The Lost Paramount Tapes
In 1973 James Booker -- the New Orleans
piano genius known as "The Black Liberace" --
was playing a gig at a Los Angeles club named Dirty Pierre's
with drummer John Boudreaux and bassist David Johnson. During
the run they recorded some sessions at Paramount Studios in Hollywood,
joined by Jessie Hill, David Lastie and other New Orleans expatriates.
The master tapes of these sessions were lost, but a mix tape was
recently located and has now been released.
This recording has a loose, informal quality
of many of Booker's recordings. One gets the impression
that the musicians just sauntered into the studio and started
playing. Of course, with Booker, it was hard to plan ahead in
any great detail -- he practically defines mercurial.
The Lost Tapes
includes many Booker favorites: "Goodnight Irene,"
his anthem "Junco Partner," "Tico Tico"
and the self-referential "So Swell When You're Well."
As usual, Booker plays jaw-dropping solos on his cheap spinet.
On instrumentals like "African Gumbo," he piles one
lightning-fast run on top of another. As enjoyable as his playing
is, there's little new here for those who already own Booker's
What is noteworthy, though, is Boudreaux's
drumming, which really kicks up a storm. He's got his own
version of the New Orleans backbeat loaded with unexpected accents
and is the real discovery in these rediscovered sessions.
-- David Feld