audience and the resulting feedback really gives this Album a special meaning and atmosphere.

Junior Wells & The Aces "Live In Boston 1966" consists of 11 musical tracks, all magnificent covers such as, "Worried Man Blues" (Major "Big Maceo" Merriweather), "That's All Right" (Jimmy Rogers), "Messin' With The Kid" (Mel London), and "Got My Mojo Workin'" (Preston Foster) to name a few. My favorite was "Worried Man Blues" and as mentioned earlier, the first of 2 Tracks I had to repeat before continuing on.

The one thing I truly like about Live Albums is that they have a good degree of spontaneity and improvisation sprinkled throughout them, and Junior Wells & The Aces "Live In Boston 1966" is no exception. A fine example of that can be found on the Track, "Junior's Whoop," where Junior goes off into his own world as his blows the hell out of his harp.

Junior Wells & The Aces "Live In Boston 1966" was released by Delmark Records, a label which has built up a huge reputation over the last 55+ Years in bringing the world the opportunity to continue listening to the best Jazz and Blues that their ever was, and this fine Album, is absolutely no exception.

I highly Recommend Junior Wells & The Aces "Live In Boston 1966", not only for it's historical significance, but also because it is one heck of a good Album.

Review By John Vermilyea (Blues Underground Network)

Other Info And Reviews

Tracklist

1. Feelin' Good 4:31
2. Man Downstairs 3:15
3. Talk no. 1 0:44
4. Worried Life Blues 5:03
5. Talk no. 2 0:51
6. Junior's Whoop 7:44
7. That's All Right 3:26
8. Talk no. 3 0:54
9. Look On Yonder's Wall 3:11
10. Talk no. 4 0:45
11. Messin' With the Kid 2:39
12. Talk no. 5 1:04
13. Hideaway 7:13
14. If You Gonna Leave Me 4:31
15. Talk no. 6 3:24
16. I Don't Know 6:19
17. Talk no. 7 0:56
18. Got My Mojo Workin' 7:05
19. Theme 1:57

Listen To Samples Here...

Review By Tim Niland http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/news.php?id=66911

Harmonica ace and singer Junior Wells had recently recorded his classic blues LP Hoodoo Man Blues when this live set was recorded (possibly originally a bootleg or radio broadcast) featuring him with the crack band known as The Aces: Louis Myers on guitar, Dave Myers bass, and Fred Below on drums. These musicians were very familiar with each other and it shows throughout the performance, as they are tight as can be. Highlights of the album include “Man Downstairs" where they mash-up blues classics “One Way Out" and “Big Boss Man" to excellent effect. “Junior's Whoop" showcases Wells' excellent harmonica playing swooping and swaying along the beat and playing with the timing of a saxophonist. Blues chestnuts “That's Alright Mama" and “Look On Yonder's Wall" are potent performances, leading up to Wells' signature piece “Messin' With the Kid" which is taken with enough swagger and verve to rival Muddy Waters. Speaking of Waters, the group covers “Hoochie Coochie Man" with the group setting the flavor while Junior lays back and then sidles up for a powerful performance. The full band gets a chance to blow on Freddie King's “Hideaway" featuring excellent guitar playing and a rock solid pocket of bass and drums. This is a nice snapshot of Junior Wells at what was arguably his peak, and with the inclusion of his between song banter, it has the feel of the nightclub atmosphere. The recording quality is a little rough, but still very listenable, and fans of the Chicago style of electric blues will surely enjoy this album.

*The review by Tim Niland actually has a few errors. “That's Alright Mama" is not on this Album and neither is “Hoochie Coochie Man". "Thats All Right", a Jimmy Rogers song is on this Album.

Review By Ben The Harpman http://jukejointsoul.blogspot.com/2010/09/junior-wells-aces-live-in-boston-1966.html

I was ecstatic to learn that Junior Wells had a new live album coming out. In fact, I emailed Delmark Records to rush me a copy. Why? It's JUNIOR WELLS. Then, when I heard it had the Aces backing him, well, let's just say, I had to walk around in Depends for about a day. Junior was one of those all-time Chicago blues giants that just has never and will never be replaced.

Recorded in 1966, shortly after the immense success of Hoodoo Man Blues (also available on Delmark and featuring one of the first of many excursions with Buddy Guy), Wells is caught between the old school ensemble sound of early postwar Chicago and the funk-laden R&B grooves of both the West Side and the new, hipper blues scene of the late 60s. As Scott Dirks so eloquently documents in his liner notes, this is a reach back with sprinkles of the contemporary on this intimate club setting record. The in-between song banter is left intact here for the listener to get a complete feel for the energy, persona, and charisma that was Junior Wells. The rock-solid work of the Myers Brothers and Fred Below is impeccable, so why should I waste time and space here to tell you?

Despite some of the lo-fi sound quality that may drag on some of the contemporary blues fans' ears, this album is an essential for anyone in capturing the history of Chicago blues. This album was right on the threshold of the door between early postwar and the electric blues of the 60s and is essential based on that historical merit alone. The music has both a lazy, fall-apart-at-any-moment feel and a stinging precision that completely encompasses the contradiction and nuance that is Junior Wells the man, the musician, and the blues legend.

Review By Reverend Keith A. Gordon http://blues.about.com/od/cddvdrevie2/fr/Junior-Wells-And-The-Aces-Live-In-Boston-2010.htm

By 1966, Chicago blues legend and harmonica wizard Junior Wells was in the midst of re-inventing himself for a new audience that preferred R&B, soul, and rock 'n' roll over the raw blues that he'd created in the 1950s. The release, a year earlier, of Hoodoo Man Blues, showed that Wells was re-energized by his appeal to a white audience, many of whom had been introduced to the blues by outfits like the Paul Butterfield Blues Band before seeking out the source of Butterfield and crew's mojo.

Live In Boston 1966 captures a previously-unreleased performance recorded just a few months after the release of Hoodoo Man Blues. Wells is reunited with the Aces – guitarist Louis Myers, bassist Dave Myers, and drummer Fred Below – the band with which he originally made a name for himself with a series of red-hot recordings during the early 1950s. The album includes eleven livewire performances that crackle with electricity, accompanied by Wells' joking, entertaining between-song patter.

Junior Wells' Live In Boston 1966

With a brief intro, Wells rolls into "Feelin' Good," a driving blues tune with a shuffling locomotive rhythm and well-timed guitar licks. While Wells' vocals are somewhat slurred during the actual singing part, they're clear enough that you can make out the story that he expertly weaves throughout the song. Wells takes the lonesome country blues of Sleepy John Estes' "Worried Life Blues" into an entirely different universe, injecting a mournful energy into the song with his weeping vocals and a measured blast of harp, guitarist Louis Myers adding an elegantly-toned backing soundtrack above the nuanced rhythms.

One of the great things about Live In Boston 1966 is the opportunity to experience Wells' underrated improvisational skills, the artist able to take flight on a whim, as with his cover of Amos Blakemore's "Junior's Whoop," a lively showcase for Wells' harp playing acumen and Myers' six-string skills. While Wells plays it straight to begin with, he takes off on a tangent with a manic harp run, the band shuffling along energetically behind, Louis Myers taking his own side trip with some inspired fretwork that displays both the man's great tone, but his fluid blues/jazz playing style.

Messin' With The Kid

Wells takes Jimmy Roger's classic "That's All Right," slows it down to a smoldering blues bonfire, and then blows it up with a soulful vocal drawl, Myers' gorgeous guitarwork, and a slow, swaggering rhythm courtesy bassist Dave Myers and drummer Below. Myers' mid-song guitar solo simply kills with its emotional vibrancy, Wells yielding the spotlight for a moment to the talented guitarist. Wells' signature tune "Messin' With The Kid" is delivered with its typical aplomb, the band juking loudly behind Myers' roundabout guitar riff, Wells tearing off an electric vocal performance.

The band does an 'ace' job (sorry) on Freddie King's trademark instrumental "Hideaway," starting the song off as a Chicago blues shuffle before strutting into King's familiar marching guitar line, filling in the spaces with rambunctious drumbeats, a fine walking bass line, and wild guitar licks. Wells throws in a few squalls of harp near the end as the song devolves into a funky jam session. "Got My Mojo Working," a song Wells learned as a young man tutored by the great Muddy Waters, is provided the most upbeat and rollicking performance of these tracks, the band kicking into overdrive with an extended jam, as Wells lays down a dynamic vocal take and blasts of manic harp. The result is a loose-limbed and anarchic performance that sounds great!

The Reverend's Bottom Line

An unreleased gem of a live performance, Live In Boston 1966 provides the blues fan with a vintage recording of the legendary Junior Wells backed by a top-notch R&B outfit in the Aces, both the artist and the band kicking out the jams with vitality and energy. Wells' between-song conversations with the audience provide a welcome intimacy, and display the harpslinger's charismatic personality. While the sound here is somewhat dodgy, given its age, it also helps recreate the blues club ambiance...it really sounds like you're sitting in the audience.

This is as good as blues music gets, and if you're not down with it, I can only assume that you've achieved room temperature. For those of us still bubbling under the 98.6 degree mark, Live In Boston 1966 is guaranteed to get your blood boiling and your feet tapping uncontrollably.

About Junior Wells & The Aces

Amos Blackmore
BORN: December 9, 1934, Memphis, TN
DIED: January 15, 1998

He was one bad dude, strutting across the stage like a harp-toting gangster, mesmerizing the crowd with his tough-guy antics and rib-sticking Chicago blues attack. Amazingly, Junior Wells kept at precisely this sort of thing for over 40 years -- he was an active performer from the dawn of the 1950s to his death in the late '90s.

Born in Memphis, Wells learned his earliest harp licks from another future legend, Little Junior Parker, before he came to Chicago at age 12. In 1950, the teenager passed an impromptu audition for guitarists Louis and David Myers at a house party on the South side, and the Deuces were born. When drummer Fred Below came aboard, they changed their name to the Aces.

Little Walter left Muddy Waters in 1952 (in the wake of his hit instrumental, "Juke"), and Wells jumped ship to take his place with Waters. That didn't stop the Aces (who joined forces with Little Walter) from backing Wells on his initial sessions for States Records, though -- his debut date produced some seminal Chicago blues efforts, including his first reading of "Hoodoo Man," a rollicking "Cut That Out," and the blazing instrumentals "Eagle Rock" and "Junior's Wail."

More fireworks ensued the next year when he encored for States with a mournful "So All Alone" and the jumping "Lawdy! Lawdy!" (Muddy Waters moonlighted on guitar for the session). Already Wells was exhibiting his tempestuous side -- he was allegedly AWOL from the Army at the time.

In 1957, Wells hooked up with producer Mel London, who owned the Chief and Profile logos. The association resulted in many of Wells's most enduring sides, including "I Could Cry" and the rock & rolling "Lovey Dovey Lovely One" in 1957; the grinding national R&B hit "Little by Little" (with Willie Dixon providing vocal harmony) in 1959, and the R&B-laced classic "Messin' with the Kid" in 1960 (sporting Earl Hooker's immaculate guitar work). Wells's harp was de-emphasized during this period on record in favor of his animated vocals.

With Bob Koester producing, the harpist cut an all-time classic LP for Delmark in 1965. Hoodoo Man Blues vividly captured the feel of a typical Wells set at Theresa's Lounge, even though it was cut in a studio. With Buddy Guy (initially billed as "Friendly Chap" due to his contract with Chess) providing concise lead guitar, Wells laid down definitive versions of "Snatch It Back and Hold It," "You Don't Love Me," and "Chittlin' Con Carne."

The harpist made his second appearance on the national R&B lists in 1968 with a funky James Brown-tinged piece, "You're Tuff Enough," for Mercury's feisty Blue Rock logo. Wells had been working in this bag for some time, alarming the purists but delighting R&B fans; his brass-powered 1966 single for Bright Star, "Up in Heah," had previously made a lot of local noise.

After a fine mid-'70s set for Delmark (On Tap), little was heard from Wells on vinyl for an extended spell, though he continued to enjoy massive appeal at home (Theresa's was his principal haunt for many a moon) and abroad (whether on his own or in partnership with Guy; they opened for the Rolling Stones on one memorable tour and cut an inconsistent but interesting album for Atco in the early '70s).

Toward the end of his career, Wells just didn't seem to be into recording anymore; a pair of sets for Telarc in the early '90s were major disappointments, but his last studio session, 1997's Come on in This House, found him on the rebound and the critics noticed -- the album won the W.C. Handy Blues Award for Traditional Blues Album in 1997. Even when he came up short in the studio, Wells remained a potent live attraction, cutting a familiar swaggering figure, commanding the attention of everyone in the room with one menacing yelp or a punctuating blast from his amplified harmonica. He continued performing until he was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in the summer of 1997. That fall, he suffered a heart attack while undergoing treatment, sending him into a coma. Wells stayed in the coma until he passed away on January 15, 1998. A handful of compilations were released shortly after his death, as was the film Blues Brothers 2000, which featured a cameo by Wells. ~ Bio Courtesy Of Bill Dahl... http://www.bluesharp.ca/legends/jwells.html