SHOPPIN' THE BLUES WEB
A TREASURE TROVE ON THE WEB.
By MARK FREDELL
I’ve made a decision, in these day’s of fewer tours, and smaller blues sections in your local record (Cd) retailer I’ve decided to periodically cruise the web and try and find you, my loyal readers some cool, interesting and even rare merchandise on the world wide web. For years now in the blues world, the best place to buy your favorite bands latest Cd or even those rare out of print ones was from the band stand when they came to your town, well, that regular trip may be getting more and more infrequent and as a result you might not have ready access to that great guitar player or singer or harp maestro that you used to enjoy. And with more and more of these bands self releasing their music, the distribution can be shotty at best some times and unless you are fortunate enough to live within driving distance of a well stocked independent record shop it can be next to impossible to find a blues music selection that goes beyond a handful of weird off label compilations of BB King, Muddy Waters & John Lee Hooker, all regurgitating the same 12 to 25 songs over and over, lest we forget the glut of Robert Johnson packages which the last time I checked I believe I counted 17 different releases on nearly as many labels all containing some variation of the same 29 songs.
Anyhow it is with that in mind that I’ve decided that I will go cyber shopping from time to time and I will share with you those hidden gems on the net that can help to quench your appetite for the blues, weather it’s a label site that can provide you with their entire catalogue of material, a specialty web shop that offers deals on stuff you may even have trouble finding at the most well stocked shop or the artist sites themselves, I will try and give you some helpful tips and steer you toward some real treats.
First off let me take you to http://www.themightyflyers.com/ the official website of Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers. Now you might be thinking that Rod and the Flyers would be doing just fine in the Cd distribution world but the fact is that most of the music that elevated them from serious road dog club band to world class, world touring blues legends has been mostly out of print and unavailable for quit some time. Rod who is now entering his 40th year as a professional blues man has recorded for labels big and small and the real pivotal stuff he and the Flyers did in the early 80’s was (mostly) for local Southern California label Murray Brothers before they signed to the now defunct Black Top Records and so on, since the mid ‘90s they have put out releases on a number of labels including Big Mo, Tone Cool, Blind Pig and most recently Delta Groove Productions.
Well I visited the Mighty Flyers website a few weeks ago and imagine my surprise when I found no less than 5 reissued Cd’s that I didn’t yet have in my collection; and believe me when I tell you there are some real treats here, let me start off by saying that this band which is considered by many to be one of the absolute best blues bands in the world today is in actuality the first to my knowledge to announce that they will no longer be hitting the road for tours of North America, a few months back, Miss Honey (who does most all of the internet ‘stuff’ on behalf of Rod and the Band) sent an email to their fans that declared their fall/winter tour would be the last one in the foreseeable future, due to the cost, lack of venues etc. etc. and that from this point forward they would only be appearing near their home base and at “fly in/ fly out” gigs such as festivals and special events and that if these events allowed the opportunity they might pick up and extra show here and there if possible now for Piazza fans in particular, and blues fans in general this should come as very bad news. If this band can’t afford to go out on the road and play for the legions of fans that have supported them for; in some cases decades, then what will become of the less known acts that have been struggling to stay afloat?
But I digress, let me tell you a bit about what I found at their web -site; though it is sorely lacking in content, such as Bio info, band history and so forth, the merchandise page contains for sale all of the Tone Cool releases, the live record from Big Mo, the Black Top stuff from the 90s (which has been out of print since that label went under.) but the real find here is some rare and some very rare re-releases from some labels I had not heard of before. There is the Cd ‘UNDERCOVER’ which though billed as a Black Top release , was actually recorded for Right Hemisphere Productions and features the classic Jimi Bott / Alex Schultz version of the Flyers though at this time Junior Watson was still the lead guitar player. In this version of the release it is augmented with 5 bonus live tracks including an 8 plus minute trademark piano boogie. Then there is what in the early days of Cd’s was called a two-fer in the form of the Cd release of ‘RADIO ACTIVITY’ and ‘FILE UNDER ROCK’ compiled here on one disc this is classic roots music once more featuring Junior Watson on guitar this time with Bill Swartz on drums, it was this band that before these recordings was called the Chicago Flying Saucer Band whose one and only release is repackaged here as well and features guests ‘Icepick’ James (Harman) George Smith and Shakey Jake. Then there is the reissue from Walhalla Records of the second Bacon Fat record ‘TOUGH DUDE’, now for those that don‘t know, Bacon Fat was the band that Rod shared with George ‘Harmonica’ Smith, Smith was not only Rods mentor but a major influence on a generation of west coast harmonica players including Kim Wilson, William Clarke, James Harman, Rick Estrin, Mark Hummel and more, well Tough Dude is here and though not quit as strong as the first Bacon Fat release Grease One For Me (which unfortunately is not posted here) it is a remarkable piece of history which sits well next to the 2 greatest treasures I found here this day, and those are the releases from GEMA / Black Rose Records of Rod Piazza’s first 2 recordings, originally issued by ABC/ Bluesway, THE DIRTY BLUES BAND was a group of young white kids from Riverside California that had been turned onto the blues by way of the Animals, The Stones and The Butterfield Blues Band, and these 2 disc’s feature as both a fascinating glimpse of a then very young Piazza (just 19 at the time of the first release) and as an example that the so called white blues revival was not limited to great Brittan and Chicago, these recordings are vibrant and alive and in spite of the fact that the only common player on them is Rod, I think it’s a testament to his ability and maturity even at such a young age as a band leader that both the self titled ‘DIRTY BLUES BAND’ and it’s follow up ‘STONE DIRT’ are both solid representatives of a real talent in the making, it was right about this time that Rods association with George Smith began and it was a relationship that would last till Smiths death and one which Rod still honors at every show. Then it was by about 1974 that the core of the Mighty Flyers came together, with both Miss Honey, and Bass player Bill Stuve entering Rods world then slowly but steadily the Flyers were born, If you’re not to familiar with Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers there might be better music to start with, but if you love the harmonica or are a long time fan, you need to check out these rare gems. Oh and by the way when you place your order go ahead and in the comments box ask for Rod to autograph them for ya since it might be quit some time before he makes it back to your town.