Nigel Puls­ford on lost-clas­sic gui­tar al­bums you must hear

Guitarist - - Backtracking -

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

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