Apart from having a couple of Marc Benno solo albums and a couple of him with Leon Russell, I had no idea who Marc Benno was before pulling this out of the pile behind me.
Marc Benno fans may say "shame on you" but there is no shame in that. Benno isn't a household name and when he had his shot at the big time he was localised to the US and I was a small child in Australia.
But, Benno had a not insubstantial recording career throughout the late 60s and 70s, which seems to have amped up in the 2000s (no doubt due to the cheap recording and pressing available).
Wikipedia's entire entry on Benno is this, "Marc Benno (born July 1, 1947, Dallas, Texas) is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist … Benno was a member of The Asylum Choir with Leon Russell in the late 1960s, and launched a solo career in the early 1970s, with his 1972 effort Ambush being the most commercially successful. He wrote the song "Rock 'n Roll Me Again", which was recorded by the band The System for the soundtrack to the 1985 film Beverly Hills Cop; this soundtrack won a Grammy Award. Benno also worked with musicians such as The Doors, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Rita Coolidge. Benno was the second guitar player on The Doors L.A. Woman alongside Robby Krieger".
What it doesn't say is how he performed in Dallas in the 1960s with Steve Miller, Boz Scaggs, members of the Eagles and ZZ Top before joining Asylum Choir and going solo. He later toured with Rita Coolidge as her lead guitarist, opened for The Byrds at Royal Albert Hall in London, was Lightnin' Hopkins bandleader and lead guitarist, and then formed Marc Benno & The Nightcrawlers, which had a young Stevie Ray Vaughan on guitar.
Texas, 70s, old Afro-Americans … this is heading into white blues territory.
Benno says on his website (http://www.marcbenno.com/interview.php), "My first influences were hits on the radio, and the Cats Caravan Show on WRR radio. WRR played all the real good stuff, like Jimmy Reed, Little Richard and Ray Charles. Their theme song was "Night Train." The daytime radio played hits by the Coasters, the Drifters, and a lot of white artists, from Buddy Holly to Elvis, and whoever had a hit record. These hit makers came to Dallas in 1959, while I was working for my dad in the beer garden at The State Fair Music Hall. He snuck me in backstage, and my life was never the same. I met Sam Cooks, Paul Anka, and these guys throwing combs out the window to screaming chick fans. The show-biz bug bit me for good right then. It wasn't until I was 16 that I heard "Lightnin'" Hopkins over at a friend's house, and began to get into the blues. At Cains Ballroom in Oklahoma City is the first time I met him and ended up touring with him as 2nd guitarist. Everybody thought I knew him, but it was really Mance Lipscomb that I knew, and I thought Mance was Lightnin Hopkins when I first saw him at San Jacks Café in Austin. Mance gave me my license to play the blues"
He goes on to say, "Well, for years I listened to nothing but the blues. As has been said before, all the Kings, Juniors, Bigs and Littles. Lately, it's been nothing but Chet Baker. He is the most no tricks singer I've ever heard. My favorite unknown guitarist is Lenny Breau. My favorite pianist is Bill Evans. And I like Johnny "Guitar" Watson's Bow Wow CD. I've been playing piano a lot lately and learning classics, like "It Could Happen to You.", "Like Someone in Love', and some contemporary standards. My guitar playing has been used mostly writing originals for my new CD. But definitely Lightnin Hopkins, Jimmie Reed, Albert King, Kenny Burrell and Johnny "Guitar" Watson are my biggest influences. And jazz musicians are incredible. They have unlimited chops. They know their instruments. Of course, the classical masters are an inspiration when I'm relaxing".
Despite sidelines the blues are part of his musical makeup. That's why I approach this album with some trepidation. White blues, when done faithfully to black blues, leaves me a little cold and bored. It can never be as good as the black blues. But, if it is given a new set of clothes and taken out on the arm of the white musician then it can work.
This was Benno's fifth album and third solo album and it was 1972. The blues had gone through it's rock n roll stage, it's acoustic folk stage, its home grown white R&B stage, its British invasion R&B stage, it's heavy electric and acid blues stage and its funky stage.
But, rock blues was still very popular especially with its heavy electric and funk overtones.
Led Zeppelin, Blind Faith, Derek and the Dominos, The Allman Brothers Band, ZZ Top, Mountain, Canned Heat, Cactus, Humple Pie, Sly & the Family Stone, Cold Blood, Ides of March, Leon Russell, Delaney and Bonnie and many others were all doing well..
If you were a serious musician you played the blues.
Benno had his roots in the blues and clearly could play and sing (though his vocals at times aren't forceful enough), write and entertain. It was a no-brainer.
Benno plays the blues on this album in the laid back lazy and funky style as was the style at the time – Clapton solo, JJ Cale.
The problems of 1972 are subsumed into style over content, though the trouble of the times comes through in the mood. Benno has separated the two album sides into two sounds. The first side is pure funk blues and more often than not it does just emulate the Afro-Americans but there are interesting asides – the chuggin saxophone and the slide guitar. The second side is blue eyed soul of the deep soul variety with moody keyboards and white boy bluesy ballads.
The band are tight Mike Utley (keyboards), Carl Radle (bass), Jim Keltner (drums and percussion), Bobby Keys (saxophone). They are tight and you have to be tight to sound this loose.
This album had a lot going for it but only reached #197 in the album charts. That was his highest solo placing.
Benno's solo career did very little., but should have done better.
For me, a little of this goes a long way unless it is really dressed up in new clothes.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Poor Boy – (Irvin Benno / Marc Benno ) – a very funky blues workout
- Southern Women – even better. Guitar is by legendary native American session guitarist Jesse ed Davis while Benno is on piano. Muscular and fun.
- Jive Fade Jive – an instrumental workout that is incredibly funky with some jazz overtones. Wonderful
- Hall Street Jive – Slide Guitar by Jesse Ed Davis and a great tune. Some great asides.
- Share – Horns by Booker T. Jones on this deep soul ballad. Very familiar but very good.
- Donut Man – (Irvin Benno / Marc Benno) – a great reflective ballad, of its time but undeniably mood soaked.
- Sunshine Feelin – (Irvin Benno / Marc Benno / Mike Utley) – standard white slow electric blues. The kind I find the most difficult to listen to.
- Here to Stay Blues – (Irvin Benno / Marc Benno) – Shared vocals with Bonnie Bramlett. Bramlett has great lungs and this blues works.
- Either Way It Happens – Bass – Ray Brown. Low key smouldering jazz blues with some squeaky vocals,
I've said before a little of this goes a long way with me. There is nothing really new here (not even by 1972 standards) but it is done so well … I may just keep this.
Hall Street Jive
- Producer – David Anderle, Marc Benno