Feisty, full of street swagger, humor, and sweat, Live in Boston 1966 provides a side of Junior Wells' stage persona that few, if any, of his other albums revealed. This previously unreleased date features Wells with the Aces; the crack bar band that he began his solo recording career with in the early '50s for the States imprint. The Aces -- guitarist Louis Myers, bassist Dave Myers, and drummer Fred Below -- were playing juke joints and bars on the South and West sides of Chicago, their early, deserved reputation as one of Chicago's hardest swinging blues bands had, by the '60s, been all but eclipsed by Buddy Guy and Magic Sam. This gig is as enjoyable a listening experience as it is an historical artifact, following as it does the previous year's classic Hoodoo Man Blues. Wells and the Aces are playing from the heart: they reach back to the gritty electric blues of the old-school Chicago ensemble sound -- the postwar years -- and they flaunt their panache with the funkier R&B grooves that the West Side blazed trails with in the early '6os, and they look to the future with the nastier, more improvisational electric blues that would come later in the decade. How many blues recordings can you hear where the artist's stage banter is as fresh on the tenth listen as it was on the first? Even more importantly, one on which the banter is as enjoyable as the music itself? Wells raps plenty here. The album begins with the opener "Feelin' Good," and extends from between-song banter where he engages the audience, to his improvised originals such as the killer "Junior's Whoop," "I Don't Know," and "If You Gonna Leave Me." The way he and the Aces work together is seamless and instinctual; Wells can take chances with his lyrics and his harp phrasing because the band is on a roll; they are part and parcel of the groove; they push Wells further in a friendly, competitive way. The band just shines. The standards here are completely reinvented. Dig the readings of standards such as "Man Downstairs," "That's All Right," "Look on Yonder's Wall," and "Mojo Workin'," they're uptempo, full of raucous exuberance and soul, while the reading of Sleepy John Estes "Worried Life Blues" is lowdown sad as the crying blues get. The sound on here is gritty, but very present. Live in Boston 1966 is the great blues surprise of 2010.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek