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Blue Memphis Suite

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Album Review

Teamed with guitarist Peter Green and a well-oiled ensemble of British musicians including John Paul Jones on Hammond organ, Memphis Slim cooked up The Blue Memphis Suite in a London studio at four sessions during June of 1970. A theatrically conceived autobiographical revue, this album feels at first like a sort of audio pantomime as the pianist paints narrated pictures of where he's been and what he's done. A couple of these episodes are broadly obvious, as when he introduces the Windy City segment by quoting from Fred Fisher's hit of 1922, "Chicago." Gutsier reflections materialize in the form of elegies for Otis Spann and Earl Hooker, the authentically slow and ruminative "Feel Like Screaming and Crying" and a refreshingly honest piece entitled "Chicago Seven," where Slim wryly points out that "Nobody seemed worried about all the black blood spilled, but they began to take notice when some of their own got killed." Sobering stuff! Two newly discovered "rough mix" tracks round off this reissue in ways that seem to top the original release: "Mother Earth" now caps the project with humbling intimations of mortality and "I've Got Soul" (its lyrics consisting only of the title sung like a bluesy mantra) serves as the last word on the subject.

Biography

Born: 03 September 1915 in Memphis, TN

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

An amazingly prolific artist who brought a brisk air of urban sophistication to his frequently stunning presentation, John "Peter" Chatman — better known as Memphis Slim — assuredly ranks with the greatest blues pianists of all time. He was smart enough to take Big Bill Broonzy's early advice about developing a style to call his own to heart, instead of imitating that of his idol, Roosevelt Sykes. Soon enough, other 88s pounders were copying Slim rather than the other...
Full Bio