The best blues album ever put to wax. This is Buddy Guy at his height of inventiveness, seasoned but still fresh, somehow in complete command of his craft and totally out of control at the same time. This is the definitive Chicago blues album – funnily enough, Buddy Guy had to go to France to get it recorded properly.
The story goes that Buddy Guy moved on from being a Chess records sessions guy with the greats (mainly Muddy Waters) and moved on to having a solo career of his own. During the 60’s he would perform these absolutely electric, otherworldly live shows but when he got into a studio producers had him cut 2:30 long pop versions of his songs or covers. These covers weren’t bad, they just weren’t unique (aside from Guy’s guitar work- one example) Guy never really took off in popularity beyond a niche audience during this time. I can’t find the reason, but one guy in France took a shot at recording a Buddy Guy album just as he would play it live- it results in absolute perfection.
The first track, I Smell a Rat, is so insane that I consider this take on the blues almost psychedelic, despite him not using any of the traditional psychedelic effects. Guy’s singing is manic, desperate and often overlooked. Here his singing is top notch, maybe the best performance of his career aside from his cover of Peggy Lee’s Fever, but his vocals are still overshadowed by his guitar work. He’s explosive, wildly inventive and breaks through a lot of phrasing conventions that you’re used to hearing in Chicago blues.
I always provide links, but if you’re interested and you’ve never heard this album I encourage you not to just casually look it up casually and listen in the background. If you can, go home, grab a strong drink and turn it up as loud as you and your neighbors can stand it. The more you think you know about blues, the less prepared you will be. This man bends notes to the point of breaking and even seems to break time itself in moments throughout this album.