Alexis Korner


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Released in 1992, a scant eight years after his death, this second volume in the Alexis Korner Anthology picks up right where the first volume left off in 1972 and covers his last period very well. Perhaps too well, considering the lack of quality in some of this music. That said, Korner is a foundation point in the history of the British blues, and in fostering a scene that eventually nurtured virtually all of the Rolling Stones but Brian Jones in particular, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, young mates Peter Green and Mick Fleetwood and even John Mayall; he was even older and was Mayall's mentor. When this second volume was issued, Korner was an all-but-forgotten man, to be truthful. These 18 songs are a wild mash of styles, from gospel and Brit soul to acoustic blues to rootsy rock & roll. Kroner covers a number of Stones' tunes here including "Get Off My Cloud," and an acoustic read of "Honky Tonk Woman," stripping the entire song back to its blues roots. His voice was shot, but his interpretive skills were still spot on and uncanny; Korner was able to reach into a song and really see all its components, not only the obvious ones, but its more subtle nuances and his knowledge of blues, country, and folk styles was so vast he could trace a lineage back just by hearing a tune. When he was recording, it was with all of these trace elements on the surface, turning the song inside out. "Honky Tonk Woman" is a stellar example. Played as a sprightly barroom 12-bar blues, he moves the country music around so it feels more like Jimmie Rodgers. and the rock & roll around until it feels more like Chuck Berry singing plantation era Muddy Waters. "Gospel Ship," with its chorus of female backing vocalists, is a stunner as well. His versions of "Wreck of the Old 97" and "Casey Jones" aren't going to replace Johnny Cash's but they are certainly well worth considering. In all, this is a sound, if curious, volume. For those who purchased the 2006 double-disc anthology Kornerstoned: 1954-1983, there will be little here that's new to you, just a few tracks that fall between the cracks of some of the more recent collection's roster.

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