[6 November 2007]
Originally entitled Electric Sleep after the Muddy Waters psychedelic album Electric Mud, this 1968 recording is a relatively uncontroversial affair. The great Sleepy John Estes is best known for his ghostly pre-war country blues recordings. He was a top-notch songwriter, covered by Ry Cooder and Led Zeppelin. Here, several decades past his prime, blind and poor, he ventures onto the Chicago urban blues scene. The younger players show plenty of respect but not surprisingly Sleepy John’s voice sounds strained. The album is solid at best, an uncomfortable mix of the sprightly and the mundane at worst.
Perhaps the biggest shock is that Earl Hooker, John Lee’s cousin, and one of the best guitar players on Earth, drops by for a few tracks, and plays bass. As much a waste as Diego Maradona or George Best playing in goal! (On the subject of Earl Hooker, please rush out and hear his utterly transcendent “Two Bugs and a Roach” immediately). Neither the best work of any of the participants nor much fun, On The Chicago Blues Scene may be a novel juxtaposition for diehard blues devotees, but is likely to prove an uninspired workaday session for everyone else. Explore Sleepy John Estes elsewhere.