Pinetop Perkins

On the 88's: Live in Chicago

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In 2001, legendary blues pianist Pinetop Perkins was edging up on 88 years of age when he played the concert date in Chicago documented on this album. Perkins sounds plenty spry here, but this certainly doesn't capture the great man at his best; Perkins was a pioneer of the boogie-woogie style and was a longtime member of Muddy Waters' band, but most of On the 88's: Live in Chicago is devoted to easygoing midtempo numbers that sound a bit timid compared to what he played in his prime. Perkins shows he still had a great touch on this recording, and his timing is more than fine, but his left hand doesn't quite anchor these tunes the way he did in his salad days (it might have helped if he'd been given a better piano for this gig, since the instrument has the tone of a second-rate electronic keyboard), and even if his singing is game, his voice was showing its wear. Pinetop's band on this set is serviceable and the performances are solid all around, but this was probably a show more fun to attend than to hear after the fact, without the presence of the legend to add to the excitement. Completists will enjoy this, but those looking for an introduction to Pinetop's body of work should seek out 1988's After Hours instead.

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