MUSIC: BB & Co. – Let It Shine
Released December 2017
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
BB & Co’s debut album opens with original Find A Place, Bill Blissett’s boogie woogie piano dancing with an on-point riff from guitarists Paul Fitton and Ivan Kellehear, making it all but impossible to keep from dancing or foot tapping along. Whether you’re listening alone at home or out at a club, you’ll be moving – so best be careful if listening when driving.
This is a seriously experienced group – Blissett, Fitton and Kellehear are joined by virtuoso bassist Jim Awram and the swingingest drummer you’ve heard in a long time, Michael Arkins, and all boast careers dating back to the ‘60s. Between them they’ve worked with the likes of Van Morrison and Them, Dave Hole, Eugene Hideaway Bridges, Graham Greene, Jaime Page, Michael Vdelli, Jeff St John and more bands than we have time to list here. There’s virtually no style of music these cats haven’t played professionally, and it shows in the depth and nuance they bring to the material: sure, it’s the blues, but it’s so much more than that. It’s got soul, rock n’ roll, groove and above all, good times and passion turned up to the redline.
A handful of Blissett’s originals – including the stunning title track and the groovy-to-a-fault Confusion Shuffle – stand boldly alongside classics from Bad Company (Weep No More), Muddy Waters (Standing Around Crying), ZZ Top (Jesus Just Left Chicago) and more.
Most surprisingly, effervescent 60’s pop hit Spooky is transformed into a slinky, smoky and soulful wonder with a scorching guitar solo and a slight hint of leaning towards Santana territory. Elsewhere, the party blues of Delbert McClinton’s Every Time I Roll The Dice and Bobby Blue Bland’s I Don’t Believe keep the good times rollin’.
They say that the blues is about ‘catching lightning in a bottle’, and BB & Co do just that – then help it slap it’s finest high heeled sneakers on and take it out for a good time, boogie woogie night of fun.
It took a few reminders and not so subtle nudges for Bill to finally sit down and talk about his early days as a musician!
With parents who were musical it’s no surprise really that Bill started off playing classical piano throughout his time at school in the UK. Blues music and keyboards were quite a way off at this point.
Early in 1960, Lonnie Donegan’s ‘Skiffle Sound’ inspired Bill to take up guitar but then a friend, Robin Box, (later of White Plains) needed a bass player for the Phantoms and Bill thought, “That should be easy, I’ll do it!” and joined the band.
When he did get in to Blues music, early inspiration came from Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Cyril Davies to name a few.
Things took off for Bill when he joined Blues by Five as keyboard player. The band supported acts such as the Rolling Stones, Steve Winwood, Manfred Mann and The Hollies. In 1964 they signed a record contract with Decca and released a successful single with A side - John Lee Hooker‘s ‘Boom Boom’ and B-side ‘I Cried’, composed by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham and Mike Leander of Decca.
Turns out Bill knew Charlie Watts from his school days! In fact, we now know that Bill has met and worked with quite a few famous faces over the years and we’ve managed to get copies of photos. We’ll be sharing those soon and you might have to put your thinking cap on to guess a few names.
Meantime enjoy this little bit of Bill’s bio and check out these photos! First time we’ve seen someone playing ‘air’ keyboards :-)
I started playing guitar when I was 11 years old. An older boy at Sunday school (yes, I know!) brought in his guitar and I was impressed! I started with a few lessons, playing classical guitar but quickly ditched that in favour of a semi-acoustic. I listened to records and tapes (remember those?), and learned through chord books.
When I was 12 I got in touch with former primary school friend Alan Forman who played drums. We hooked up with other players of similar age and formed the band Hourglass. Our fist gig was at Atherstone Working Mens Club in England. By then I had saved up for my first electric guitar; an Epiphone solid body along with a cheap amp that was not so memorable!
I played with Hourglass for about 7 years mostly doing Rock n Roll and top 40 covers. In ‘real life’ I was into heavy rock and early inspiration came from Eric Clapton, Pete Townsend, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and American blues players.
With a bit more cash saved up I became the proud owner of a Japanese Antoria Les Paul though there were a few others too. Could never have just one guitar even then! I sold up all my music equipment when I migrated to Australia almost 40 years ago. Watch this space as my story continues...but in the meantime enjoy the photos and be kind with your comments!
Mikey Arkins shares stuff about his favourite topic – drums! He talks about when he started playing and who influenced him in the early days. AND introduces his latest purchase!
I started playing in the mid 60's using Premier drums as they were the only ones I could afford. Gretsch along with Ludwig, Slingerland and Rogers were Iconic American drums at that time and out of my reach financially. My main influences at that time were Bobby Elliot of the Hollies, Ian Paice of Deep Purple, Mitch Mitchell of Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Rich. There were many others but they were the stand out players for me.
Here are some photos are of my new kit which I played most recently at the Perth Blues Club. It’s a Gretsch Renown bought from Kosmic. They are all Maple shells with Gretsch 302 die cast hoops as used in the Brooklyn and Broadcaster kits. I had considered a Yamaha Live Custom Oak but the Gretsch has always been on my radar and bought at a great price...deal done.