Various Artists – Blues Christmas (2015)

FrontCover1.jpgWhen Los Angeles-based independent record label Cleopatra Records, Inc. began attracting talent from modern blues artists and purchased the estate of blues legend Junior Wells, the company decided to create a label imprint dedicated to the genre. Thus, Cleopatra Blues was born in 2015 and established itself with a logo based on a well-known of photo of Junior Wells smoking a cigarette.

And one of the first releases of this label was this Christmas album:

This year, get the Christmas Blues with this excellent set of new recordings by blues guitarists and vocalists who offer a unique spin on holiday cheer!

Includes recordings by beloved virtuoso guitarists such as Eric Gales, Popa Chubby, and Chris Spedding as well as Lightnin’ Hopkins, Freddy King, Leslie West, and more! (promo text)

Leaving it to the blues to give us a more realistic take on late December than most of pop culture can deliver to us. This collection is much more varied than you think and despite being all over the place then, it’s also a lot more consistent than you’d expect, drawing mostly from more recent acts. Need some dirty, innuendo-filled blues? Try Popa Chubby’s stinging guitar on “Back Door Santa” and Stax legend Steve Cropper’s “Let’s Make Christmas Merry, Baby.” Downhome funk anyone? Try Larry McCray’s “Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’” with its B.B.-like guitar. Downhome blues is covered here too with Kenny Neal’s take on “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”


Need a wild stomp with echoed harmonica? Try James Montgomery Band’s version of “Deck The Halls.” There’s even a girl group/Chuck Berry mash-up (Annie Marie Lewis’ “O Come All Ye Faithful”), rockabilly meets R&B (Debbie Davies’ “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus”), slow-burning metal (Eric Gales’ “Little Drummer Boy”) and even an odd, enticing acoustic-then-electric instrumental (Leslie West’s “Silent Night”). A bizarre, botched take on John/Yoko’s “Merry Christmas (War Is Over)” is easily counted with a pair of old school classics- Charles Brown’s re-make of his own “Merry Christmas Baby” and the gorgeous minimalism of Lightnin’ Hopkins “Santa.” Proving once again, sometimes it’s fun to have the blues. (


01.  Joe Louis Walker: Christmas (Comes But Once A Year) 2.44
02. Larry McCray: Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’ 3.05
03. Steve Cropper: Let’s Make Christmas Merry, Baby 5.09
04. Popa Chubby: Back Door Santa 2.13
05. Paul Nelson (Johnny Winter Band): Christmas Tears 3.27
06. Kenny Neal: I’ll Be Home For Christmas 3.06
07. Eric Gales: Little Drummer Boy 2.25
08. Chris Spedding: Blue Christmas 3.01
09. Pat Travers: Happy Christmas (War Is Over) 4.03
10. Leslie West: Silent Night 2.20
11. Foghat: Run Run Rudolph 2.58
12. Wolf Mail: I Want To Spend Christmas With You 3.05
13. Debbie Davies: Boogie Woogie Santa Claus 2.25
14. James Montgomery Band: Deck The Halls 1.47
15. Harvey Mandel: Santa Claus Is Coming To Town 3.33
16. Charles Brown: Merry Christmas, Baby 3,08
17. Annie Marie Lewis: O Come All Ye Faithful 2.50
18. Lightnin’ Hopkins: Santa 3.36
19. Freddy King: Christmas Tears 2.50



Eric Clapton – Jersey City (1974)

FrontCover1On the road to promote 461 Ocean Boulevard, Eric Clapton must have disappointed his fans when he played only three tracks from the new album – Let It Grow, Willie And The Hand Jive and Get Ready.

One posting on the internet says that in this show, Eric Clapton was very “loose” (that is, drunk), especially on vocals. Whether he was “loose” or drunk, he was in a fairly mellow mood, dragging out the gospel-ish Let It Grow. But he was not so out-of-it that he couldn’t play – Let It Rain has a nice jam at the end (after which Clapton says to the crowd, “don’t mind if I have a drink”) and he gets into the groove on Key To The Highway.

But then Clapton must have a lot on his mind to contend with. After his drug-addled days, his record company might be thinking that Clapton wouldn’t last the distance – hence they taped practically every show on this tour and eventually released the rather brief EC Was Here. Then he had Yvonne Elliman as backing vocalist. Elliman was married to Bill Oakes, the president of RSO Records; Oakes introduced her to Clapton, who “invited” Elliman to sing backup vocals on I Shot The Sheriff. “Invited” is probably a too-polite term. On his own Clapton was probably still thinking of Patti Harrison (hence the recurrence of Badge, a song written with George Harrison). But he seemed to have gritted his teeth somewhat and carried on – otherwise why would he open his shows on the 1974 tour with Charlie Chaplin’s Smile, with the happy-sad lyric, “Smile though your heart is aching”?

EricClapton01While Willie And The Hand Jive has existed with a faster tempo, here, it sort of shares the same terrain as the reggae-inflected I Shot The Sheriff (which is sorely missed). Though many might disagree, this was not a show of guitar artistry or pyrotechnics – though there was some outstanding playing on Have You Ever Loved A Woman. The key word is groove, as this excellent soundboard recording makes clear. Take Badge for instance. While the song is a Cream/Clapton classic, he lets the intro run on and on (because it grooves) and one keeps expecting Carlos Santana to jump in!

As a treat, Freddie King appears on Have You Ever Loved A Woman and Little Queenie.

These tracks originally appeared in the Undercover Box Set (Mid Valley Records). Thanks to ECMusicMan for sharing them.

Recorded live at Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, New Jersey, July 7, 1974

AlternateFront+BackCoverAlternate front+backcover (with additional tracks)

Eric Clapton (guitar, vocals)
Yvonne Elliman (vocals)
Carl Radle (bass)
George Terry (guitar)
Jamie Oldaker (drums)
Dick Sims (keyboards)
Freddie King (guitar, vocals on 10. + 11.)

01. Smile (Clapton) 1.40
02. Let It Grow (Clapton) 7.35
03. Let It Rain (D. Bramlett/B. Bramlett/Clapton) 10.12
04. Key To The Highway ( Segar/Broonzy) 5.43
05. Willie And The Hand Jive (Otis) 4.56
06. Get Ready (Clapton/Elliman) 7.08
07. Presence Of The Lord (Clapton) 2.03
08. Badge (Clapton/Harrison) 3.58
09. Tell The Truth (Clapton/Whitlock) 8.07
10. Have You Ever Loved A Woman (Myles) 15.18
11. Little Queenie (Berry) 7.14