As soul became the music of black America in the late 60s, blues performers had to adapt to survive. Playing to the white rock crowd was an attractive option, but in hundreds of sweaty, run-down clubs across the US an older urban black audience was still there to be entertained. Blues musicians made a few concessions to the age, added funk licks and a few soul screams and created some seriously good music, which has often been ignored by blues scholars. “Shattered Dreams” is BGP’s celebration of that period.
In recent years funky blues has become a sought-after genre, especially with younger collectors. Numbers such as Finis Tasby’s ‘It Took A Long Time’, Slim Green’s ‘Shake It Up’ and Buddy Guy’s ‘I’m Not The Best’ can all fill a dancefloor with their wild energy. The blues guys could certainly hit a groove, but if this CD captures anything it is a sense of despair you can hear as Smokey Wilson sings ‘You Shattered My Dreams’ – despair for an age that was fading away.
Drawn from the vaults of such influential players as Stax, Modern and legendary producer Johnny Otis, this is exciting music from major names such as Little Milton, Lowell Fulson and Albert King, all using the nous gathered through years on the chitlin’ circuit to keep themselves relevant to record-buying audiences of the day. Elsewhere we have some terminally obscure names and cult heroes. Finis Tasby and Smokey Wilson create music of great worth that was rarely heard at the time, never mind 40 years later. This is music that has been hidden away, sometimes ignored for being neither one thing nor the other.
Put “Shattered Dreams” in the player and you will very quickly be brought into a world of older guys still making it in the world. There is a lot of tough talk, but despite being cool, they are still stuck in a world of trouble full of women that make it hard for them, or who are trying to use them. Listen to Albert King on ‘Playin’ On Me’ and you are listening to a man expounding themes that wouldn’t sound out of place on rap records recorded decades later. The same could be said of Smokey Wilson’s previously unreleased ‘High Time’ or Arthur K Adams’ ‘Gimme Some Of Your Lovin’’.
These 21 tracks define an era when bluesmen were not the big stars they had been a decade or so earlier, struggling to keep it together in a world where their music was fast becoming a thing of the past.
By Dean Rudland