Saturday, February 11, 2017

RE-UP: Mick Jagger "Nature Of My Game Sessions" - 1CD

Mick Jagger & The Red Devils ,
Nature Of My Game aka The Famous Blues Session
May 1992

The Famous Blues Sessions

Label: Rabbit Records
Catalog-Nr: RR04

01 Blues With A Feeling (Take 1) ( 2:50 )
02 Blues With A Feeling (Take 2) ( 2:31 )
03 Blues With A Feeling (Take 4) ( 3:24 )
04 Blues With A Feeling (Take 5) ( 3:44 )
05 I Get My Eyes On You (Take 2) ( 3:15 )
06 Still A Fool (Take 3) ( 3:42 )
07 Still A Fool (Take 4) ( 3:55 )
08 Checkin' Up On My Baby (Take 3) ( 3:27 ) (on Best of Mick Jagger)
09 One Way Out (Take 1) ( 2:34 )
10 One Way Out (Take 2) ( 2:23 )
11 Talk To Me, Baby (Take 2) ( 2:50 )
12 Evil (Take 2) ( 2:31 )
13 Evil (Take 3) ( 3:02 )
14 Evil (Take 4) ( 3:06 )
15 Ain't Your Business (Take3) ( 2:18 )
16 Shake'M On Down (Take 1) ( 5:38 )
17 Somebody Loves Me (Take 3) ( 3:03 )
18 Dream Girl Blues (Take 1) ( 5:49 )
19 Dream Girl Blues (Take 3) ( 5:19 )
20 40 Days, 40 Nights (Take 1) ( 2:56 )
21 40 Days, 40 Nights (Take 2) ( 2:49 )

"The Nature of My Game" is Mick Jagger interpreting his favourite blues singers, such as Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson. Still, this is a white man's blues. The overall sound makes me think of those 60s British and American pop groups playing the blues, say The Yardbirds and The Animals in their early days. The pace is usually uptempo and the band lays down a very tight and not too subtle rhythm with too much stres on bass and drums. The guitar playing is rather uninspired, but the harmonica is fine. There must be hundreds of white blues bands sounding like The Red Devils. The sound is rather muted, but acceptable. An equalizer or sound field processor will upgrade the sound quality to a certain extent, but will not do away with the hiss and rumble in the background. "One Way Out" was also recorded and claimed by Elmore James, as can be checked on his "One Way Out" LP.

Lester Butler - vocals, harp
Mick Jagger - vocals
Dave Lee Bartel - guitar
Paul Size - guitar
Johnny Ray Bartel- bass
Bill Bateman - drums

This is a recording I found out about via Dan Leroy's book The Greatest Music Never Sold. I remember reading an online review of the book where someone complained that a chapter about Mick Jagger's solo work from his later career shouldn't be a concern of anyone, but they must not have read the book because Mick has very little to do with the story.

The Red Devils were a blues-rock band from LA featuring members of The Blasters (Bill Bateman, drums) and The Knitters (Johnny Ray Bartel, bass) but the majority of the focus fell on the band's vocalist and harmonica player, Lester Butler. Not to ignore the other band members (Dave Lee Bartel and Paul Size, both guitarists), but Lester got a lot of hype for his presence and the band got signed to Rick Rubin's American Recordings where they released one album, King King in 1992, and an EP in 1994. The album is considered a classic and Rubin gets props for recording the band live without overdubs to capture their vibe, but he had bigger things in store for the band.

While producing Mick Jagger's Wandering Spirit, it was decided that the Devils would back Mick on a collection of classic blues covers. What followed was described by the band as Mick, whom they had just met, essentially becoming one of the guys and they all fell in love with him. An album's worth of songs were recorded but sat in the vault with no promise of release. Mick had said he loved the recordings and might release them as an album unto itself, but his relationship with the band became strained when he stopped communicating with them regularly. A few shows were performed in the UK with the Devils as his backing band but, apart from that, zilch.

The Red Devils were still working with Rick Rubin, but that became short lived as well. They did some sessions with Johnny Cash, played live with Bruce Willis at Planet Hollywood events and recorded a second album with Rubin on production, but that album remains unreleased and tracks from the Cash sessions wouldn't be released until after his death. Lester Butler began showing signs of drug addiction and his relationship with the group became strained. Rubin, a notoriously anti-drug individual, probably used this as his excuse to stop working with the band, and it was one of many factors that lead to their downfall.

Lester went on to play in the band 13 and continued performing sporadically until his death at the age of 38. In 1998 he suffered an overdose and the two individuals he was with decided to inject him with cocaine rather than perform any lifesaving measures or call 911.

The band has reformed a few times since Lester's death but they openly acknowledge that it will never be the same without him.

As for the recordings with Jagger, the Devils themselves couldn't even get a copy of the tapes, at least not by any direct methods. A few stories circulate about how a tape was acquired, one involving Lester somehow receiving a very poor quality cassette and selling it to bootleggers, but other members of the band have insinuated that a copy was dubbed for them by a secretary at American Recordings, leading to far superior copies circulating. Regardless, apart from one track having been released on a 2007 compilation of Mick Jagger recordings, the sessions remain shamefully unreleased, at least officially.

So, it is with great pleasure that I present to you a copy of these infamous sessions from, of all places, an actual "silver" bootleg CD. Yeah, the quality isn't the greatest, but that's to be expected. I've seen the sessions around elsewhere but I don't recall having heard a superior copy, so I'll be posting these goodies from that silver disc for your listening pleasure. Maybe someday Rick and Mick (a supergroup begging to be formed folks!) will come to some kind of agreement and these recordings could be given an official release, but until then, we'll just have to settle for second hand copies of these great tracks.

Download this bootleg here

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