James "Blood" Ulmer has always been a bluesman in a free jazz world. However, rather than rely on I-IV-V changes to expel his demons, he's let a singularly cathartic guitar style redefine the relationship of blues to jazz. Here though, he lets the changes rule the day and ends up cutting a straight-ahead blues record that's so backward-looking it's just about as avant-garde as some of his prime '70s work. Whether it's the staged patter of "Goin' to New York" or the bizarre, by-the-book reading of "Come on (Let the Good Times Roll)" (during which even Ulmer can't let his guitar freakery rest), there's a creeping realization here that, despite how hard someone might try to get back to basics, for some weirdos, that just ain't gonna happen. Guests like Vernon Reid and Olu Dara add little of their voices to the sessions and, as usual for Captain Black, "No Escape" is somehow a perfectly iconoclastic addition to his oeuvre.
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