Several years ago I was combing the CD stacks at Zulu Records—back when they were located on the other side of Fourth and a little further east—and came across the 1995 tribute album Rattlesnake Guitar: The Music of Peter Green. Man, what a find that was! It featured some of the world's top guitarists performing on the type of Green-penned classics that have been covered by everyone from Santana ("Black Magic Woman") to Judas Priest ("The Green Manalishi") to—just last week at GM Place—Tom Petty ("Oh Well"). The two-disc collection was also notable for including two of the last studio recordings Rory Gallagher made before tragically passing on in June of '95.
Apparently I'm not the only one who was blown away by Rattlesnake Guitar, because the sharp-eared folks at Eagle Records have just released This is the Blues Volume One, which collects some of its worthiest tracks and combines them with selections from 1997's Knights of the Blues Table and some other sources to create one helluva prize for fans of wailing, guitar-drenched blues.
None other than Jeff Beck kicks things off with "Hobo Blues", a cut from a 2002 John Lee Hooker tribute album that features the supremely soulful vocals of Earl Green and the type of wired, off-the-cuff guitarwork that makes people worship Beck as a god and forget about Clapton.
Larry McCray steps up the plate next to breathe funky new fire into "Black Magic Woman", and he gives Gary Moore a run for his fret-strangling money on that one. Other six-string highlights include Savoy Brown guitarist Kim Simmonds's tasty country-blues bottleneck on his "Going Down to Mobile", former Stone Mick Taylor getting low down and dirty on Willie Dixon's "You Shook Me", and innovator Harvey "The Snake" Mandel lighting up Green's "Long Grey Mare".
For all those latter-day Mott the Hoople fans who wondered whatever happened to Luther Grosvenor, he's there—along with a couple of Spooky Tooth alumni—playing lead on one my favourite Green tunes, "Crying Won't Bring You Back". And if you thought that you recognized Grosvenor's alter ego Ariel Bender getting all jangley on rhythm guitar, you were right.
A second volume of This Is the Blues features performances by Gallagher, John Lee Hooker, Booker T. Jones, and—on a cover of Robert Johnson's "Travelling Riverside Blues"—Green himself. Volumes 3 and 4 are scheduled for release on July 20, but till then you can enjoy this vintage clip of Green leading Fleetwood Mac in "Oh Well" and apparently finding great humour in its second verse.