Review: Johnny Rivers & His L.A. Boogie Band – Last Boogie In Paris The Complete Concert [Soul City/Shout! Factory 2007]
After the recording sessions of Blue Suede Shoes (’73), Johnny Rivers (John Ramistella) decides to tour Europe with the same stellar rockin’ band that backed him up on the album. Larry Carlton and his guitar are missing (replaced by Johnny himself) but there are the acoustic licks and the harmony vocals of the ex-byrd Herb Pedersen, the saxophonist of Duane Eddy, Jim Horm, the future bassist of Shawn Phillips, Jack Conrad (who played also in the post-Morrison Doors), the future guitarist of Steely Dan, Jim Horn, the jazzy keyboard player of Nina Simone and Cal Tjader, Michael Melvoin, the trumpet player of Brecker Brothers, Chuck Findley, and the omnipresent drummer Jim Gordon, who collaborated almost with everyone (from Beach Boys to Joe Cocker, from Byrds to Delaney & Bonnie, ending with the supergroup Derek & The Dominoes) – practically the top of all the Californian Rock.
Rivers, who moved from the successes of the 1960s in the folk circuit to a new career equally divided between songwriting and frequent comebacks in the arms of classic rock’n roll, brings the band from Spain to Germany (with a brief visit to Italy), keeping Paris as the last tour date. The last concert of the tour takes place on May 23rd, 1973 in the cozy Olympia theater and it is recorded by the Atlantic label that, nevertheless, will release and distribute a shortened version (8 songs out of the 18 executed) only on the European market. Praise and Glory to Shout Factory that, after re-mastering the original tapes, has the great idea of releasing the whole show, transforming a short yet entertaining album in a triumph of rock’n roll energy.
The Johnny Rivers of 1973 is one of those characters who, conscious of the enormous amount of good songs already stored in the warehouse of rock history, decides to renewing those instead of writing new ones. Not that he wasn’t able to do it (writing great songs): it’s enough to listen to the killer R&B of John Lee Hooker 1974 to understand how Rivers had few contenders when it came down to mix blues and Bo Diddley’s rhythmic witchcrafts.
As far as I’m concerned he had no contenders also in performing Frankie Ford’s rock’n roll (Sea Cruise), Heuy “Piano” Smith’s rock swing (Rockin’ Pneumonia And Boogie Woogie Flu), Johnny Otis’ torrid rock-blues (Willi & The Hand Jive) or The Beatles’ melodies (I’ve just seen a face).
And that is not it. In this brand new edition of Last Boogie In Paris there’s also the lightened Van Morrison of Brown Eyed Girl, the Chuck Berry of a Memphis covered in a wild soul key, the Doobie Brothers of a country Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While) transformed into a beautiful R&B, the autobiographic melancholy of a Summer Rain that is worth the whole Donovan and a Stories To a Child that becomes a painful blues-rock of the origins.
All the tracks of this record should be mentioned and yet we couldn’t do justice to its wonders. I can only tell you to buy it: gifts of this kind for ears and hearts are priceless.
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