Alan Price & the Electric Blues Company

A Gigster's Life for Me

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A part of the Sanctuary Blues Masters series, former Animal keyboardist Alan Price has never remained inactive. Whether doing soundtrack work, playing in his own blues bands, or doing arranging or session work, he's been more active than any other member of his former band; he also has the distinction of playing piano on Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You." This set -- recorded in 1995 after Price's band, the Electric Blues Company, had already played over 2,250 shows -- feels as if it's a live show caught on tape, when, in fact, it is a phenomenally recorded studio performance. There's not a lot of overdubbing here, though -- performances were done in complete takes. The material is a mixture of the classic and the somewhat more contemporary -- at least Price's contemporaries. This is Brit blues done with all the style, vinegar, and soul the Brit blues are capable of. At its best, it rivals some of the finest of John Mayall's recordings. At its worst, it's not quite boring but rather uncommunicative emotionally. Price's bandmates -- who include Zoot Money, Bobby Tench, Peter Grant, and Martin Wild -- are all seasoned veterans of the Brit blues scene. There are some genuine treasures here: the radical reworking of "I Put a Spell on You," so that it sounds more like the Animals' version of "House of the Rising Sun"; the Pete Bardens/Bobby Tench original "Good Times/Bad Woman," which, with its slippery guitars and keyboards, feels more like Peter Green's mid-period work; and a killer read of Boz Scaggs' "Some Change," which is more driven and funky (thanks to hand percussion) than the original. Price includes celebratory takes of John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom Boom Boom" and the Smith/Vincent nugget "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu." Then there's the reggae-blues of the title trick, which swings out of a jazzy backbeat into a rootsier Inner Circle-type groove. "Old Lover," the Eric Clapton/Robert Cray cover, is literally a dumper; the song sucks anyway, and this version does nothing to make it more tolerable. The album closes with an elaborately long (11 minutes and five seconds) version of Jackson Browne's "Say It Isn't True," which, given the less-comfortable surroundings these musicians have found themselves in over the decades, in many ways rings more genuine than the original. Price and Money are both fine interpretive singers in the same vein and deliver knockout performances throughout. This album is far better than listeners had any right to expect, and by its strengths it proves that the vintage British blues are alive and well, even if they are relegated to the margins of obscurity. Terrific.

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