Does anyone ever wish they could speak more than just English and a little bit of something else? In my case, it’s Spanish, and sometimes I do wish I knew more than just those two. This is especially true after listening to this new release from Clifton Chenier, Squeezebox Boogie. Chenier feels right at home on this live disc recorded in Montreal and he doesn’t mind speaking exclusively to the crowd in their own language in between songs, and on a lot of the tracks, as well. So, I think instead of even trying to mention the lyrical content any more, I’ll leave it at this: it’s mostly in French.
Musically, Chenier and his band don’t make any statements on this live disc, except that zydeco as we know it from Buckwheat Zydeco and Baux Jacques was not necessarily the typical zydeco at the time of this recording. I have attended Buckwheat concerts twice, and also those of a few other smaller zydeco bands, and none was nearly as Chicago blues-influenced as this particular recording. It’s slow, and tries to get in a groove, but never seems to. This is possibly due to the upfrontness of the tenor sax of John Hart, and the pushed-to-the-back feeling of Chenier’s accordion.
The set tries to kick itself into high gear on track nine of 10, “Whole Lotta Lovin’,” a jumpy, happy sounding tune. The song gives a little time for guitar soloing, which is also forced into the soft range of the recording. Chenier’s soloing on this track seems a little closer to normal volume range, and he romps through it with a whole lot of cool single note playing and nifty chording. It is definitely the highlight of the album, which has so many less than outstanding tracks. Track 10 is back down to standard speed for the disc, which just seems to drag a whole lot.
On the whole, Squeezebox Boogie shows the limitations of the recordings, done by Montreal club owner Roue Doudou Boicel, and also shows the style that made Clifton Chenier a Grammy winner just six years later. The tunes are fun, but a slow fun, and not terribly easy to listen to. Regrettably, Squeezebox Boogie is not one to seek out.