Melvin Taylor & The Slack Band – Dirty Pool – Pure Pleasure Records

by | Jul 15, 2021 | Jazz CD Reviews, SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Melvin Taylor & The Slack Band – Dirty Pool – Evidence Records ECD26088 (1997)/Pure Pleasure Records (2021) 180-gram stereo vinyl, 45:31 ****1/2:

Pure Pleasure Records releases an excellent re-mastered vinyl of a modern blues player.

(Melvin Taylor – guitar, vocals; Ethan Farmer – bass; James Knowles – drums)

Starting with T-Bone Walker in the 30’s and John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters in the 40’s, electric blues music transformed the genre. Bringing a jazzy swing, urban cities like Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, St. Louis and The West Coast became centers  for this amplified dance hall sound. It is believed that the increased volume helped the bands persevere over “rent party” noise. Two impactful offshoots of this genre development was the British and Texas Blues blues scenes. While musicians still embraced some versions of acoustic Delta-infused instrumentation, electric blues became the future of this iconic American musical vision.

One of the premier archivist labels of classic blues is Pure Pleasure Records. With stellar, pristine re-mastering to state-of-the-art 180-gram vinyl, and reproduction of original packaging, the legacy of this music endures. The label has released a re-mastered vinyl of a modern blues record, 1997’s  Dirty Pool by Melvin Taylor & The Slack Band. This is unadulterated guitar trio blues with jagged intensity. Side A opens with the boogie riffs of “Too Sorry”. Taylor’s urgent vocals, framed by multiple repeat  lines rock along, and his muscular, edgy guitar solos are compelling. The title track is a slower groove, reminiscent of many classic blues artists.His scintillating intro injects a slow-burning intensity that is a perfect vehicle for love gone bad. Raw, unrelenting emotion pours out of the guitar as a wailing vocal complements the incendiary guitar jam. Willie Dixon’s standard, “I Ain’t Superstitious” has been covered by many, including blues legend Howlin’ Wolf. Taylor elects to brings a smoother arrangement with  subtle vamps and crisp guitar runs. Leiber and Stroller’s r & b hit “Kansas City” captures the spirit of Wilbert Harrison’s 1959 arrangement. Taylor’s freewheeling vocal style and modern approach breathe new life into this iconographic number. The cut-ending “shredding” is potent. Albert King’s “Floodin’ In California” channels the traditional blues imagery of “moving to higher ground” with a barrage of studio-enhanced guitar effects.

Staying with Albert King, “Born Under a Bad Sign” (written by Stax artists William Bell and Booker T. Jones) is full of hooks and familiar contexts (“…if it wasn’t for bad luck. I wouldn’t have any luck at all…”). It is familiar, but still gripping. Taylor’s energetic commitment and bristling finish does another great standard justice. Slowing it down, Otis Rush’s “Right Place, Wrong Time” showcases Taylor’s considerable vocal skills and commanding guitar presence. Against the tight rhythm section (Ethan Farmer/bass; James Knowles/drums), the trio maintains its lockstep chemistry. In a homage to fellow modern blues guitarists Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan, “Telephone Song” is timeless and visceral. With Taylor”s obvious respect for the blues purveyors that preceded him, he closes the album with Charles Brown’s “Merry Christmas Baby”. This holiday staple has been covered by acts like Otis Redding and (The) Eagles. Taylor’s interpretation is spot-on. 

Kudos to Pure Pleasure Records for this 180-gram vinyl upgrade of Dirty Pool. The stereo mix is balanced and centers around the piercing tonality of Taylor’s guitar.   

Side A: Too Sorry; Dirty Pool; I Ain’t Superstitious; Kansas City; Floodin’ In California
Side B: Born Under A Bad Sign; Right Place, Wrong Time; Telephone Song; Merry Christmas Baby. 

—Robbie Gerson

For more information, please visit vendor Acoustic Sounds, or Pure Pleasure

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Melvin Taylor - Dirty Pool, Album Cover

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