To call this collection of tunes from blues legend Buddy Guy definitive is not a stretch by any means, as it is a cohesive, thoughtful, chronological collection that accurately represents all of his changes and phases through six decades. Overall, it is a mellow compilation that showcases many of Guy's laid-back songs, several with longtime partner Junior Wells. It's sprinkled with the many all-star bluesmen he has collaborated with over the years, and is tastefully programmed to offer what is essentially cream of the crop blues from one of its enduring legends. Your hear music issued on singles, LPs and CDs recorded from 1958 through 2004 via various recordings done for the Artistic, Chess, Delmark, Vanguard, Blue Thumb, Atco, Evidence, Alligator, JSP, Blind Pig, and Silvertone labels. It really is a comprehensive overview of Guy's best known songs, and gives fans or neophytes an accurate big picture of why Buddy Guy remains one of the most influential artists in American popular music.
On Buddy Guy's second Silvertone release, he continues the practice of guest appearances begun on Damn Right, I've Got the Blues. In this case, the notables include Paul Rodgers, Travis Tritt, and John Mayall. The finest combination comes when Bonnie Raitt joins Guy on John Hiatt's "Feels Like Rain." Raitt's gritty vocals and sweet slide guitar add a pleasing nuance to the bittersweet track, and it is ultimately the high point of the record. Certain critics and blues purists have derided Guy's search for mainstream success as evidenced by his penchant for guest appearances and non-traditional blues forms, but Guy sounds fantastic in these unconventional situations (witness his burning version of the Moody Blues' "I Go Crazy").
Once again working with producer/songwriter Tom Hambridge – the bluesman's main collaborator since 2008's Skin Deep – Buddy Guy serves up a straight-ahead platter with Born to Play Guitar, his 28th studio album. Many of Guy's latter-day records loosely follow a theme, but Born to Play Guitar is pretty direct: just a collection of songs designed to showcase Buddy's oversized Stratocaster. Which isn't to say there's either a lack of variety or pro forma songwriting here. Hambridge cleverly colors Born to Play Guitar with a few bold, unexpected flourishes: the sweeps of sweet strings that accentuate "(Baby) You've Got What It Takes," a duet with Joss Stone that lightly recalls Etta James' Chess Records work; the big, blaring horns of "Thick Like Mississippi Mud" that moves that track out of the Delta and into an urban setting; the acoustic "Come Back Muddy" which performs that trick in reverse, pushing Chicago blues back down south.
Buddy Guy today remains one of the true international superstars of the Blues. One of his musically most glorious periods was the three classic albums he cut for JSP Records ("D.J. Play My Blues" "Breaking Out" and "Live at the Checkerboard Lounge") and the guesting on brother Phil Guy's wonderful debut album "Red Hot Blues". This compilation features some of the best cuts from that period and those albums. Buddy plays some hot guitar here and is stylistically moving forward from his sixties stuff to the ultra commercial things of today. Buddy always knew that the world would catch up eventually and he would become a superstar - the music here will tell you why.
Considering the troubled background of this album (Eric Clapton, Ahmet Ertegun, and Tom Dowd only ended up with eight tracks at a series of 1970 sessions in Miami; two years later, the J. Geils Band was brought in to cut two additional songs to round out the long-delayed LP for 1972 release), the results were pretty impressive. Buddy Guy contributes dazzling lead axe to their revival of "T-Bone Shuffle"; Junior Wells provides a sparkling remake of Sonny Boy's "My Baby She Left Me," and Guy is entirely credible in a grinding Otis Redding mode on the Southern soul stomper "A Man of Many Words."
Last Time Around – Live At Legends is a fitting farewell to the late, great Junior Wells and his partnership, friendship and kinship with Buddy Guy that lasted decades. The album is a historic release in many ways. It reunites two blues legends who began their unique association in the 1950s. The album was recorded live in March 1993 at Buddy Guy's world-famous Chicago blues mecca Legends, and it's an acoustic document of many classic songs that made both Wells and Guy legends in their own right, such as "She's Alright" and "I've Been There," along with other classic blues standards such as "Hoochie Coochie Man" and "Key to the Highway," all delivered with a looseness and power that define both Guy and Wells. It also marks the last time the two ever played together.
Buddy Guy revitalized his career when he signed with Silvertone Records in the early '90s. His first album for the label, Damn Right, I've Got the Blues, was a smash success, earning critical acclaim, awards, and sales hand over fist. Prior to that record, he was a legend only among blues fans; afterward, he was a star. Although it was a bit too rock-oriented and slick for purists, Damn Right was a terrific album, setting the pace not only for Guy but for modern electric blues in the '90s. As the decade wore on, Guy continued to make albums for Silvertone, some of them a little complacent, others quite excellent. Buddy's Baddest: The Best of Buddy Guy attempts to summarize those years in 14 songs, including three previously unreleased cuts.
As close as Buddy Guy's ever likely to come to recapturing the long-lost Chess sound. Cut live at his popular Chicago nightspot, Buddy Guy's Legends, with guitarist G.E. Smith's horn-leavened Saturday Night Live Band and pianist Johnnie Johnson in lush support, Guy revisits his roots on sumptuous readings of "I've Got My Eyes on You," "Ain't That Lovin' You," "My Time After Awhile," and "First Time I Met the Blues." No outrageous rock-based solos or Cream/Hendrix/Stevie Ray homages; this is the Buddy Guy album that purists have salivated for the last quarter century or so.