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CD REVIEW -- Buddy Guy

BUDDY GUY

Live at Legends

RCA/ Silvertone

Buddy Guy CD art

By Linda Cain

Each January blues fans from all over the world make the pilgrimage to Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago, braving the cold weather outside and the jam-packed crowds inside, to see Buddy perform in the intimate confines of his very own blues club for his annual residency.  There is never a dull moment when the unpredictable guitar hero hits the stage to entertain the faithful and interact with his fans.

Buddy Guy Live at Legends captures the spontaneity and unpredictable nature of a Buddy show (swear words and all) with seven very long live tracks recorded at Legends’ original location at 754 S. Wabash on January 29 & 30, 2010.  Also included are three bonus tracks recorded in the Nashville studio sessions for his award-winning Living Proof CD that same year.

With a career that spans over 50 years, countless awards and over 50 albums under his belt, this isn’t the first live CD for Buddy, nor does he cover any new territory here. But it is the first time he’s recorded with his current, highly-regarded touring band, rather than session players. And that alone is, as they say, worth the price of admission.  Backing Buddy are: Marty Sammon on keyboards, Ric (yes that is the correct spelling) Hall on second guitar, along with the mighty locomotive engine team of Tim Austin on drums and Orlando Wright on bass. These cats are stop-on-a-dime tight and can switch gears to follow Buddy’s every whim at a wave of their leader’s hand, going from a whisper to a scream in moments.  Set list? Forget about it! They are musical mind readers. Buddy generously allows superb piano man Sammon to solo heartily during many of the instrumental breaks, much to the audience’s delight.  And, of course, the fearless leader’s legendary guitar prowess and showmanship is on full display.

The show starts with a bang as the band launches into overdrive for a funky, wah-wah guitar driven “Best Damn Fool”, segueing into “Mannish Boy” featuring Buddy’s thunderous voice, which he suddenly takes down to a whisper; apparently he’s singing off mic or strolling into the crowd at this point.  Ever the fickle performer, Buddy gets loud again on his guitar, playing a scorching, rockin’ intro to “I Just Want To Make Love To You” as he beckons the audience to sing along.

Buddy quiets down, singing off mic again, then suddenly wails on his guitar with a psychedelic wah-wah solo, notes flying at high speed. He throws in a bit of Bobby Rush’s double entendre ode to “Chicken Heads” before switching to more serious matters on his own tune “Skin Deep”.  Buddy’s starts the gospel influenced song with his “sitar guitar” effect as he delivers the heartfelt, socially conscious message that “underneath, we are all the same.”  It is the only number in the show that Buddy plays all the way through to the end without distraction.

It’s back to goofing around with the fans in the house for “Damn Right I Got The Blues” and then into a blues history lesson as he plays a medley of songs in honor of John Lee Hooker, Cream and Jimi Hendrix – “Boom Boom,” “Strange Brew,” “Voodoo Chile,” and “Sunshine of Your Love” – to close out the show. The three studio songs round out the CD with some outstanding never-before-released tracks: “Polka Dot Love,” “Coming For You,” and a very down-home, compelling cover of Muddy Waters’ “Country Boy.”

When it comes to Buddy’s January residency shows at Legends, this disc is just the tip of the iceberg. He has been known to play two hours nonstop and this disc isn’t that long. In fact there are no song times to be found anywhere on the CD or liner notes. And this live recording is highly problematic for radio programmers, as it includes Buddy’s profanity laced chatter on half of the tracks -- lots of f-bombs and mf-bombs.  (Damn right he’s got the blues; he’s in his own damn club and he’ll swear if he wants to, dammit).  Ironically, the only tracks on this live album that are totally safe for airplay are the last three studio cuts.

Nevertheless, Buddy Guy Live At Legends is a lot of fun to listen to, especially cranked at high volume. If you’ve never been to Legends to see Buddy in January, this is a nice taste of what the master guitar chef serves up to warm his customers each winter.

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