Though the Climax Chicago Blues Band formed in Stafford, England, the band would likely have made any of the howling bluesmen from that storied Illinois city proud. Part of the vanguard of the British blues boom that also included the original Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and even Led Zeppelin, Cream and the Rolling Stones, the Climax Chicago Blues Band made its rip-roaring debut for Parlophone in 1969 and began a legacy which continues to this very day, albeit with a wholly different line-up than the one that founded the band all those many years ago. Esoteric Recordings, an imprint of the Cherry Red Group, has recently reissued the first three albums by the band in new expanded editions.
The self-titled The Climax Chicago Blues Band introduced the world to Colin Cooper (vocals/saxophones/harmonica), Pete Haycock (guitar/vocals), Arthur Wood (piano/organ/celeste/harmonium), Derek Holt (rhythm guitar/organ/bass), Richard Jones (bass) and George Newsome (drums). The sextet recorded its first album at Abbey Road under the auspices of budding producer Chris Thomas for George Martin’s AIR production company. Geoff Emerick was among its engineers. CCBB was recorded in just two days and largely based on the group’s well-honed live stage routine, blending original songs with covers including “Don’t Start Me Talkin’” by Sonny Boy Williamson, “How Many More Years” by Howlin’ Wolf and “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin. Williamson and Wolf, a.k.a. Chester Burnett, were leading lights of the Chess Records-fuelled blues scene in (where else?) Chicago.
(“How Many More Years” would go onto inspire “How Many More Times” on Led Zeppelin’s debut, earning Wolf a songwriting credit decades later.) And “The Entertainer” showed the versatile group’s prescience; just a few years later, Marvin Hamlisch would reinvent the ragtime tune for his Academy Award-winning score to The Sting. The Climax Chicago Blues Band emphasizes the blues part of the blues-rock equation, though the heavier tracks like “And Lonely” certainly fit the bill for blues-rock. Esoteric’s reissue premieres a full complement of seven bonus tracks including alternate takes of “Don’t Start Me Talkin’,” “You’ve Been Drinking” and “And Lonely” and outtakes of four other songs. Another Sonny Boy Williamson staple, “Checking On My Baby,” and T-Bone Walker’s torrid “Stormy Monday” are among the tracks originally left in the vault and rescued by producer Mark Powell for this release.
by Joe Marchese
1. Mean Old World (Big Bill Broonzy) - 3:52
2. Insurance (Waldense Hall, Charlie Singleton) - 3:49
3. Going Down This Road - 3:02
4. You’ve Been Drinking - 2:28
5. Don’t Start Me Talkin’ (Sonny Boy Williamson) - 3:18
6. Wee Baby Blues (Pete Johnson, Big Joe Turner) - 3:20
7. Twenty Past One - 3:08
8. A Stranger In Your Town (Colin Cooper, Lee Hazlewood) - 4:16
9. How Many More Years (Chester Burnett) - 2:58
10.Looking For My Baby - 2:50
11.And Lonely - 8:40
12.The Entertainer (Scott Joplin) - 2:44
13.Checking On My Baby (S. B. Williamson) - 3:24
14.Arthur's Boogie (A. Wood) - 1:35
15.Stormy Monday (T-Bone Walker) - 5:36
16.Don't Start Me Talkin' (Take One) (S. B. Williamson) - 2:54
17.Anybody's Boogie - 0:58
18.You've Been Drinking (Take One) - 4:11
19.And Lonely (Take Five) - 5:33
All songs by The Climax Chicago Blues Band except where stated.
The Climax Chicago Blues Band
*Colin Cooper - Vocals, Harmonica
*Peter Haycock - Lead Guitar, Slide Guitar, Vocal
*Arthur Wood - Piano, Organ, Celeste, Harmonium
*Derek Holt - Rhythm Guitar, Organ, Bass Guitar
*Richard Jones - Bass Guitar
*George Newsome - Drums
1970 Climax Chicago Blues Band - A Lot Of Bottle (2013 remaster and expanded)