“Chicago” Carl Snyder & Friends – Blue Streak
13 songs – 60 minutes
Blue Streak is the fourth release from “Chicago” Carl Snyder in the Lost World reissue series. And, like the previous releases, Blue Streak contains a well-chosen mix of originals and covers, recorded in different parts of the country over different years and with a selection of different musicians, all held together by Snyder’s top-drawer piano playing and impeccable musical taste.
The earliest recording on the CD is the funky blues “Totally West Bank” from 1988, although both Willie Nelson’s “Ain’t It Funny How Time Slips Away” (featuring Skinny Williams’ heartfelt alto saxophone) and Elmore James’ “Goodbye Baby” (which eschews James’ slide guitar in favor of Snyder’s driving piano) date back to 1995. The most recent recording is Muddy Waters’ “Gypsy Woman, recorded in 2020 with Christopher Dean on guitar and vocals, Snyder on piano and Dave Hollingsworth on drums.
In between, there is the swinging boogie of the opening track, Slim’s original “Born Into The Blues”, the earthy rock’n’roll of “Ain’t That Bad Luck”, Snyder’s rollicking original instrumental that gives the album its title, Count Basie’s “Goin’ To Chicago” (which is played as an upbeat Chicago style minor key shuffle rather than Basie’s much slower original) and the heavy blues rock of “Big” Frank Mirra’s “Mary’s Horns”.
While some of the covers are essentially standards, they are all played with a rare verve and imagination. BB King’s classic “The Thrill Is Gone” is distinguished with a superb slide guitar solo by Phil Pilorz that emphasizes the melancholy resignment of Billy Sharp’s vocals. Koko Taylor’s “I Got What It Takes” features an exhilarating vocal performance from Jan Avery, backed by a ferocious band performance (kudos to Dave Dionisi for his sax playing in particular). Kansas Joe McCoy’s “Why Don’t You Do Right?” is re-imagined as a raucous rhumba.
Snyder’s piano playing on every track is – as always – tasteful and emotional, but he always looks to play what is best for the song, often providing support for other soloists. The solos throughout are shared pretty evenly between the various lead players, with Phil Pilorz featuring on a number of tracks and laying down a series of memorable guitar lines. Thom Palmer’s tasteful guitar playing on “Long Legged Woman” is another highlight of the album, as is Dionisi’s three chorus sax solo on “Why Don’t You Do Right?”
Given that the tracks on Blue Streak were recorded over four different decades, there is a remarkable consistency in the production values and the playing.
With its combination of fine playing, great songs, and top-notch production, there is a lot to enjoy to on Blue Streak.