Son Seals - lead guitar, vocals; Lacy Gibson - rhythm guitar; Snapper Mitchum - bass; Tony Gooden - drums
Performing professionally since the age of 13, Frank "Son" Seals began as a drummer before taking up the guitar. Seals father ran the Osceola, Arkansas juke joint, the Dipsy Doodle Club, where Son was first exposed to Sonny Boy Williamson and two of his early mentors, Robert Nighthawk and Albert King. By age 13, Seals began drumming for Nighthawk, but by the end of the 1950s, he began fronting his own band in Little Rock and had switched over to guitar. Over the course of the next 10 years, Seals honed his chops with the likes of Earl Hooker and Albert King, developing a penetrating style that synthesized the grit and emotional pitch of the early blues with elements of rock, R&B, swing, and funk. Seal's unique style reflected his background as a drummer, with his dense biting leads incorporating strikingly original percussive elements.
Following the death of his father in 1971 Seals relocated to Chicago, where his career began taking off. He began jamming around town with Hound Dog Taylor and Howling Wolf Jr. and played with blues greats like Buddy Guy, James Cotton, and Junior Wells, before leading his own band, establishing a reputation as one of the hottest guitar players around. It was during this time that he caught the ear of Bruce Iglauer of the blues label Alligator Records, while performing at the Flamingo Club. Seals' debut album, The Son Seals Blues Band, was released in 1973 to widespread critical acclaim and it, along with the 1976 follow-up, Midnight Sun, remain two of the greatest albums ever released by the label.
This remarkable performance, recorded at New York City's Bottom Line, when Seals opened a series of Buddy Guy and Junior Wells dates, captures the guitarist in incendiary form, several months before he expanded his quartet lineup to record his acclaimed live album, Live And Burning. Seals' slashing guitar work is all over this recording, which focuses on many of the best songs from his first two albums.
The set kicks off with the raging instrumental from his Hot Sauce album before Seals pays tribute to Albert King during a nearly ten minute burn through "Heart Fixing Business." The next three songs are all Seals originals from the first album and showcase Seal's jagged, uncompromising guitar riffs and gruff vocals very effectively. From the fiery intensity of "Mother-In-Law Blues" and "Sitting At My Window" to the funkier and soulful "How Could She Leave Me," this is a raw, gritty affair featuring scorching guitar that bites and claws at the listener, capturing Seals at the peak of his powers. Both his guitar playing and gruff vocals have a conviction rarely matched in the blues genre and his band retains a steamy intensity that rarely lets go.
A standout track from his sophomore effort Midnight Sun follows, with Seals continuing the sultry and soulful groove on a cover of Ray Charles' ''I Believe (You're Trying to Make a Fool Out of Me),'' followed by the swinging "Look Now, Baby," prior to the tape stock running out.
A culmination of years of experience, Seals' raw, uninhibited leads are strikingly emotive, closely in tune with the beat and generally tougher sounding than any blues guitarists of the era. As this recording so clearly displays, the Son Seals Blues Band was relentlessly exciting and full of passion and fire.