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East Side SlimBy East Side Slim

CD image - Nick Moss & The Flip Tops – Play It ‘Til TomorrowNick Moss & The Flip Tops – Play It ‘Til Tomorrow (2 CD set) – Blue Bella, 2007

Nick Moss & The Flip Tops are becoming a fairly prolific recording band, especially in these days of record company mergers, musical tastes-of-week, and public ambivalence to the blues. Of course, owning and operating your own record company is one way to play by your own rules, and Nick Moss has been doing that since the early 2000s. The double CD Play It ‘Til Tomorrow is the band’s 6th release on Moss’ Blue Bella label (and they’ve since released another CD in 2009 – Live At Chan’s: Combo Platter No. 2.)

Disc One, referred to as Program One in all CD artwork, is the sort of electric blues that fans of the Flip Tops have come to expect – heavy duty Chicago electric blues featuring deep grooves and plenty of shuffles. Program Two (Disc Two) is another kind of animal. Nick chose to focus primarily on acoustic-based music there, split between full band tracks and duets. Both discs are great listens, and the surprising inclusion of an acoustic-based disc makes this release even more special.
As always, the boys in the band don’t stay put on just one instrument. Nick, Gerry Hundt and Piano Willie Oshawny all play multiple instruments – drummer Bob Carter does limit himself to only drums and percussion! Also, there is a girl in the band on occasion, as Nick’s wife Kate sits in on several tracks on either bass or rhythm guitar. There are also two special guests on hand: Eddie Taylor, Jr. and Barrelhouse Chuck. Taylor adds his guitar to several songs on Disc One, and Barrelhouse Chuck sits in on piano for a song on Disc Two.

The Songs: (all songs by Nick Moss except as noted)

Disc 1 – electric Chicago blues

1. Late Night Saint
--Ridin’ a killer groove, very much in a Magic Slim & The Teardrops vein. If you can’t feel this then you have a hole in your soul. If anyone ever tells you the blues is only sad music, play this track for them. This tune features Eddie Taylor, Jr. on rhythm guitar.

2. You Make Me So Happy
--A very fast up-tempo blues; it makes you kind of feel like you’re careening down the tracks behind a runaway locomotive, still picking up speed. This tune features Eddie Taylor, Jr. on 2nd guitar.

3. Woman Don’t Lie – (Luther “Snake” Johnson)
--This is a tune from “Snake” Johnson, not to be confused with “Houserocker” Johnson, which is easy to do as both are named Luther and both did stints in Muddy Waters’ band. This cut is slinky and raw, befitting the author’s nickname of Snake. Nick’s wife, Kate Moss, is handling the rhythm guitar chores here.

4. Mistakes From The Past
--Man, this cut oozes West Side feel. It’s a slow blues, with the lyrics being about a brother of a friend of Nick’s who had to serve in Afghanistan/Iraq and how the experience aged him much too quickly. The lead guitar lines here are very raw, imparting an increased feeling of dread and foreboding into the song. There’s nothing pretty or romantic about war, folks. This tune features Eddie Taylor, Jr. on rhythm guitar.

5. Bad Avenue – (Warner Williams)
--This is a tune Lefty Dizz was semi-famous for playing back-in-the-day in Chicago. The Flip Tops have rearranged it some. It starts off in overdrive, in the fashion of Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers, and then settles back into a nice up-tempo shuffle groove. Watch out for those razor totin’ women out on Bad Avenue.

6. Lyin’ For Profit
--Aw, man, this one is another track with a killer groove. It’s a little slower in tempo, but it sure doesn’t drag. Nice…

7. Herman’s Holler
--I love the title of this one. Kate Moss shows up again on rhythm guitar. I swear this track sounds like something Magic Sam could have recorded during his Cobra Records days. If you aren’t familiar with Cobra Records labels, you need to be. Magic Sam, Otis Rush and Buddy Guy all recorded for this company – during the same time period. That’s really where the “West Side sound” came from.

8. Grease Fire
--Here’s a hot instrumental, just a little on the funky edge. Yeah, Grease Fire describes it pretty well. Fun! Kate Moss is playing bass here.

9. Rising Wind – (Floyd Jones)
--The Flip Tops take on an old Floyd Jones tune. Floyd and Moody Jones played and recorded with Snooky Pryor in the ‘50s; they cut many great tracks together. This is deep, deep Chicago blues, the type of thing Muddy made his name with. Nick Moss is on harp, with Eddie Taylor, Jr. on guitar.

10. Tend To Your Business
--This tune is groove, feel, raw guitar and declamatory vocals - everything that is good about Chicago electric blues. The percussion work sound so cool here; I dare you to sit still listening to this song! It’s got that soulful, funky earthiness that a lot of Howlin’ Wolf’s up-tempo tracks had. Wolf was one soulful, funky bluesman; many of his tunes were built around killer grooves.

11. My Love Is Like Fire
--This mid-tempo cut features Willie Oshawny on Rhodes-like electric piano, as well as Eddie Taylor, Jr. on rhythm guitar. I’m diggin’ the keyboard sound here, and look forward to Willie using it a little more often.

12. Peculiar Feeling
--Hard blues, with Nick wailing on harp and Kate Moss on bass. Nick’s voice sounds eerily like William Clarke’s voice on this song. As Nick is aging his voice is gaining a very nice deep timbre. This song definitely reminds me of Clarke’s Chicago-styled tunes.

13. Too Many Miles
--This track might be the most primitive song on Disc One. Gerry Hundt is playing unamplified harp - straight through a mic, not through an amp. It’s just a cool old-school vamp. Nothing fancy, but it sure does satisfy.

14. The Rump Bump
--Can you guess what’s going on here? This cut is a groover, out to make you a mover, shakin’ what God gave ya, good for what ails ya. Shake that junk, baby!

DISC 2 – primarily acoustic-based band and duo blues

1. You’ve Got The Devil Inside
--This is a 4-piece band-powered up-tempo shuffle. This thing cooks right along, and Gerry Hundt puts on a show with his harp work. He is a heck of a harp player.

2. I’ll Be Straight With You
--Mid-tempo full band shuffle, featuring Willie on piano and Gerry on harp.

3. Another Life Is Gone
--This is a band-format slowwwwww blues. Very deep. Music in this style always makes me think of Muddy Waters’ earliest Chess (Aristocrat) records.

4. Fill ‘er Up
--This song features only Nick and Gerry, playing guitar and harp, respectively. It’s a mid-tempo instrumental piece – back porch blues – and is very nice. Gerry is showing off a little bit on harp, which is just fine. I’d love to hear him play “lead” harp in a band or on CD at some point.

5. It’s Written In the Bible

--Another band track. This has a martial feel thanks to Bob Carter’s percussion work. It is a slow blues lament concerning the poor manner in which people are treating each other – the Bible surely states that just isn’t right. Basically, we should be treating each other with respect, even if we don’t always agree with one another.

6. Wild Imagination
--This is an up-tempo shuffle played by the band. Gerry and Willie sound great here, driving this thing along hard.

7. You’ll Remember My Name
--This band track might be my favorite on Disc 2. The performances here are amazing; Piano Willie is making the piano talk and Nick’s vocals are very expressive. As a treat, Gerry pulled out his mandolin for this song.

8. Crazy Mixed Up Baby ‘07
--We have a gentle-sounding duo performance here, with Nick on vocals and acoustic guitar and Gerry on acoustic rhythm guitar.

9. Got My Mail Today
-- Another duo performance, this time featuring Nick on vocals and guitar and Barrelhouse Chuck on piano. Barrelhouse Chuck is an incredibly talented piano player, who can do as much justice to the older blues piano styles as any active blues-based pianist you can probably think of. Chuck’s piano is definitely the focus of the tune.

10. I Shall Not Be Moved – (traditional)
--This is unlike most anything you’ve ever heard from Nick & The Flip Tops. It’s a gentle, traditional religious piece, sung in 2-part harmony by Nick and Gerry, with Nick playing guitar and Gerry playing mandolin. The sound of the acoustic mandolin certainly lends itself to facilitating the gentle nature of the song. Beautiful work, boys.

11. Slim’s Lament
--The band is back here, taking us down in the alley. Lament is the perfect word for this tune, as it has a melancholy feel. The song sounds great. Bob Carter’s drum work throughout Disc 2 is very nice, providing much of the mood to the tunes without ever overpowering them. Proper seasoning is always important, and Bob knows his spices well.

12. Married Woman Blues
--A band-powered slow blues, taking you further on down to the end of the alley, and then dumping you on the ground out behind the trash cans. By the time this song was nearing the end I was looking for a bottle of Thunderbird to ease my own pain. Deep blues…

13. I’ll Be Straight With You (alternate take)
--This is an alternate take of track 2 from this disc, with this alternate take being just a little bit looser.

14. It’s Written In The Bible (alternate take)
--This alternate take is very different from the 1st take found earlier on this Disc. While the other version was a band track, this alternate take is a vocal/acoustic guitar/harp duet between Nick and Gerry. I think this format actually lent even more power to the song, and to the song’s message.

The Verdict:

As has become the norm, Nick Moss & The Flip Tops have knocked another musical effort out of the park. I really can’t say enough good things about this 2 CD set. Disc 1 will absolutely delight fans of electric Chicago blues of the ‘50s and ‘60s. It’s groovin’ ensemble blues of the highest order. Disc 2 takes the listener in a little different direction, with Nick and the boys (and Kate) playing primarily in an acoustic fashion, with many of the tunes being duets. It’s a great change of pace, and serves to show how good the band really is. There’s nowhere to hide when the electricity is turned off (or at least way down) and there’s no need for anyone in this band to hide – they’re all top-flight musicians, deep players well versed in all forms of blues coming out of Chicago. Their love of this type of material is obvious in everything they play. STLBluesometer rating of 4.00.

Lee Howland - aka "East Side Slim"
The STLBluesometer

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