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Chess Masters

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Album Review

It's easy to be suspicious of the 2000 incarnation of Dr. Feelgood since it not only doesn't contain Lee Brilleaux, the Feelgoods' leader throughout their history, but it doesn't contain any original members at all. Still, the group's comeback effort Chess Masters (they should be docked points for titling the record so it seems as if it was part of a reissue series of classic Chess recordings) is a damn good album, one that will surprise neophytes and longtime fans alike. According to Kevin Morris' brief liner notes, he was inspired to give the Feelgoods another chance after Will Birch encouraged him and the band while he was preparing the excellent pub rock history, No Sleep Til Canvay Island. Morris agreed with Birch and put together a new version of the band, with the idea of essaying a tribute to Chess Records with their new album (hence the name Chess Masters). It is a real testament to Dr. Feelgood that Chess Masters doesn't sound rote, even though it contains a number of familiar tunes from the Chess catalog ("Who D You Love," "Killing Floor," "Suzie Q," "Talkin' Bout You," "Don't Start Me Talking," "Hoochie Coochie Man"). They did sprinkle the album with some lesser-known tunes, but the selection of songs matters less than the feeling of the performance. Thankfully, the Feelgoods have captured the sound of a first-rate bar band on a hot night, which means that Chess Masters is just a fine listen, from start to finish. Will it make you forget the glory days of Down by the Jetty? No, it won't. The band isn't volatile or hot, but it is a lot looser and fun, which is something that many modern-day blues-rock outfits can't claim as characteristics. That's why Chess Masters winds up being a better record than even the diehards could have expected, and even if it doesn't find its way onto your turntable all that often, it'll always sound good when it's spun.


Formed: 1971

Genre: Rock

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

Dr. Feelgood was the ultimate working band. From their formation in 1971 to lead vocalist Lee Brilleaux's untimely death in 1994, the band never left the road, playing hundreds of gigs every year. Throughout their entire career, Dr. Feelgood never left simple, hard-driving rock & roll behind, and their devotion to the blues and R&B earned them a devoted fan base. That following first emerged in the mid-'70s, when Dr. Feelgood became the leader of the second wave of pub rockers. Unlike Brinsley Schwarz,...
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