Re: [Harp-L] Is Junior Wells over-rated?
- To: Dan Hazen <bluesmandan76@xxxxxxxxx>, "harp-l@xxxxxxxxxx" <harp-l@xxxxxxxxxx>
- Subject: Re: [Harp-L] Is Junior Wells over-rated?
- From: MARK BURNESS <markwjburness@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 3 Apr 2013 20:36:43 +0100 (BST)
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- Reply-to: MARK BURNESS <markwjburness@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Jr Wells recorded some seminal work, his playing on Muddy Waters "Standing Round Crying/Iodine In My Coffee/Going Down Main Street" (as well as his 50's United & States recordings) are outstanding recordings. Pretty much encapsulating what post war, amplified Chicago blues harp is. There is no one specific sound that is "Chicago amplified harp", but it's hard to think of tracks that represent what that phrase might mean to people, better than those cuts with Jr?
His playing became funkier & more stylised, away from the sound he had in the 50's, but distinctive and original. Check out Sam Charters' "Chicago - the BuesToday" recordings and the footage from Harley Cockliss' "Chicago Blues" film.
I think the Juke story is taken a little out of context, "Juke" only appears to have become a definite article with it's recording by Little Walter, the alternate take bears little resemblance (he doesn't repeat the track note for note on later version either), I don't doubt Jr had a similar tempo tune that he used as a theme...may or may not have had the same intro (a common motif in blues/jazz)...
Of course, you're not obliged to like Jr's playing, no point beating your head against a wall trying. Just try and look at his contribution in context...he had to cut his teeth & earn peer approval in a very competetive time & place.
Music appreciation is subjective & with decades passed, it's easy to look back & compare against much that has happened more recently & wonder "what was the big deal?"(like I guess Justin Beiber fans do with respect to Elvis or Frank Sinatra) , but it's always worth trying to step outside your own personal preferences and attempt to be objective...it may not appeal to you, but does that make it "bad"? Do you have to like it to appreciate it, or at least recognise it (this is something I ask myself, when others start raving about someone I'd perhaps not choose to listen to through my own choice).
Go back to 1953/54, to the tracks he recorded as a teenager, in the the company Chicago blues elite, and apart from the Walters & Sonny Boys, who else was there that was streets ahead of, or even on a par with, Jr?...It'll be a pretty short list! ;-)
From: Dan Hazen <bluesmandan76@xxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Wednesday, 3 April 2013, 17:23
Subject: [Harp-L] Is Junior Wells over-rated?
Hey everybody. I'm not wanting to start a firestorm of disagreement, just
wanting others' heated opinions on the subject (ha-ha). For several years,
I've tried to listen to and appreciate Junior Wells, but apart from his
playing on the old recording of Messin' with the Kid, I just do not
appreciate his playing. His singing is okay, but his playing (please
forgive me) seems like a lot of sloppy chord work to me, though some of his
syncopation and 'pops' are good. If you appreciate his style, and have
particular songs or youtubes that you think are great, I would like to know
about them, because so far, whenever I hear him play, I think, "meh." I
want to like him, but just don't. I've read elsewhere (can't recall where)
that he tried to claim he wrote 'Juke' and Little Walter stole it... a
claim I find ridiculous, as it certainly doesn't sound anything like the
other examples of Junior's playing I have heard. In fact, I wonder
(tongue-in-cheek, folks) if he played the harp on that recording of Messin'
with the Kid, since it doesn't sound like the other examples of his playing
I have heard. It's fast, furious, precise, rolling... I like it a lot. The
little bit of chord work towards the end of the solo is right on. But I
have yet to see a live version of the track in which Junior plays like he
did on the recording... parts of his live versions sound similar, but
chords are way off... as in this version:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJhCmvMV3sU ; which contains one of the
longer examples of him soloing, but it definitely is not like the
recording... chords are way off to my ears. Great singer, but mediocre harp
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