When producer Bob Thiele launched Flying Dutchman Records in 1969, he also introduced two other imprints to give his new company depth and breadth: Amsterdam for pop material and Bluestime to concentrate on the developing blues boom. Thiele had been in charge of ABC’s Bluesway label, where he had made records with many vintage blues artists. He opened Bluestime with albums by three of those performers: “The Real Boss Of The Blues” by Joe Turner, “Sweet Giant Of The Blues” by Otis Spann and “Every Day I Have The Blues” by T-Bone Walker.
Joe Turner had an unusual and lengthy career. He started out in the 1920s as a singing bartender in his hometown of Kansas City, where he was discovered by John Hammond, becoming a sensation upon moving to New York in the late 30s. Signing with Atlantic Records at the age of 40, he became an unlikely star in the early days of rock’n’roll, scoring big R&B hits with ‘Honey Hush’, ‘Corrine, Corrina’ and ‘Shake, Rattle And Roll’. When success faded he went back to playing with big bands until the late 60s blues revival arrived.
Bob Thiele’s plan was to update Turner’s style and sell him to the students who considered Eric Clapton and Peter Green the new sound of the blues. He did this with subtlety and great understanding of the music. The rhythm section played in a contemporary, slightly funky mode, but always with the song in mind. There were updates of a few Turner classics – ‘Shake, Rattle And Roll’ really smokes – and some first-rate contemporary material, including ‘Plastic Man’, a 10-minute blues which allows everyone to stretch out. “The Real Boss Of The Blues”, presented here with two bonus cuts from a 1970 concert at Carnegie Hall, is a masterful demonstration of the blues singer’s craft.
By Dean Rudland