2 Discs / 26 tracks / 102:00
Arthur Adams has been singing and playing his guitar since the 1950s, and during that time he has been fluid with genres, having played gospel, blues, rhythm and blues, and funk; he even had a number one charting disco track in the UK in the early 1980s. What is probably of most interest to blues fan is the work he did in the 1960s and 1970s after he relocated to the west coast. As a session player Arthur worked with heavyweights in the industry including B.B. King, Quincy Jones, Lou Rawls, Bonnie Raitt and Phil Spector. Since then he has toured with major artists (including Nina Simone), so he has not exactly been letting the grass grow under his feet. Adams is well into his 70s now, and we are fortunate that he headed back to the studio to cut his new album, Look What the Blues Has Done for Me.
This two-disc set is Arthur’s first release since 2009, and it includes a bonus retrospective album, An Introduction to Arthur Adams. This is a compilation of 13 fine tracks from four of Adams’ 1970s albums, as well as the chart-topping 12-inch jazz funk dance single from the 1981, “You Got the Floor.” This set is a great chance for new fans to hear some of the man’s first-class material so they may have an idea where he is coming from. By the way, none of these songs have been available on CD before, which makes this collection even more special.
The disc of new material, Look What the Blues Has Done for Me, has another 13 original songs that were written by Arthur and Harry Garfield. For this project, Adam was the producer, vocalist, and guitarist, and a tight crew joined him in the studio. These folks included James Gadson on drums (BB King, Albert King, Martha Reeves, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock), and Hense Powell, a long time keyboardist for Arthur. Brian Simpson and Reggie McBride share duties on the bass. All of the tracks were laid down at Pacific Studios in West Los Angles by Glen Nishida and Harry and Carol Garfield, and the results are very good.
The new material kicks off with “You Pullin’ My Leg,” and this heavy electric blues tune features Adams’ throaty vocals and plenty of his sweet guitar work. The listener will hear that Arthur’s guitar plays a major role on this album, as every song is chock full of riffs. The next song up is the title track, and “Look What the Blues Has Done for Me” has a lovely 1970s rhythm and blues sound to it, and Mr. Adams does a respectable job with his falsetto to make the mood complete.
There are a few horn arrangements to be found on this disc too, courtesy of guest artists Lester Lovitt and Lee Thornberg on trumpet, and Bill Bergman on sax. The horns give “Helpin’ Hand Man” a blues revue sound, but with the added bonus of a country-style bass line and skillful guitar picking. “All Dressed Up” oozes Chicago blues, with some B.B. King influence in Arthur’s fingers. There is also “If You Let Me Love You,” a beautiful uptempo blues ballad that features Adams’ strong vocal skills and killer guitar leads.
There is a little bit of everything on this album, including a nice piece of funk, “Elevator Ride,” but one of the coolest songs is “Gutbucket,” which is exactly what it sounds like. This is a fun story that is told over a basic backline of bass and snare, with almost spoken word vocals. The added bonus here is a tasty selection of harmonica riffs from co-writer Harry Garfield. Then, before you know it, the set ends with an upbeat R&B song, “Gorgeous,” which is made complete by the backing vocals of Kim Foley, Ava Dupree, and Jessica Taylor. This positive tune is an excellent way to bring a solid record to a close.
Look What the Blues Has Done for Me is quite a cool release from Arthur Adams, and it is a complete representation of where he has been as well as a fine collection of evidence that this guy still has the right stuff. It is an enjoyable listen and fans of traditional blues will find a lot to like here. It would certainly be worth your time to check out the album for yourself, as there is a little something for everybody!