1. Now You're Gone 2. Ninety Nine and One Half 3. What Kind Of Woman Is This
4. Somebody's Sleeping In My Bed 5. I Put A Spell On You 6. On A Saturday Night
7. Ain't No Sunshine 8. I've Got Dreams To Remember 9. Lay Lady Lay
10. Cheaper To Keep Her/Blues In The Night 11. Cut You Loose 12. The Price You Gotta Pay
13. Do Your Thing
Label: Jive / Release date: September 27, 2005
Recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Buddy Guy is regarded by many as one of the greatest guitar players of all time. I had the pleasure of seeing him perform earlier this year and was astounded by his remarkable musical virtuosity and his professional showmanship. That said, his new album, "Bring 'Em In" captures the essence of this brilliant musician, but at times falls short of its expectations and has some occasionally disappointing moments.
Just as you would expect from this legendary performer, his extraordinary guitar skills and bluesy vocals are top-notch on this disc, but the most disappointing aspect of the project is his choice of material. There is only one original number and the remaining songs are all covers. While most of them work for Mr. Guy, unfortunately some of them don't. Several tracks clock in at just under the 4-minute mark, which is also disappointing, because part of Mr. Guy's appeal as a guitarist is his ability to improvise on lengthy, fiery solos.
Despite these shortcomings, there are still some very fine moments on this disc that will satisfy Guy fanatics and newcomers alike. The album kicks off on a high note with a blistering, blusey rendition of Curtis Mayfield's "Now You're Gone." Guy rips through a piercing guitar solo while emulating Mayfield's legendary vocal style to very good effect. The next tune, a cover of Steve Cropper and Wilson Pickett's classic, "Ninety Nine and a Half" (mistitled "Ninety Nine and One Half" on this disc), doesn't fare quite as well. It's an earnest attempt to update this vintage R&B number, but it just doesn't give Mr. Guy much opportunity to stretch out musically. It's also one of the shortest tracks on the disc.
The lone Guy original, "What Kind of Woman is This," is a fabulous and funky blues number with a contagious hook that grabs you right from the start. It's really what Buddy Guy is all about - whaling on guitar and singing the blues like he really means it. This is a stellar track and one of the best on the album. "Somebody's Sleeping in My Bed" is another outstanding blues number that gives Guy a chance to really stretch out musically and vocally. There's plenty of room here for some outstanding blues guitar, plus the tune is highlighted by another gutsy vocal from Guy. Carlos Santana makes a guest appearance and produces the next tune, the Screamin' J. Hawkins classic, "I Put A Spell On You." Santana is one of several guest musicians on this disc, along with John Mayer, Keith Richards and Robert Randolph, but unfortunately, none of their performances are particularly memorable. This Santana-produced number sounds very much like an "Oye Como Va" clone, and even though there are some terrific guitar licks traded between the two musicians, the track just doesn't seem to fit on this album and would be much better suited for a Santana disc.
"On a Saturday Night" is a cutting rendition of another vintage tune from the Stax/Volt era and Guy was very successful in bringing this tune up to date. It has a funky backbeat and horn arrangement, another soaring guitar solo and an excellent, gritty vocal from Guy. Again, the only problem with this track is its length. At 3:17, the tune is just starting to gain momentum as the fade-out comes creeping up on you, which is unfortunate because this number really cooks and is definitely worthy of at least another three minutes of disc time.
The next three tunes are earnest attempts at covering celebrated songs, but they all seem to fall a bit short in each case. The Bill Withers classic "Ain't No Sunshine" features Guy with guest vocalist Tracy Chapman. It's an enjoyable cover, but just cannot compete with the original. The same goes for Otis Redding's "I've Got Dreams To Remember," and Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay." Of the three numbers, "Lay Lady Lay" seems to be the one that's least suited for Mr. Guy. Covering successful pop tunes does not seem to be Guy's forte. He's a legendary blues man and does not seem to fare very well when constrained to the limitations of the pop/rock formula. Give him some room to spread his wings and he's at his biggest and baddest, like on the final four tunes on this disc where Guy sinks his teeth into some serious blues. These tunes truly showcase Mr. Guy's musical talents, especially on "Cut You Loose," where he has the opportunity to display his extraordinary musical dexterity. At 7 minutes and 38 seconds, the tune gives him plenty of time to flex his melodic muscle and prove why he's one of the most unrivalled guitarists around today.
It's obvious that Mr. Guy has put his heart and soul into this recording. Overall it's a solid effort with a superb studio mix and outstanding backing musicians. Despite the occasional disappointment, there's still plenty here to satisfy anyone with a hunger for the blues. And when you're talkin' 'bout the blues, it doesn't get any better when performed by the legendary Buddy Guy.