To American audiences the name Mickey Baker has a certain mythical quality about it. It's been fourteen years since Mickey left the United States for Europe, another of the many expatriot jazz musicians who found more receptive audiences and better working conditions abroad. But because of Baker's huge Fifties following as a rock and roll and R&B guitarist, his numerous method books, plus the hits of Mickey and Sylvia, his reputation continues among American guitarists.” – GUITAR PLAYER MAGAZINE January 1976
It is almost embarrassing to call a musician “a legend in his own time”. But Mickey Baker is surely that. Over the last fifty years he has explored and developed his guitar styles and musical ideas in areas of music as diverse as R&B, folk, contemporary jazz, rock and roll, bebop and delta blues. His sounds can be found on classic albums by Ray Charles, The Drifters, Big Joe Turner, Memphis Slim and of course his duo Mickey and Sylvia.
When it came time to begin work on this project we decided it would be interesting to use only acoustic guitars. Mickey picked a varied assortment of tunes that would give us the freedom to explore different styles of music. So on this album we have old folk blues like Stack O'Lee, which is a straight forward fingerpicked arrangement, to Zanzie, which is a complex overlay of guitars all played by Mickey. The songs range from delta blues to pop. The underlying feel of all the songs is the blues. Sometimes, this approaches jazz while other times the sounds go back to the Mississippi delta. But all of it is pure Mickey Baker. And that is what makes Mickey such a fascinating musician and artist. He is constantly exploring and to him music is music. Categories and labels mean little to him. He is most interested in the sounds and soul.
Track Listing: (click on tracks for mp3 sound samples)
1. Corrina, Corrina*
3. Belzona Blues*
4. Got The Blues
6. Lord, Have Mercy
7. Hello World*
8. Stack O'Lee*
9. Baby, Please Don't Go*
10. The Town's East End*
11. Juicy Lucy*
12. Love In Vain*
Those tunes marked with a star * are included in the tab/music PDF booklet on this CD.
Review: Death and misery actually don't sound half bad when conveyed on the eloquence of Mickey Bakers' Blues & Jazz Guitar. Somehow those chops, when blended around a warm voice, cushion the blows delivered by traditionally brutal songs. That's how a velvet touch deceivingly camouflages murderous threats woven within "Corrina, Corrina." The same goes for the gracious transformation that the gun-'em-down "Stack O'Lee" makes under a crisply fingerpicked roll. Lyrics that roam between jail houses and unfaithful lovers may paint it black, yet that combinatorial magic dulls any pain encountered on this revival of his 1977 Kicking Mule LP. Baker- one fraction on classic albums of Ray Charles and The Drifters, one-half of the famed Mickey & Sylvia duo, one of Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists Of Our Time - unplugged for this walk on the blue side of life. Fantastic new life got dramatically puffed into the old carcasses of "Spoonful" and "Baby, Please Don't Go." The liquid slide-riffs and bold string-snaps of "BeIzona Blues" shimmer in the Delta sun, while "Zanzie" played out as a fanciful string-dance, darting about, chasing after its own tail. And having marksman Stefan Grossman partner the all-acoustic, guitars-only affair assured their dialogue through these blues, folk-pop, and sharp instrumentals ran with the intricately beautiful precision of clockwork. – Dennis Rozanski/BluesRag
Review: As you would expect from the Stefan Grossman stable, this is more than just an album. It includes a PDF booklet of the tabbed music of nine of the twelve tracks for all those with the required prowess on the guitar. Stefan Grossman's instruction material is so good; he makes it look so easy that anyone can do it. This is a re-release of a 1977 album featuring Mickey Baker, who for twenty five years has achieved near legend status in developing his guitar playing in areas as diverse as R&B, folk, jazz, rock'n'roll and, of course, Delta Blues. This selection of strictly acoustic material demonstrate his varied styles. There are old folk Blues, like 'Stack O'Lee', with a straight fingerpicking arrangement; and 'Zanzie', a complex overlay of guitars all played by Baker. 'Spoonful' is a good slide piece and 'Juicy Lucy' is a fine tune with a ragtime feel to it. As the sleevenotes say, the underlying feel to the collection is Blues, and it generously varies between Delta Blues and jazz. Nevertheless, it is all played in a style which exudes pure quality. A great album for budding acoustic Bluesmen. – Kevin Wharton/Blues Matters!