Little Milton

Walkin' the Back Streets

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Little Milton made his last batch of great studio recordings for the legendary Stax label during the early '70s, releasing the studio sets Waiting for Little Milton and Blues 'N Soul, live outings like What it Is, and a clutch of excellent 45s. Walking the Back Streets, released years after his stint with the label had ended, gathers cuts that didn't appear on the full-length albums. For his backing band, Stax provided linchpins from their typically excellent pool of session players. These included guitarists Michael Toles and Bobby Manuel, drummer Willie Hall, keyboard player Lester Snell, and, of course, the Memphis Horns. Though Milton failed to offer a great deal of fresh material during the period, this was hardly a problem, as the singer has always been an exceptional interpreter of the blues in general. Most of the songs selected here are excellent vehicles for displaying both his vocal and guitar prowess. The title track, a slice of smoldering blues driven by exquisite musicianship, still stands out. Not many instrumentalists are capable of deferring to a frontman and displaying ample chops at the same time, the way Manuel, Toles, and Snell are here. The mix enhances this fact perfectly: the rhythm guitarists split between left and right channels, Snell in between but set back in the spectrum, and Milton himself slicing away up front. The band slip into smoky blues funk on the excellent "Somebody's Tears," while "Open the Door to Your Heart," "Letter Full of Tears," and "Bet You I'll Win" all capture the singer in a soulful mood. An excellent set.

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