Nigel Pulsford on lost-classic guitar albums you must hear
Phil Upchurch Darkness Darkness
Guitarist Phil Upchurch was a sideman extraordinaire at Chess Records in the 1960s where he was a salaried session player, working almost as much on bass as on guitar. He moved from Chicago to Los Angeles in the early 1970s and hooked up with producer Tommy Lipuma, signed with Blue Thumb Records and released this, his fourth solo album.
Originally an R&B, jazz-influenced player, his sound in the later 60s had become a little ‘far out’ but he now reverted to a cleaner, more natural-sounding tone. He plays with great freedom, refusing to be constrained by genre in this eclectic collection of inspired performances. The backing band is top drawer (Joe Sample, Chuck Rainey, Harvey Mason, Donny Hathaway and Arthur Adams) and they create a wonderful cohesive sound, a perfect bed for Upchurch’s inventive playing. He never seems to run out of ideas!
He has jazz chops aplenty and freely mixes funk, rock, country and blues, channelling Curtis Mayfield, Steve Cropper, Grant Green, Johnny Smith and T Bone Walker plus a lot of Phil. He stretches out, firing clusters of notes at the canvas, pushing the envelope and the other players to new heights. His evident enthusiasm for his instrument is delightfully infectious. Further Listening: Donny Hathaway, Live, Phil Upchurch, Lovin’ Feeling