Bluesheart: 12 tracks/68:24 minutes
Chameleon: 12 tracks/49:53 minutes
Fans of Miller Anderson can rejoice and be glad. “Collector’s Premium” has just re-released a double-CD package that contains Anderson’s third and fourth solo albums—Bluesheart (2003; re-issued in 2007) and Chameleon (2008). UK-based blues guitarist and singer musical lineage includes extensive work with Ian Hunter, Savoy Brown, Chicken Shack, Spencer Davis Group, and T. Rex. As a member of the Keef Hartley Band, he played at Woodstock in 1969.
Bluesheart contains six of Anderson’s originals, along with his take on classics such as “Smokestack Lightnin’,” “Wang Dang Doodle,” and “House of the Rising Sun.” Anderson surrounds himself with a first-rate studio band on the album, including Norman Beaker on guitar, John Price on bass, Dave Baldwin on keyboards, and Paul Burgess on drums. Jon Lord of Deep Purple, with whom Anderson played on the Jon Lord Blues Project album, joins on the organ on two tracks.
The two bonus tracks on Bluesheart include a live version of “Houston (Scotland)” and a solo acoustic version of “Little Man Dancing.” Jon Lord lends his soaring Hammond chords to Anderson’s gritty version of “Help Me,” which resembles the Deep Purple tune, “Lazy,” from Machine Head. It’s a slow-burning blues that turns up the heat as the song progresses as the singer pleads for a little direction from his lover, or anyone who’s listening and is willing to help.
The album opens with Anderson’s classic “High Tide and High Water,” marked by Anderson’s stinging blues riffs; it’s a quintessential blues rocker driven by the cadence of Anderson’s slide and lead guitars. “Sending Me Angels” is a gorgeous little blues ballad, with cascading guitar riffs and a heavenly choral backing that produces a gospel-inflected soul blues. The almost perfect blend of instrument and voice raises this track to level of the album’s best. Anderson and his band take a crack at “House of the Rising Sun,” which opens with an instrumental featuring Anderson’s soaring jazz lead riff. His voice and the mournful tone he evokes from his guitar match the joyous mournfulness of the song.
On Chameleon, Anderson is joined by Kris Gray on bass, Frank Tischer on keyboards, and Paul Burgess on drums. Nine of the ten tracks on this album are Anderson originals, and the album features two unreleased demos as bonus tracks—”Nothing is Any Fun” and “Late at Night.” “Nothing is Any Fun” is a pop song that resembles Elton John’s “The Bitch is Back” and any number of songs by Ringo Starr, but it most resembles the gruff pop rock of McGuinness Flint.
A screaming horn section opens “Late at Night,” and the song would be at home on any album by Bachman Turner Overdrive (it sounds quite like “Taking Care of Business”). On “The Dreamer,” Anderson and the band turn in another beautifully rendered blues ballad about the hope of a new way of life or a new vision of a world that has Anderson channeling Gregg Allman on vocals. “Me and My Woman” is a down-to-the-bones blues that features a propulsive call-and-response among Anderson’s vocals, his guitar, and Tischer’s Hammond. “Fog on the Highway” delivers a jazzy electric blues version of a song that Anderson originally recorded acoustically.
This two-cd package includes a nicely illustrated twelve-page booklet. For listeners who haven’t discovered Anderson, these albums provide an excellent introduction. Since Anderson’s fans likely own these two albums already, only completists who want these bonus tracks will likely want the package. Nevertheless, Anderson remains one of the true gems of British blues and this collection reminds us why.