304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
Thorbjørn Risager has been a significant name in the blues scene for twenty years and, with his ever skilful band The Black Tornado (formerly the Blue 7 band)behind him, is marking that milestone with a two-volume Best Of…not the most imaginative title perhaps, but for fans that have their own firm favourites, it is a carefully and very selected list covering Thorbjørn’s excursions across eleven studio and one live album and, I must admit, is close to the tracks I’d have chosen.
He first came to my attention with the Too Many Roads album, and a quick search on Bluesdoodles will reveal that and other exploits. That firmly placed him in the top flight of blues guitarists and sent me on a difficult and expensive hunt for his back catalogue, as there were quite a few more works of art to be found on the little known Danish Cope Records label, Dust and Scratches being my favourite. It was worth the effort as these, and his other Ruf releases are all worthy of a place in my (or any) blues collection.
With over twenty tracks, I will only select a few of my very favourites (which is most of them.) The cover is interesting too, with a stark abandoned and yet clean, industrial workshop which I think is from a set of photography books by Dutch artists Morten Kirckhoff and Jan Elhøj, entitled: Abandoned Places taken in Denmark as a stark record of the beauty and the tragedy of the past.
Starting with the earlier tracks such as Ain’t Ever Gonna Leave No More…what it lacks in grammar is more than made up for in blues bite: acoustic, guitar, bass harp and brushed drums showcase his blues soaked vocals in a great song from his bed back in 2006. The electric punctuates nicely and an electric piano illuminates…no wonder the cognoscenti saw a future in this man. The follow up album, Here I Am, delivered on the promise of the first and Heart of the Night displays a funky start and quickly relaxes into a new kind of familiar; soulful and drenched with horns but it also has an outstanding, crafted and delicious electric solo that makes this a sort of Ray Charles backed with true blues. Rock ’n’ Roll Ride is just that, with a fabulous slide riff and a bounce that is like a heavy CCR…nice. My pick of the first ten years is the blues song that could have come out of the deep south in the 20s, if the’d had electric guitars then…a simple stomp backing the brilliant guitar work and vocals that have an earthy realism.
From the ‘second decade’ I had to include the only two covers on this double album. China Gate was written by Victor Young and Harold Adamson; it’s a film theme of that name, sung by Nat King Cole. It may seem a strange choice, but as soon as you hear the exquisite acoustic picking and un-Cole but suited perfectly vocals, any doubts disappear. Add to that the echoing slide: it very cleverly replicates the strings of the original but has bite and guitar phrasing that sends shivers…it’s lovely.
Baby Please Don’t Go is the Big Joe Williams classic that has been covered by many, mastered by a few…my favourite will always be the superb treatment by Budgie, back in 1973. This version is a cracker too as the live, horn-filled rendition has power, feel and classy performance from all involved…the guitar/horn interplay is genius. Hold My Lover Tight is a very heavy blues that sounds like it could have fitted on Purple’s Stormbringer…if they’d deployed horns behind the pounding riff and swirling Hammond. A great song with so many textures and a proper bluesy rocking guitar solo of imagination and histrionic free…class.
I hope that gives a taste of the wide-ranging styles and quality that imbues all of Thorbjørn’s work because, however you look at this, with a running time over two hours, it is great value and packed with quality songs…as the cover says: “all killers and no fillers”.
Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws – A Wonderful collection of quality blues from an instinctive bluesman. If you’re already a fan, it could plug some gaps and if you don’t know this supremely talented band, this is a damn good place to start, before you start to seek out the albums that this compilation is based
Volume 1 (the first decade)
Rock n Roll Ride
Rhythms Of The Night
You Can Have it Your Way
Stand Beside Me
Love Turned Cold
Eyes That Turned Away
On My Way
You Better Pay Attention
You Walked Right In To My Heart
I Won’t Let You Down
In The Back Of My Mind
Heart Of The Night
All I Want
Ain’t Ever Gonna Leave No More
Volume 2 (the second decade)
If You Wanna Leave
I Used To Love You
Hold My Lover Tight
Never Givin In
Too Many Roads
Baby Please Don’t Go
Through The Tears
Maybe It’s Alright
Long Forgotten Track
Come On In
Same Old Lies – Part Un
Same Old Lies – Part Deux
Thorbjørn Risager: vocals, guitar
Emil Balsgaard: piano, organ, wurlitzer, synthesizer
Joachim Svensmark: guitar, synthesizer, bg vocal
Kasper Wagner: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone
Hans Nybo: tenor saxophone
Peter Kehl: trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone, sousaphone
Søren Bøjgaard: bass, moog bass, synthesizer
Martin Seidelin: drums, percussion
Previous band members:
Peter Skjerning, Svein Erik Martinsen Ånestad, Andreas Biilmann
Lea Thorlann (backing vocal)
Pia Trøjgaard (backing vocal)
Miriam Mandipira Mumba (backing vocal)
Mads Lumholdt (backing vocal)
Jarno Varsted (Harmonica)
The Tournadettes featured on the live ‘Song From The Road’ album.
Ida Bang (backing vocal)
Lisa Davidsson (backing vocal)
(i (iTunes moved on to a lot more Thorbjørn so, after indulging I moved up the daft sorting protocol to the magnificent These Wicked Rivers and then down to the equally magnificent Thunder…and got no meaningful work done for the rest of the day!)