This album, credited to Don Covay and the Jefferson Lemon Blues Band, is not only a great record on its own terms, but it's sort of a black parallel/precursor to a few blues-rock LPs by white artists that sold a hell of a lot more copies around the same time. On the one hand, it's as solid a blues album as anyone associated with R&B was making in 1969 and contains some of the best guitar-based blues on Atlantic this side of that one-off Blind Willie McTell record that they did at the end of the '40s. The guitar blues, interspersed with some organ-based numbers, mixes with Covay's whooped and hollered vocals like someone caught a performance at some roadhouse 20 miles from nowhere in Mississippi -- except that it's perfectly recorded, like someone sneaked Atlantic producer Herb Abramson and a late-'60s tape unit into a roadhouse 20 miles from nowhere. But the repertory ranges wider than that description would lead one to believe, from standards like "Key to the Highway" and "But I Forgive You Blues" to a brace of Covay originals, including the jaunty "Four Women," the soulful "Homemade Love" (which manages to be smooth, raw, and cute, all in six minutes), and two parts of "House of Blue Lights" -- not the Freddie Slack/Don Raye song popularized by the Andrews Sisters, Merrill Moore, and Chuck Berry, but, rather, a mournful lament akin thematically and in tempo to the original "House of the Rising Sun," only more intense and serious. The organ, mouth harp, and guitar textures achieved on that seven-minute song ripple and shimmer as though lifted and slowed down from the Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man," while "But I Forgive You Blues" goes back to '20s and early-'30s basics (and is really cool, with the guitars isolated on one channel so you can appreciate the playing up close and personal). Much of the album sounds like the sonic and spiritual blueprint for Let It Bleed andExile on Main Street and parts of Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs. Reissued in 2002 by the Sepiatone label in state-of-the-art sound and worth tracking down at twice the price they're charging (which is about what a vinyl copy would cost if you did find one). AMG.
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