Friday, February 24, 2012

George Thorogood and the Destroyers

Happy sixty-second birthday today (February 24th) to the American blues/rock performer from Delaware - George Thorogood.

In 1974, Thorogood recorded a demo record which didn't see release until 1979. Along with his band, he released the self-titled debut album George Thorogood and the Destroyers in 1977.

Side one opens with “You Got to Lose”, a track written Chicago bluesman Earl Hooker. It features a tight guitar riff played by Thorogood, Ron Smith and Billy Blough.

“Madison Blues” was originally written by Elmore James, another classic blues guitarist, who recorded it in 1960. This version shows off some amazing guitar work by Thorogood; he plays out a guitar sound that would become a signature in his performance for years to come.

“One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” was originally written by Rudy Toombs and recorded by Amos Milburn in 1953. The version on this album is an eight plus minute track that combines the song along with John Lee Hooker track “House Rent Boogie” to create a signature classic. I really love the driving beat on this one by Jeff Simon.

“Kind Hearted Woman” goes all the way back to the 1930’s and blues singer Robert Johnson. This old-fashioned love song is simple and stripped down, just Thorogood and his guitar.

Thorogood goes back to Elmore James once more for “Can’t Stop Lovin’”, a rapid-fire rocker. This one reminds me a lot of the early Beatles tracks from the start of their career when they too were covering some of the blues greats.

Side two begins with “Ride on Josephine”, a Bo Diddley ditty. Simon pounds out that classic Diddley beat on the drums that is so familiar.

“Homesick Boy” is the first of three Thorogood compositions. After sampling some of the best blues and R&B guitarists so far, one would wonder if he has what it takes to write a comparable tune. I think Thorogood studied enough from the masters to know how to get the formula down pat.

“John Hardy” is a traditional American folk song about life working on the railroads in West Virginia. Thorogood shows some harmonica chops on this track which has a very old fashioned sound to it. For me, it seems a bit out of place with the rest of the tracks.

The album closes out with two more original compositions. “I’ll Change My Style” has a bit of a 50’s doo-wop feel to it, changed up by the “crying” guitar. For someone who grew up in that happy days era, it makes sense for him to draw from the earliest days of rock n’ roll which, of course, drew from so many rhythm and blues performers.

“Delaware Slide” is another extended blues-jam track, this one clocking in just shy of eight minutes. The lyrics tell how the blues always had an influence on Thorogood. This is some great guitar playing on this track.

Like a number of rock acts from the 70’s, I was first exposed to this album through my older brother. While I knew what the blues were at the age of twelve in 1977, this was probably some of my first exposure to it on a regular basis.

This is the type of music I’d want to listen to driving down a long stretch of open highway; it just seems to fit so well. No one can argue that George Thorogood and the Destroyers were taking the easy road on their debut. These guys wring the heck out of so many of these tunes that you can’t help but give them their props.

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