Sunday, May 19, 2019

Jimmie Vaughan - Baby Please Come Home

Time for me to take a deep breath, because I reckon I’m going to be in a minority of one with what I’m about to say.  I find this resolutely retro new album from the iconic Jimmie Vaughan . . . uneven.
Let’s start by accentuating the positive.  Jimmie Vaughan is a great singer.  This is particularly apparent on a couple of tracks falling in the middle of the album, T-Bone Walker’s ‘I’m Still In Love With You’, and the following ‘It’s Love Baby (24 Hours A Day)’.  The first is a dreamy ballad on which Vaughan delivers the vocal beautifully, over nothing more than drums’n’bass for a spell, until they’re joined by swells of horns, touches of organ,
Jimmie Vaughan - dig those shoes!
and some trills of jazzy piano.  It’s a delight.  And his phrasing really lifts the last verse of ‘It’s Love Baby’.
The album starts off in scintillating fashion with ‘Baby Please Come Home’ itself, swinging like a trapeze, with a bouncing bass line courtesy of Ronnie James, a good sax solo, and Vaughan’s guitar solo playing off the melody in nifty fashion.
On the whole though, I find the second half of the album stronger than the first.  One of the reasons for this is that some of the early tracks lean heavily on horn riffs that seem a bit tame to these ears.  And bearing in mind that Vaughan made his name as a rhythm guitarist, there are times when I’m asking myself whether he’s even playing rhythm guitar.  Is it buried in the mix, or is he leaving it to the horns to do the rhythm job? Either way, it contributes to a shortage of grit in places.
All the same, there’s a cool groove on ‘Be My Lovey Dovey’, with female backing vocals and handclaps, and ‘What’s Your Name?’ gets up a bit of head of steam as it progresses.  And things liven up a bit more on the instrumental ‘Hold It’, where Vaughan’s guitar sound is warmer and Mike Flanigin’s organ comes to the fore.
Fats Domino’s ‘So Glad’ really has a bit more of a tiger in its tank though, with the horns a bit tougher, more snap in the drums, and Vaughan rousing himself vocally as well as delivering a stinging solo.  That higher oomph quotient is also apparent in Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown’s ‘Midnight Hour’, with some nice ripples of piano that could have been higher in the mix.
Jimmy Reed’s ‘Baby, What’s Wrong’ is better still, in a back to basics manner.  With the horns absent, Vaughan’s rhythm guitar is audibly present on the ‘Got My Mojo Working’-style riff, though occasionally threatening to be overtaken by Flanigin’s organ, and there’s plenty of zip in his solo too. The fact that it’s a live cut may be something to do with the fresher approach, and the same is true of the two bonus tracks, ‘Silly Dilly Woman’ and the Flanigin-penned instrumental ‘Exact Change’.  All the same, while I love the sound of a Hammond B3 organ, and Flanigin is known as a prime exponent, across the album it seems to be set up with too much of an old-fashioned, Wurlitzer sound to suit my tastes.
Baby Please Come Home is the proverbial curate’s egg of an album - absolutely of the standard you’d expect from Jimmie Vaughan in parts, and curiously flat in others.  Maybe he and I aren’t on quite the same blues wavelength.  Whatever, I don’t imagine my bemusement will affect his iconic status one iota.

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