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Deluxe Edition: Hound Dog Taylor

Hound Dog Taylor

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Album Review

The music of Hound Dog Taylor & the HouseRockers remains the place where rock & roll and the blues meet at the end of a dark alley. A slide guitarist of the Elmore James school, Taylor played raw, nasty-sounding music long on energy and short on subtleties. Other blues guitarists used distortion before Taylor, but he explored it to depths only previously investigated by white rock guitarists playing instruments and amplifiers far superior in quality to the cheap Japanese guitars and Sears & Roebuck amplifiers through which he blasted his brand of tonal mayhem. But it simply wasn't the lack of a good guitar and amp rig that made Taylor's music stick out from the pack of leg-licking B.B. King imitators that still infest the music. Taylor's music flowed from the warmest of impulses, brimming with good feeling, raw energy, and more than a little Canadian club. A three-piece band with no bass player (second guitarist Brewer Phillips played basslines on a battered Telecaster when he wasn't squeezing out metallic leads on it), Taylor and the HouseRockers brought more raw energy to the blues than a herd of modern boogie bands could only attempt to produce. His ragged but right approach found him an enthusiastic audience with both grizzled blues veterans and wide-eyed college kids, and influenced a number of up-and-coming slide guitar practitioners. This entry in Alligator's Deluxe Edition series draws from Taylor's four albums for the label — three studio and one live — along with two previously unissued live tracks. The song selection is nigh to excellent, stressing the connection between Taylor and the band's approach to rock & roll ("What'd I Say," "Give Me Back My Wig," "Take Five," "Walking the Ceiling") and the blues ("Wild About You, Baby," "The Sun Is Shining," "It Hurts Me Too," "Rock Me"). The two bonus live tracks are a welcome addition to Taylor's small recorded legacy and show just how precarious and volatile the mixture of these three gentlemen could be. "Phillips' Theme" showcases Brewer Phillips playing some of his best lead guitar work with Taylor's heavily tremoloed bass rhythm finally overtaking the whole shebang by song's end, while "Ain't It Lonesome?" is a talking blues where Taylor constantly cuts time on the band during the monologue, Phillips and drummer Ted Harvey following his every quirky move the way only musicians who have been playing together for years can. The CD also includes a hidden bonus track at the end of Taylor on-stage telling one of his patented incomprehensible jokes, one minute and 47 seconds of lunacy that's as much fun as the music that preceded it. The bottom line is: This is way more than simply a cash-grabbing sign pointed toward the rest of his catalog. Quite simply, if someone wanted to know what Hound Dog Taylor & the HouseRockers' music was all about, you could give them this CD and consider your mission accomplished.

Biography

Born: 12 April 1915 in Natchez, MS

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s

Alligator Records, Chicago's leading contemporary blues label, might never have been launched at all if not for the crashing, slashing slide guitar antics of Hound Dog Taylor. Bruce Iglauer, then an employee of Delmark Records, couldn't convince his boss, Bob Koester, of Taylor's potential, so Iglauer took matters into his own hands. In 1971, Alligator...
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Deluxe Edition: Hound Dog Taylor, Hound Dog Taylor
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