Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Buddy Guy & Junior Wells

  • Buddy Guy and Junior Wells Play the Blues [Atco, 1972] A-
  • Drinkin' TNT and Smokin' Dynamite [Blind Pig, 1982] B+
  • Alone and Acoustic [Alligator, 1991] *
  • Last Time Around: Live at Legends [Silvertone, 1998] A-
  • Buddy Guy & Junior Wells Play the Blues [Rhino Handmade, 2005]

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Buddy Guy and Junior Wells Play the Blues [Atco, 1972]
Most attempts to broaden the blues audience fail in every way, as Wells's r&b albums for Blue Rock attest, but this one's at least a musical triumph, as relaxed and intense and authentic as any of Wells's work for Vanguard or Delmark. The sales gimmicks are tastefully hyped-up production and such participants as Eric Clapton (backup and bottleneck), Dr. John, and the J. Geils Band (on two change-of-pace Guy vocals, including "This Old Fool," which is going to be the single and ought to be). Wells has softened his spitting style with a few soul mannerisms and his harmonica has lost none of its verve; Guy's flash and facility are ideal in this context. Hurray. A-

Drinkin' TNT and Smokin' Dynamite [Blind Pig, 1982]
I assume this 1974 live-at-Montreux was finally released because it features Bill Wyman, who does seem to know the parts, but saints be praised, he's not the star. Saints be criticized, neither is Wells, who was once a sharper, tighter singer. He's plenty soulful, though, especially on harp, and Guy picks up the slack--listen to him think on "Ten Years Ago." B+

Alone and Acoustic [Alligator, 1991]
au contraire--together and acoustic ("High Heel Sneakers," "Give Me My Coat and Shoes") *

Last Time Around: Live at Legends [Silvertone, 1998]
They last performed together in 1993, half a decade before Wells died, and they fit like an old pair of shoes, picking up on cues that haven't even been delivered yet. The first "What'd I Say," a highlight twice, takes off on the clicks, moans, squeals, hoots, and chicken squawks Wells cuts into Guy's vocal, and again and again classic titles from their book and everyone else's are adjusted to accommodate classic lines from the universe of blues readymades. Take this as a passport to that universe, but don't expect anyone to sell you a map. A-

Buddy Guy & Junior Wells Play the Blues [Rhino Handmade, 2005]
The classic Guy-Wells album remains Delmark's 1966 Hoodoo Man Blues, which is credited to Wells. Runner-up is this relaxed, whiteboy-garnished 1972 set, now augmented with nine previously unissued new songs that fit the bill and four previously unissued alternate mixes that don't. Guy gets major vocal space, top-billed because in 1972 his expansive guitar chops had some racial optimist at Atlantic seeing stardom. He'll never be as distinctive a singer--Wells had a sound. But the older man gave Guy valuable laying back lessons, which he forgets to excellent effect whamming home Little Brother Montgomery's "First Time I Met the Blues." [Recyclables]

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