Bep / Jimmy Carl Black

Hamburger Midnight

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Hamburger Midnight represents the recording and performing reunion of Jimmy Carl Black and Roy Estrada, in other words a grafting of roots from the original Mothers of Invention. While Black has been actively playing music ever since he started in the '50s, Estrada apparently laid off the bass for quite a few years, some of which he spent incarcerated. The third member of the triumvirate that created this recording is Mike Pini, a British bluesman who has been active since the mid-'60s. Unfortunately, the cover of the record doesn't mention any of their names above and beyond the B.E.P. acronym; those in-the-know will figure out the deal from the cartoon drawing on the front, but that won't help the many unfamiliar listeners who would find this CD appealing. The first bite of this Hamburger Midnight is tasty: a cover version of the neglected Cream tune "Politician" that is incorrectly listed as "Political Man" in the credits. Pini shows he is able to provide electric guitar with the kind of strong psychedelic edge associated with Eric Clapton's Cream and Blind Faith days. Elsewhere, many of the same guitarists who appealed to Clapton also seem to be providing inspiration for Pini, including Freddie King and Hubert Sumlin. Some of these references come off as a bit arbitrary, however, such as a cover of the King instrumental "Hideaway." Musicians as good as the ones involved here can play this type of material all night, but not every track here is as sublime as a medley of two Howlin' Wolf songs in which a superb mix, Pini's tasty licks, and Black's awesome vocal stand up alongside the original recording. "On the Road Again," a hit for Canned Heat that was based on the Skip James song style, is a great choice, sped up slightly and again mixed with natty style. The title tune is presented as some kind of a trippy medley in which conversation, crowd and street noises, and a stoned singalong of "Don't Bogart That Joint" turn up. More of this kind of silliness might have livened up the proceedings, particularly in moments when such a heavy dose of blues-rock gets boring. "Enron Blues" closes the album so perfectly it leaves regret in its wake, regret that Black and Estrada didn't get into more sarcastic political material, as it suits the jamming and is altogether more lively than the classic covers. Pini's original numbers also expand the harmonies and mood in a positive way, but wind up being a bit too different, standing out like something stranded that doesn't quite fit in.

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