Picks and Pans Review: These Blues
These blues are like well-aged brandy: smooth, yet full of fire. Brown, 72, developed his suave approach to the blues playing in Hollywood after-hours clubs in the '40s and '50s and recorded a string of R&B hits that have just been reissued on The Complete Aladdin Recordings of Charles Brown (Mosaic Records, 35 Melrose Place, Stamford, Conn. 06902; 203-327-7111). In recent years he has distilled the boogie rhythmic patterns he plays on piano to light and swirling essences and has further refined his tuxedo-slick vocal style.
Still, when Brown sings of "hard times and tribulations" in the title track of These Blues, the message rings true. After Brown's early success, the advent of rock and roll sent his career into eclipse, and he had to supplement his income by working for a janitorial service until Bonnie Raitt invited him to be her opening act on a 1990 tour. He has since recorded five albums of which These Blues is the best yet. Loneliness and heartache remain Brown's stock in trade, but his glistening piano runs and velvet vocal tones, particularly on "Amazing Grace" and on Duke Ellington's "I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good)," are the work of a man who is the soul of elegance. (Verve)