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Robben Ford
Anthology: The Early Years
Avenue Jazz R2 76760 CDx2, 2001 (70:26, 72:22)

Four early albums from guitar wiz

Ben Ohmart, 23 September 2001

This two-CD set is for the blues guitarist fan. For 140 minutes Robben Ford lets off kettle steam in that clean but electric style he's got. Disc One heats up tracks from a cool blues album called Discovering the Blues - Live, plus four cuts off his more jazz-oriented Sunrise. The later contains "Eighty One," co-written by Miles Davis, and it's a swinging instrumental full of steamy and often raunchy sax. With Ford on - tenor sax. Quite a shift from what you're expecting from this Yellowjacket.

Robben Ford was born Dec. 16, 1951 in Woodlake, Califonia. His influences were Eric Clapton (of course) and Mike Bloomfield, and much of the time he's got that Bloomfield smoothness. Maybe a little like Larry Carlton sometimes. Ford has played with all the greats, having first turned pro by performing with Charlie Musslewhite in 1970. Then there were the tours with Jimmy Witherspoon, George Harrison and Joni Mitchell that took him through the '70s. In '78 he formed The Yellowjackets, all the while trying to lay down a good solo career, though he fared better with others. In the early '80s he toured with Michael McDonald, and in 1986 did a stint with Miles Davis. His virtuoso style helped Ford remain compatible with every act that came along.

But this set takes on the Early Years (as it says), and for sheer jazz stature and bite, you must be impressed with the Jeff Beck-like way of the Sunrise album, splitting progressive rock and jazz right down the middle.

All 19 tracks are taken from four albums. Two I have mentioned. The other two, Schizophonic, and From Jimmy Witherspoon & Robben Ford Live, appear on the second CD, intermingled. "Hawk's Theme," written by Ford, shows a closer quality, almost a lounge act of smooth vibe-guitar jazz that sits only a few feet away from the audience, bathed in a dark light or an open window on a cloudy day. Shows off Ford's more "humane" way of subtle performance. An instrumental of imposing character, much like the strength a one-person play might achieve (except you'd have to count the bass, trippy percussionist and synth tinkler in on this one).

Honestly, this is a good overview to a great career. Easier than tracking down all phases of Ford's vocation. Should please the blues and the jazz fan alike, not to mention those of us on air guitar.


disc one:  Sweet Sixteen · You Drive A Hard Bargain · Raining In My Heart · Blue And Lonesome · Red Rooster · Eighty One · Miss Miss · Sunrise

disc two: Oh Gee · You Don't Know What Love Is · Everyday I Have The Blues · It's My Own Fault · Ladies' Choice · Hawk's Theme · S-K Blues · Low Ride · Softly Rolling · Stella And Frenchie · Goin' Down Slow

Copyright © 2001 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.