Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Mel Brown - 1967 - Chicken Fat

Mel Brown
1967
Chicken Fat



01. Chicken Fat
02. Greasy Spoon
03. Home James
04. Anacrusis
05. Hobo Flats
06. Shanty
07. Sad But True
08. I'm Goin' To Jackson
09. Slalom

*Mel Brown - Guitars
*Ronald Brown - Bass
*Paul Humphrey - Drums
*Gerald Wiggins - Organ
*Herb Ellis - Guitar (on Tracks 1, 2, 3, 7 & 8)
*Arthur Wright - Guitar (on Tracks 4, 5, 6 & 9)

Recorded in Hollywood, California on 31 May & 1 June, 1967.




Best known for his decade-plus stint in support of Bobby "Blue" Bland, Mel Brown channeled elements of soul, funk, and jazz to create one of the most distinctive guitar styles in contemporary blues. Born October 7, 1939, in Jackson, MS, Brown received his first guitar at the age of 14 while battling meningitis, spending hours each day studying the music of idols like B.B. King and T-Bone Walker from his sickbed. His father, John Henry "Bubba" Brown, a gifted amateur guitarist who often backed Delta legend Tommy Johnson, was another seminal influence. After recovering from his illness, Brown joined the Duke Juniors, a teenaged spinoff of the popular local society band the Duke Huddleston Orchestra. Word of his prodigious abilities spread quickly throughout the region, and at 15, he played a series of gigs backing the great Sonny Boy Williamson. After a brief stint in Los Angeles, Brown returned to Jackson in 1955, honing his skills under Huddleston before permanently settling in L.A. three years later. After a six-month stretch with West Coast R&B singer Jimmy Beasley, Brown spent two years backing R&B great Johnny Otis. In late 1960, he toured with the Olympics, followed by a two-year tour of duty with the great Etta James. Most significantly, while touring with James he swapped his Les Paul for a hollow-bodied Gibson ES-175, later crediting the instrument for the warm, rich tone that set him apart from rival guitarists.

By 1963 the grind of touring forced Brown off the road. He returned to L.A. and resumed his collaboration with Otis, enjoying an extended residency at the Club Sands. He also launched a session career, playing on records by everyone from Bobby Darin to Bill Cosby as well as T-Bone Walker's Funky Town LP. His contributions so impressed ABC/Impulse! producer Bob Thiele that he invited Brown to cut his own album for the label: 1967's Chicken Fat, a wonderfully greasy blues-funk outing pairing Brown with fellow guitarist Herb Ellis, remains a cult classic. A series of impressive LPs including The Wizard, I'd Rather Suck My Thumb, and Big Foot Country Gal followed in quick succession before Brown joined Bland in 1971, appearing on the singer's classic California Album two years later. During his stint with Bland, the guitarist also moonlighted behind blues legends John Lee Hooker, Lightnin' Hopkins, and Roy Brown, and in 1976 he relocated to Nashville, where he maintained an even busier session schedule than in Los Angeles. Upon resuming his collaboration with Bland, Brown made the decision to temporarily abandon guitar in favor of the piano. He remained with the singer until 1982, putting his performing career on hiatus and moving to remote northeast Mississippi in an attempt to escape the music business.

Brown resurfaced in 1983 as a member of the house band at the legendary Austin, TX, blues joint Antone's. In the years to follow, he backed everyone from Buddy Guy to Stevie Ray Vaughan to Clifton Chenier. In 1986, he accepted Albert Collins' offer to join his band the Icebreakers, recording the acclaimed LP Cold Snap before returning to Antone's. In 1989, he resumed his solo career with If It's All Night, It's All Right, released on the club's eponymous label. A few months later Brown headlined the Kitchener, Ontario, venue the Pop-the-Gator Club, finding the experience so much to his liking that he relocated to Canada in early 1990. There he formed a new band, the Homewreckers, and steadily toured the southern Ontario nightclub circuit, finally reappearing on wax in 1998 as a guest on Snooky Pryor's Can't Stop Blowin'. Brown's Electro-Fi label debut, Neck Bones & Caviar, followed a year later, winning the W.C. Handy Award for Blues Comeback of the Year. With 2000's co-headlined Double Shot!, he and Pryor earned a W.C. Handy nomination for Traditional Blues Album of the Year. The concert disc Homewreckin' Done Live followed a year later. After another five-year layoff from recording, Brown issued Blues: A Beautiful Thing in early 2006.

Mississippi-born, West Coast-based guitarist Mel Brown flexed his slinky fingers with blues god T-Bone Walker before going out on his own for this seriously funky 1967 session. The hot studio band here also includes versatile L.A. pianist Gerald Wiggins and none other than six-string legend Herb Ellis, who dishes up fiery exchanges with Brown on the backbone-slipping “Greasy Spoon” and the Down-South, down-home title cut. In addition to handling arrangements on the date, composer supreme Oliver Nelson (“Stolen Moments”) contributed two tunes; the tricky, frenetic “Anacrusis” and the wah-wah-covered “Hobo Flats.”

But it’s the blues that form the rich and juicy marrow of Brown’s soulful style, and Chicken Fat’s pair of late-night, down-tempo workouts—the sultry original “Home James” and the Ellis-composed “I’m Goin’ to Jackson”—will have you licking your lips with deep delight. Guitar chops meet pork chops on this gorgeous gatefold repress of the original Impulse! LP, one that’s sure to water the mouths of not only jazz and blues fans but of anyone who can’t get enough of that good ol’ raw, funky, Booker T.-style soul. Pass the sauce!

If you're into Booker T. & The MGs, Grant Greens funkiest stuff("Alive!"), John Lee Hooker,
Lou Donaldson or just like tight and smokin' grooves, then this has more than enough fat
chicken and guitar chops on it, to keep you satisfied for weeks.

I didn't even know who Mel Brown was before I stumbled over this album, and after listening
to it a couple of times I couldn't believe that I never even heard of the man, because this
is one of those rare albums where the quality NEVER drops and the groove just keep on building.
WHY ISN'T THIS ALBUM TALKED ABOUT?!!
I just don't get it.

This could be almost anybodys bag. It's rooted in the blues, but brings R&B, funk and soul,
rock n roll, cool organ work and some incredible guitar exchanges.

Tight! Mellow! Cookin'! Raw!

I really hope that some of his other stuff from this period gets reissued, because if it brings the
same amount of juice, it needs to be squeezed.

1 comment:




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