Despite his longevity and the relative amount of local success he achieved, Bay Area guitarist and bandleader Eugene Blacknell never released a full-length before his death in 1990. Fortunately, he had enough recorded material that his son Gino was able to compile a collection of his father's best work for the Luv n' Haight-issued We Can't Take Life for Granted, the title the name of one of a handful of previously unreleased tracks included on the album. And it's too bad it took so long for something like this to reach an audience beyond Northern California, serious cratediggers, and those who heard the sample of "We Know We Have to Live Together" on Beck's "Black Tambourine" (from Guero) and decided they wanted to know more. Because what We Can't Take Life for Granted shows is a talented musician and songwriter, one who sounded just as good in his younger, rawer funk days as leader of the Savonics (a group he started when he was in high school, but whose tight five-piece rhythms and grooves would've been hard to match even by older professionals, and is assuredly part of the reason Joe Simon asked the freshly graduated Blacknell to act as leader of his touring band from 1964 to 1966) and the early New Breed as he does with the more polished, fuller techniques he employs later on, where the driving edge of the horns and percussion (in the fantastic "The Trip," for example, which was a hit on local radio stations) is replaced by smoother guitars and keys ("Holdin' On," "We Can't Take Life for Granted"). Although Blacknell is a more-than-able guitarist, he hardly allows himself the space or time to take a solo, instead letting the band groove, adding vocals (again, a later development) when necessary but focusing mostly on the squelching guitar riffs, the bass, and the organ and sax lines. When he does take the lead ("WahWah Funk," "I'm So Thankful") he holds his own, playing concise, measured bars that make it easy to see why he was compared to people like Albert King, but it's his band -- with his direction, his influence, his overall vision -- that is what really needs to be heard. We Can't Take Life for Granted doesn't push or stretch the boundaries of Bay Area (or any area) funk much, but that's not what Blacknell was about. He was about skill, about chops, about tightness, and most importantly, about groove, and this record, an amalgamation of his life, certainly has all that.
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AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown