Fenton Robinson – Out Of Chicago – The Chicago Blues Master – Live And Studio Sessions 1989/92
"A unique performer and stylist with an instantly recognizable style and sound.
Sophisticated, but still deeply Blues as guitarist, singer and songwriter. He cuts loose at the Burnley Blues Festival and at the Ecaussines Festival he’s flying. This music from different places and times gels together beautifully – at the centre of it all is a master musical talent surrounded at all times by wonderful musicians. Fenton left us in 1997 and left a too small set of recordings – so this addition to the discography is overdue."
1. You Don’t Know What Love Is - 2. I Had A True Love - 3. Just A Little Bit - 4. You Say You’re Leaving - 5. Help Me - 6. Stormy Monday - 7. Night Flight - 8. Ghetto Train - 9. Going To Chicago - 10. You Don’t Know What Love Is (LIVE)
On tracks 1-4 recorded March 27, 1989 & tracks 5-6 recorded March 28, 1989
Fenton Robinson (guitar/vocals) , Norman Beaker (guitar) , Dave Bainbridge (keyboards, piano) , Lenni (sax) , Chip O’Connor (bass) , Tim Franks (drums)
On tracks 7-10 recorded May 9, 1992
Fenton Robinson (guitar/vocals) , Son Seals (guitar) , Nicola Beccatoni (rhythm guitar) , Jeremiah Williams (bass guitar) , Rick Howard (drums) , Norman Grotsinger ‘saxophone) , Dan Rabinowitz (trumpet)
Back in 1989 there were still so many of the original legends playing and performing. I had ‘got my hands on’ booking The First Burnley Blues Festival (an English town only famous for the Festival!). I had Fenton Robinson on my wanted list for many years. A unique performer and stylist with an instantly recognizable style and sound. Sophisticated, but still deeply Blues as guitarist, singer and songwriter – and happily for me, a man who did not disappoint on arrival, either musically or as a genuinely nice guy.
Tracks 5 and 6 here are live at the Burnley Blues Festival – Fenton cuts loose and so obviously feels comfortable. Tracks 1 to 4 were recorded a day or so later at the BBC studios in Manchester and have a terrific ‘big’sound. ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’ has an absolutely wonderful, hypnotic bass line – and the other tracks groove along really, really nicely. The Norman Beaker Band backs on these tracks and American musicians loved them. They were far from a revivalist or copyist Blues band – but genuinely contemporary and plugged into what was then a very exciting Manchester scene.
I sat with Fenton and discussed with him recording a full album for me back in the US and somewhere I have a restaurant napkin on which Fenton jokingly wrote ‘Fenton says YES’. But at the BBC session I detected a little difficulty in communicating his wishes to the other musicians (completely undetectable in the final product – that’s what producers, engineers and the recording studios are for) so I didn’t pursue that. Instead, I did a deal for these first 6 tracks. The studio tracks appeared on a ‘Paul Jones R&B Show’ compilation that I think only went to one pressing – released more to ensure I got the masters from the BBC. The 2 live tracks were on a limited edition CD of tracks from the Festival that the organisers wanted out to publicise and establish its reputation. So it’s really gratifying to be able to get this material out again. I was planning on putting it out with further live material from Burnley – but something else interesting came up...
Through Pierre Degeneffe I have recently started to release live material from the Ecaussines Blues Festival held in Belgium from 1988 to 2013. The Denise LaSalle is out (a really hard blues small group performance from the Queen of Soul/Blues) and I hope more are to follow. Here we have Fenton with a wonderful Chicago band and he’s flying. A nice instrumental kicks us off and then it’s into a big surprise, a fabulously funky ‘Ghetto Train’ that’s a groove! ‘Going To Chicago’ is then given Fenton’s treatment, and we finish with that lovely ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’ – this time live. Looking back, I wish I had worked with Fenton again, but the few years after 1989 were just full of tours and festivals going on and Fenton himself seemed to have deals happening elsewhere. These 1992 recordings prove that he was out there working and still playing that lovely style of his to very enthusiastic audiences.
Somehow, I think this music from three different places and times gels together beautifully – at the centre of it all is a master musical talent surrounded at all times by wonderful musicians. Fenton left us in 1997 and left a too small set of recordings – so this addition to the discography is overdue.
As with the Denise LaSalle album, a special thanks must go to the great people at the Lucerne Blues Festival for providing what must now be a legendary backstage hospitality room where we people working in the blues biz can meet, do deals and generally make things happen.
John Stedman, JSP Records