The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise is one of those excursions on which a batch of musicians are put on a cruise ship with their fans for a few days of playing on the high seas, which makes it an ideal occasion for a live album packed with guests. Joe Louis Walker, appearing with his regular backup band (Linwood Taylor on second guitar, Kevin Burton on keyboards, Henry Oden on bass, and Jeff Minnieweather on drums), welcomes 18 guests on these 11 tracks, most prominent among them Johnny Winter and Duke Robillard. In fact, his interactions with such fellow guitarists are among the high points on the disc. Walker revisits his own repertoire, dating back to his debut album, Cold Is the Night ("Ten More Shows to Play") and its follow-up, The Gift ("747"), along with tracks from his last couple of records. His is an electric blues sound that, while rooted in tradition, also came along after such blues-rock acts as the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream, and there are occasional echoes of that style. It may be that, given the circumstances, the players were inclined to let themselves go a bit more than usual; after all, nobody had to worry about driving home. In any case, the arrangements can be stretched out to the point of being a little loose and ragged, and the singing, while enthusiastic, can be too. Most of that singing is done by Walker himself, and it's possible that he makes a point in a sleeve note of saying the album has no overdubs or fixes as a way of explaining the occasional croakiness in his voice. Such imperfections are more than offset, however, by the enthusiasm with which everybody plays.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann