This powerhouse set of live recordings from early in Robben Ford's distinguished career boasts solo-laden 10-minute-plus versions of B.B. King's "Sweet Sixteen" and John Lee Hooker's "It's My Own Fault." Ford, who has worked with Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, and George Harrison, plays surprisingly sweet, agile saxophone on Don Raye's jazz ballad "You Don't Know What Love Is." His voice–if still that of a very young man–is throaty and melodic on the King and Hooker cuts. But it's his guitar that takes centerstage. Owing heaps to electric bluesmen B.B., Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Albert King, and Mike Bloomfield, Ford's rich tone, deliberate lines, and tuneful bends were world-class even in 1972.
On his 1988 solo effort Talk to Your Daughter, singer/guitarist Robben Ford proves himself a master of sophisticated blues-rock guitar playing. The material is quite strong, and all the musicians perform at the highest level, but it's Ford's stellar soloing that makes this release. Fans of flailing '80s rock virtuosos would do well to check out Ford's exceptional work on Talk to Your Daughter. The musician's colorful yet controlled improvising and harmonic mastery is a rare and beautiful sonic treat. The title track is dripping with soulful, well-placed guitar lines that play like a master lesson of up-tempo blues phrasing that guitarists would do well to study. Other standouts include "Born Under a Bad Sign" and "Ain't Got Nothin' But the Blues." The fine arrangements and especially Vinnie Colaiuta's sharp drumming are all tightly wound with crisp, clear production that tops off "Talk to Your Daughter," making it a shining success. Listeners fond of Ford's work with the Yellowjackets and numerous side gigs, as well as guitarists and all musicians, should enjoy this very professional, succinctly executed offering. First rate!
Over the years many people have asked, "Will the real Robben Ford please stand up?" Those are the people who wonder if the singer/guitarist is really a blues-rock vocalist or a jazz fusion instrumentalist at heart. But truth be told, Ford is many different things. He is genuinely eclectic, which is why one never really knows from one album to the next what direction he will take. Blue Moon, Ford's first album for Concord Jazz, is primarily a vocal date. Ford gets in his share of inspired guitar solos, and he provides one instrumental: the gutsy "Indianola." But most of the time he sings. And as a vocalist, he favors an exciting blend of blues, rock, and soul on tracks like "Something for the Pain," "Don't Deny Your Love," and "The Way You Treated Me (You're Gonna Be Sorry)." Meanwhile, "It Don't Make Sense (You Can't Make Peace)" and the moody "Make Me Your Only One" are among the CD's more jazz-tinged vocal offerings. Ford does not embrace a standard 12-bar blues format on all of the material, but then, he never claimed to be a blues purist.
The first thing that comes to mind when listening to Tiger Walk is the pair of instrumental albums recorded by Jeff Beck in the mid-'70s, Blow by Blow and Wired. Like those two recordings, this outing showcases a fiery, inventive electric guitarist in a rock and jazz-rock setting. Robben Ford, known in recent years for his blues work with his band, the Blue Line, eschews vocals here, teaming up with keyboard funk master Bernie Worrell for some chunky, funky, wah-wah-laden grooves. This music, led by Ford's blazing guitar lines, is more appropriately categorized as instrumental rock than jazz, but the rhythms recall James Brown and Worrell's alma mater, the P-Funk gang, as often as they do those of a hard rock band. Tenor saxophonist Bob Malach turns in a couple of solid solos, and the rhythm section of drummer Steve Jordan and bassist Charlie Drayton cooks throughout.
This is a keeper from the word "go." Recorded live in 1995 (but not released until 1998) at Yoshi's in Oakland, CA, Robben Ford is joined by long-time Blue Line trio members Roscoe Beck on bass and Tom Brechtlein on drums, as well as Bill Boublitz on a baby grand piano. Although nearly all of the songs can be found on other Ford albums (most are from Handful of Blues), one of the things that makes this jazzy recording so special is that Ford is playing only an acoustic guitar. The Ray Charles gem "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying" (which you WON'T find elsewhere) is simply beautiful, and on Paul Butterfield's "Lovin' Cup," it's just Ford and his guitar. The brilliance of his playing and the reason behind why so many guitar players put him at the top of their list can be found in Ford's performance on this release, alternating between lead and rhythm. The Authorized Bootleg also has great (albeit laid-back) versions of "When I Leave Here" and "Tired of Talkin'." Highly, highly recommended.