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Big James And The Chicago Playboys - The BIG PaybackLive

Blind Pig Records


Although touted as a blues band, Big James and company are a funk-R&B outfit that throw a few blues guitar licks into the mix. Some blues songs are covered, albeit in a funk-R&B mode. The band is tight and talented, but hardly a blues musician among them. Guitarist Mike “Money” Wheeler manages the occasional blues run, but it usually ends up in rock territory. Along with playing trombone, Big James supplies the necessary rough vocals to the mix. The production values are crisp and clear for a live recording. The show was taped at the legendary Lionel Hampton Jazz Club in Paris, France before an enthusiastic crowd. The horn section includes Charles “Richard” Pryor along with the leader.

The title song is a lively workout on a James Brown tune, with the two-man horn section there at every turn. The closest they get to blues is the R&B-blues of “Coldest Man I Ever Knew”. The sentimental tale of a family member unfolds over a horn-fed funk groove. Magic Sam’s “All Your Love” is given an R&B treatment with the vocals rough instead of drenched in emotion. Charles Pryor deserves recognition for his steady horn blowing while the leader is singing, almost sounding like two horns. Johnnie Taylor’s 1971 hit, “Jody’s Got Your Girl And Gone” is performed in much the same vein. The “Wicked, Wicked Wilson Pickett” springs to mind during the breathless R&B groove of “Trying To Live My Life Without You”. They include an uncharacteristic slow George Clinton tune, “I’ll Stay”, that features a biting horn solo and a bluesy guitar solo.

One of three original songs, “Low Down Dirty Blues” owes much to the “supper club” sound of Bobby “Blue” Bland. It’s in the classic “woman done me wrong” blues mode. Joe “Goldie” Blocker offers one in many of his tasty organ runs. They close the show out with an instrumental version of Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water”, with the horns punctuating the riff.

James’ shouts of “Chicago blues” and “play the blues” might be intended to disguise the fact that are a R&B-party band ala Kool And The Gang. You can see the horn players winging their horns back and forth and doing fancy dance steps in your mind’s eye. The guitar playing falls anywhere between blues and shredding. The guys are good for what they do and after all this is for a live audience. Good funky music for your next party.

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.

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