Eight years ago at the Monterey Jazz Festival in Switzerland, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells recruited a rhythm section from the ranks of available talent: bassist Bill Wyman, then on a busman's holiday from the Stones, and Pinetop Perkins, Muddy Waters' two-fisted pianist at the time. Rhythm guitarist Terry Taylor and drummer Dallas Taylor fleshed out the group. The band's performance that summer day has just been released as "Drinkin' TNT 'n' Smokin' Dynamite," produced by Wyman. Needless to say, it's not quite that explosive.
For one thing, the album's impact is partially defused by the material it contains. Most of the songs are familiar to Chicago blues fans, and some have already been recorded by Guy and Wells in more convincing fashion. For instance, the cover versions -- tunes by Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson -- range from lively to pale reminders of the originals, the least interesting being "Checking on My Baby," as Wells puts his James Brown good foot forward.
And it's a shame to find Pinetop Perkins shackled to an electric piano. His playing, barely audible at times and not the least bit suggestive of his generally ebullient attitude, consists of the most fainthearted fills imaginable.
So where are the fireworks? Well, what little there is can be found in Wells' raw, guttural delivery; his harmonica, brazen as usual, isn't the sort to mince notes, either. Better yet is Guy: His guitar bends, slides and badgers notes into formation, while his mournful plaint,"When You See the Tears From My Eyes," is the album's one exceptional track.
As for Wyman, he's comfortable and discreet in this setting, but his real function seems to be as a drawing card. Without his involvement, it's unlikely that this unremarkable performance would ever have been pressed on vinyl. ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM: "Drinkin' TNT 'n' Smokin' Dynamite" (Blind Pig Records BP 1182). THE SHOW: Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, Tuesday at 9:30 and 11 at Desperado's.