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The Real / Every Body Needs It

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Album Review

Ellen McIlwaine's Everybody Needs It with Jack Bruce is a very special record by an artist who deserves tremendous recognition. A photo of the Cream bassist adorns the back cover — McIlwaine on previous discs having covered Bruce's songs "Weird of Hermiston" and "Never Tell Your Mother She's Out of Tune." "I Want Whacha Got" explodes off the disc, her trademark slide guitar as vital — and wild — as her voice. Where George Thorogood plays his formula into the ground, McIlwaine offers a potpourri of sounds and ideas, and it is no wonder she is aligned here with Bruce. Along with her respect for his material, she does on one album what Bruce has done over an entire career — found a way to be all over the map. "Say a Single Word" is told over a rolling piano, a song of desire that speaks volumes on the subject, as did the opening number. The title track, "Everybody Needs It," renews the musical assault, an earthy, bluesy come-on about using sex to replace commitment, or at least to disguise the fear of promise: "Don't bring your bad time with you, I've got mine...." There are four McIlwaine originals on side one, with the last of them, "Come Sit Down and Tell Me," being a slide guitar and vocal demand to know what the breakup is all about ("I might have done some damage, but I didn't know..."). Percy Mayfield's "Danger Zone" changes moods yet again, the low bass tones working with Paul Wertico's sparse percussion, allowing McIlwaine's voice to dominate over truly innovative music. Not content to limit herself, the singer takes Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "Nothing Left to Be Desired" and adds funkiness that takes it out of blues and out of folk, making for a riveting listening experience. The Bruce/Power composition "Regretting Blues" indeed has power, while McIlwaine takes Tim Hardin's "Hang on to a Dream" and just reinvents it, giving the tune a Grace Slick-style vocal and co-dedicating the disc to Hardin and Roy Byrd (aka Professor Longhair). This is a most unique record album, Bruce's bass bubbling up on Eric Katz's "Temptation Took Control" after a majestic "Cure My Blues." Everybody Needs It is one of those great, great, great, great albums that got away. Strangely reissued under the supervision of Holger Petersen for a 23-track CD version that includes an additional 13 cuts from 1975's The Real Ellen McIlwaine, the original vinyl album contains 11 tracks, the excellent "Temptation Took Control" not on the reissue. "Keep On," the fifth and final composition from the singer/songwriter, concludes the album with piano/bass-heavy accompaniment surrounding McIlwaine's positive message of tenacity and perseverance, words she can identify with, words that were created to describe her. This album is an absolute find you simply must hunt down, get, and treasure.


Born: 01 October 1945 in Nashville, TN

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Guitarist, singer, and songwriter Ellen McIlwaine is a gutsy, spirited performer who plays and sings a fiery brand of blues like few other female blues singers. Why she's not more widely known is one of the mysteries of the record business, as she's been on the scene a long time. Adopted and raised by missionaries, McIlwaine spent her first 15 years in Japan, playing piano at age five and singing in a church choir. She began listening to U.S. Armed Forces Radio in junior high school, becoming enamored...
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The Real / Every Body Needs It, Ellen McIlwaine
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