Blues and Rhythm No.295 Christmas 2014

OTIS GRAND: Blues From The Heart JSP 5804 (84:45)

The UK’s favourite guitarist is captured here at a gig in the grandly named Fuggle and Firkin in Oxford, on 23rd February 1998. Although it is not mentioned in the notes, the backing band is Brother Roy Oakley vocals; Steve Diamond keys; Dave Stevens bass, Mads Andersen drums.

The set was filmed by Blues Archive (founded in 1994) who are Paul Reed, Bob Webber and Amanda Palmer, and according to the sleeve notes it is ‘now a contemporary archive of blues interviews and performances’.

The tracks are interspersed with brief spoken passages by Otis. The set opens with a couple of sparkling instrumentals: an obviously Albert Collins inspired ‘Ice Pack’ and a Guitar Slim-styled ‘New Orleans Blues’. Brother Roy is then brought on and the band launch into a kicking version of Johnny Guitar Watson’s ‘She Moves Me’, followed by an original ‘No Reason’. Next up: BB King’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ followed by Junior Wells ‘Come On In This House’, then ‘Hold It’ signals the end of the first set.

‘The Freeze’ opens the second set (Otis is on his third change of guitar and second shirt by now!) ‘Stand By Me’ (the Guitar Slim song) is followed by a tough version of ‘Howlin’ For My Darlin’’. Otis changes pace for a slab of rock’n’roll on Chuck berry’s ‘Let It Rock (here titled ‘Rock It’)– it’s audience participation time with several ladies brought up on stage to gyrate along with the music. After ‘Hold It’ once more, O.G encores with Magic Sam’s ‘Looking Good’ (for some arty reason no doubt the picture changes from colour to black and white). We’re back to glorious technicolour on the closing instrumental ‘It’s All Blues’.

Caveats: the director gets all arty-farty on ‘Come On In This House’ with split screen and slo-mo effects, personally I can do without this cleverness. However, this is one of the best contemporary live performance DVD’s I’ve ever seen. Otis’s playing is inspired throughout, he goes for it 110 per cent, and the band are solid (especially Andersen on drums) and Oakley (whatever happened to him?) is top notch. Fan of Otis? You’ll have to see this one without a doubt, definitely DVD of the month.

Phil Wight