Every so often a real diamond turns up that had been thought lost, and that’s exactly how I feel about this treasure. Pinetop Perkins and Jimmy Rogers are two of the all-time greats and GENUINE BLUES LEGENDS, recorded in May 1988 as they were backed by Little Mike And The Tornadoes, captures the duo on a particularly hot night.
As both artists are no longer with us (Rogers passing in 1997 and Perkins in 2011) this delightful time capsule gives us one more chance to listen to their magic just as it was recorded all those years ago.
Combine their talents with those of Little Mike And The Tornadoes and we are the recipients of one of the most kick ass performances around.
Most any live album is going to have a few technical issues. Maybe a drum is overpowering the bass or the vocal doesn’t quite come through clearly enough – but the magic of a live performance is in capturing the spirit of the event, not so much capturing every pristine note. Each hall presents its own acoustical challenges and this album certainly has more than a few issues, but man does that spirit shine through.
On this night, deep into Ronald Regan’s second term, the line-up consisted of Pinetop on piano and taking the vocals on the first four and the last three numbers; Rogers on guitar and vocals on the last six songs (taking lead vocals on the fifth through seventh song); Mike Markowitz on harp; Tony O. Melio on guitar; Brad Vickers on bass; and Michael Anderson on drums.
Pinetop kicks things off with a solid version of Kidney Stew, although there are a couple of issues with his vocal mic. The audience is already warmed up (presumably from a set featuring Little Mike And The Tornadoes) and they are in to the show from the first note. Markowitz has some particularly strong harp riffs in the number.
Tommy Tucker’s High Heel Sneakers keeps things going and the guitar work is really strong in this number. Markowitz again takes a nice extended run and it lifts the song even further. This is one of those great numbers that just about everybody loves to dig in to. This song has already appeared on Time For The Blues and more will be sure to come from this album.
Pinetop slows things down a little with Had My Fun, and his piano takes on a distinctive honkytonk sound. The sound sounds a little distant on this one, but the piano and harp stand out and carry the song. The band gets a chance to stretch out the number with most of the players taking a turn on the lead and Melio’s guitar sounds amazing. You can hear some love from the audience in the background.
There’s a solid boogie riff to kick off For You My Love. Once again, the vocals are a little thin on Pinetop, but there is no mistaking the heat that is coming off the performers. Melio’s guitar is smoking and Anderson’s drums are driving the song. You can sense the audience hitting the dance floor or at the very least bopping along in their seats. So much fun is going on and you can feel it all these years later. By this time, if you are not a man of Markowitz, you never will be. This man is an amazing harp player who knows how to bring his instrument in to the mix just right. For my money, he’s one of the best around.
Jimmy Rogers joins the band and takes over on the vocals for a few songs, Jimmy Reed’s Big Boss Man plus the next two that he wrote, All In My Sleep and The Last Time. Big Boss Man starts out with some serious bass and guitar with harp punctuating. It’s a riff with some serious backbone. Markowitz then uses his harp to announce All In My Sleep, which starts out slow and languid. The intensity builds without accelerating the tempo. It’s a powerhouse of a song. He concludes his vocals with The Last Time, a nice swinging number that makes good use of Perkins’ piano chops.
Perkins returns to the lead vocals with When I Lost My Baby. The number is slow, deep, and punctuated by Markowitz’ plaintive harp and Perkins’ piano. The bass and drums keep a consistent but understated rhythm that allows the song to play out with minimal fireworks, but maximum emotion.
The band then launches into Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie, Perkins’ signature song and you hear the crowd show their approval. The band really gets into the swing of things and turns the number into a chance to strut their stuff. Perkins runs his boogie riffs with the assuredness of a master artist and the band keeps things going like they were born to play it. You can’t help but smile when you listen to this song.
Finally, they close out the album with Pine And Jimmy’s Jump, a song attributed to both men that ends everything with a solid rocking number. They trade licks with the band getting their share as well. Without a doubt Little Mike and The Tornadoes has got to be one of the hardest working bands around and their professionalism shows in every bar of music on this album.
The album may have been recorded in 1988, but ELROB Records has just made it available as of 2015. It made our list of one of the best of 2015, and after you listen to it, I think you will agree. What a great chance to hear three of my favorites on one album rocking out like they had all the time in the world. For more information, check out Little Mike and The Tornadoes page at http://www.littlemikeandthetornadoes.com/ and also check out how they sound backing up Zora Young, or how they sound on their own. Once you listen, you’ll want to hear more.
(Picture of the album, Pinetop Perkins & Jimmy Rogers Genuine Blues Legends with Little Mike And The Tornadoes and of Michael Markowitz were both "borrowed" from Little Mike's website. If you are the copyright holder and wish for them to be removed, please notify me and I will comply. I'll make faces behind your back, but I will comply...)