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Monday, April 4, 2016

Junior Parker - You Don't Have To Be Black To Love The Blues

Junior Parker was an extraordinary blues singer and harmonica player who laid down some superb material over the course of a twenty year career (1952-1971) before his life was cut short just prior to his fortieth birthday. It's inexplicable, then, why he has such a low profile among blues aficionados. He hit the charts a fair bit through the 1960's for Duke, retained a strong following among the black club audience but failed to break through to a wider audience. As such he was virtually ignored by the new white blues audience of the 1960's. If Parker is mentioned at all these days it's usually in association with his 1953 number "Mystery Train" which was picked up by Elvis.
Parker died in November 1971 during an operation for a brain tumor. Before he passed he sailed into the 1970's in promising fashion cutting a pair of terrific albums; You Don't Have To Be Black To Love The Blues circa 1970/1971 for Groove Merchant and I Tell Stories Sad And True for United Artists which was released in 1972. Parker's singing on these albums, to quote critic Tony Russell, "could be used as a manual of blues singing;" his singing is a model of control and phrasing, almost delicate with it's high, fluttering range, with every line placed perfectly for maximum effect. His harmonica playing is quite and melodic, parceled out in small but effective doses.
It sounds old fashioned, maybe even trite, but Parker really knew how to put across a song. He was a marvelous interpretor, a skill ably demonstrated on You Don't Have To Be Black To Love The Blues a collection of mostly standards and revivals of his old numbers. The gorgeous "Five Long Years" sets the tone with his languid, delicate phrasing matched by a stripped down, very mellow backing group. Parker takes his time on exquisite versions of "That's Alright", "Tin Pan Alley", "Sweet Home Chicago" and the fluttering vocal of "Man Or Mouse" a revival of a 1967 chart hit for Duke. "Way Back Home" is a funky, infectious soul/jazz instrumental sporting some fine, nuanced harmonica playing from Parker. Neither the album or the recent Blues Discography has a listing for the band but I was told that it was The Crusaders. This jibes with the overall sound, the fact that the song "Way Back Home" was written by member Wilton Felder and that The Crusaders also backed B.B. King during this period. Edited from Sundayblues.org

Credit to Frits for the rip
Post: http://www43.zippyshare.com/v/hTojVUQ0/file.html

8 comments:

Gerard Herzhaft said...

The idea of this very good and very bluesy late album by Junior Parker was to promote Junior towards the mostly white and international blues revival's public. Unfortunately, not too long ago after this LP, Junior died from brain surgery. I doubt very much the Crusaders are behind Junior on this. It was recorded in New York City and, according to Jimmy Mc Griff, it was his current band that backed Junior during that session?

Xyros said...

Once again many thanks for the extra info Gerard .. always welcome.

Anonymous said...

Cheers. These late Jr Parker albums are real gems. W.

KingCake said...

Thanks for this, a cool little album indeed

Franck Goldwasser said...

Who's the genius who wrote the comment for this post? Any "blues afficianado" digs Junior to death and understands he was a major artist. "Old fashioned"? "Trite"? Why don't go listen to your Joe Bonamassa CDs.

Xyros said...

No idea who wrote the comment but am I missing something In translation Franck?

Steve626 said...

Although I love Junior Parker's Duke recordings, the Groove Merchant sides are very, very nice and I appreciate you posting them.

Nate Ness Monster said...

Thank you very much!