The Sky Is Crying : The History of Elmore James
Other post-WWII Chicago bluesmen are better known, but the work of Elmore James holds up as well as any of theirs. If he never had the technical accomplishment of, say, Earl Hooker, he did have as much depth of emotional expression as Muddy Waters; just listen to the sweetness of "I Need You" or the pain of "It Hurts Me, Too." The Sky Is Crying: The History of Elmore James contains some of the most important work of a man who still reigns as the king of slide guitar; anyone who wears a bottleneck today owes a debt to James. Highlights include Robert Johnson's "Dust My Broom," which James made his signature tune, as well as the title track, which contains some of the sweetest licks in blues history. --Genevieve Williams
'The Sky Is Crying: The History Of Elmore James' collects twenty-one songs cut by James - most of them written by him - and featuring a dazzling array of blues legends playing with him including Ike Turner, Sonny Boy Williamson, Johnny Jones, Willie Dixon, Big Joe Turner, Homesick James, J.T. Brown and many others.
All original tracks cut between 1951 - 1961 and, as the informative accompanying booklet says, recorded 'under wildly varying conditions and technologies'. But the music is so powerful and robust it shines through the situations in which it was recorded to make for a stunning expression of the blues. Beautiful to listen to and as vital as on the days these tracks were first laid down.
And of course you can hear George Harrison name check Elmore on 'For You Blue' from 'Let It Be'. What better recommendation can you have!
Elmore's impassioned vocals and his compelling slide guitar riffs are all here on classics such as 'Dust My Broom', 'The Sky Is Crying', 'It Hurts Me Too', 'Shake Your Moneymaker' and 'Standing at the Crossroads' along with less frenetic performances such as 'My Best Friend' and 'Sunny Land'.
All in all, this 21-track compilation is an ideal introduction to the great bluesman, Elmore James.
This is simply the Blues and if you are reading the reviews then you have an interest in the music and making a purchase, on that basis I do not think you will be disappointed.
1. "Dust My Broom" with Leonard Ware (bass), Frock O'Dell (drums), and Sonny Boy Williamson (harmonica) (Jackson, Mississippi, 1951)
2. "The Sun is Shining" with Homesick James (guitar), Johnny Jones (piano), Henry "Sneaky Joe" Harris (drums), and J.T. Brown (tenor sax) (Chess Brothers Studio, Chicago, 1960)
3. "Hawaiian Boogie" with Johnny Jones (piano), possibly Ransom Knowling (bass), Odie Payne (drums), and J.T. Brown (tenor sax) (Chicago, 1953)
4. "Sho' Nuff I Do" with Ike Turner (guitar), Johnny Jones (piano), possibly Odie Payne (drums), and possibly Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm providing bass, and alto, tenor, and baritone saxes (Canton, Mississippi, 1954)
5. "Please Find My Baby" with Ike Turner (piano) and an unknown drummer (Jackson, Mississippi, 1953)
6. "T. V. Mama" with Joe Turner and His Blues Kings, Big Joe Turner (vocal), Elmore James (guitar), Johnny Jones (piano), Jimmy Richardson (bass), Red Saunders (drums), Sonny Cohn (trumpet), Grady Jackson (tenor sax), Mack Easton (baritone sax) (Chicago, 1953)
7. "My Best Friend" with Johnny Jones (piano), Ransom Knowling (bass), Odie Payne (drums), and J.T. Brown (tenor sax) (Chicago, 1953)
8. "Madison Blues" same information as track two, recorded in the same session.
9. "Cry for Me Baby" with Willie Johnson (guitar), Eddie Taylor (bass guitar), Willie Dixon (bass), Fred Below (drums), and J.T. Brown (tenor sax) (Chicago, 1957)
10. "The Sky is Crying" with Johnny Jones (piano), Homesick James (bass), Odie Payne (drums), J.T. Brown (tenor sax), and an unknown tenor sax (Chicago, 1959)
11. "Sunny Land" with Willard McDaniel (piano), Chuck Hamilton (bass), and Jesse Sailes (drums) (Culver City, California, 1954
12. "I Can't Hold Out" same information as track two, recorded during the same session.
13. "Look On Yonder Hill" with Johnny "Big Moose" Walker (piano), probably Sammy Lee Buley (bass), King Mose (drums), and Sam Myers (harmonica) (New Orleans, 1961)
14. "I Need You" with Jimmy Spruill (guitar), Homesick James (bass), possibly Belton Evans (drums), and unknown saxes (New York City, 1960)
15. "Done Somebody Wrong" same information as track 14.
16. "Shake Your Moneymaker" with Johnny "Big Moose" Walker (piano), probably Sammy Lee Bully (bass), and Sam Myers (drums) - not sure if this listing from the booklet is correct because San Myers is listed as harmonica on the track 13 (New Orleans, 1961).
17. "The 12 Year Old Boy" with Johnny Jones (piano), Wayne Bennett (guitar), possibly Eddie Taylor (guitar), Homesick James (bass), Odie Payne (drums), and J.T. Brown (tenor sax) (chicago, 1957)
18. "It Hurts Me Too" same information as track 17 except Wayne Bennett was not included.
19. "Rollin' and Tumblin'" same information as track 14.
20. "Something Inside Me" same information as track 14.
21. "Standing at the Crossroads" with Riff Ruffin (guitar), Johnny Acey (piano), Johnny Williams (drums), Danny Moore (trumpet), Paul Williams (baritone sax), and unknown bass and tenor sax (New York City, 1960)