Kathi McDonald (1974) Insane Asylum (LP) Capitol ST-11224

Kathi McDonald

Insane Asylum

1974

Capitol ST-11224

produced by David Briggs

Arranged by Pete Sears

**** recommended

While many white female singers surfaced in the wake of Janis Joplin, this blue-eyed soul singer and blues belter was obviously a cut above much of the competition.

Coming from the far Northwest, McDonald made her way south as a youngster, performing in Seattle when she was 12 and eventually migrating to Frisco in her late teens (Seida). She became an Ikette in the late 1960s, and offered her vocals on Big Brother and the Holding Company’s final offerings and on the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street. She eventually recorded this solo album in 1974.


The set is produced by David Briggs and features a line up of American guitarists, Neil Schon, Ronnie Montrose, Nils Lofgren, and Jim Cipollina. While McDonald remains in the spotlight, these guitarists (and other musicians) play a big part of the recordings, especially as the set progresses into side two. A highlight includes Cipollina offering his trademark guitar sound to Eddie Cochran’s “Somethin’ Else.”


The first side will likely grab you, and the flipside will likely not let go, side one concluding with likely the first time Neil Young’s “Down to the Wire” had seen the light of day, the set concluding with the Willie Dixon-penned title track where Kathi shares the lead vocals with an uncredited Sly Stone (Gonzales).  While this can’t match the power of the 1968 original by Koko Taylor (with Willie Dixon himself sharing the vocals), it’s as good a cover of this song you’re likely to find.  It’s a fine conclusion to a solid album.


Perhaps because this focused on songs from years and decades of the past in an era when rock and roll was supposed to be progressive to be relevant, this album didn’t sell well,  It likely also didn’t help that Kathi not only focused on covers but also a rock sound in sharp contrast to the singer-songwriter folk rock so popular with white female singers in the post-60s early 70s.

 

After the lack of sales of this album, McDonald wouldn’t offer a follow-up until two decades later, but the quality of this album, along with her appearance on nearly 150 other albums (Seida) should be enough to provide her with a chapter in the history of singers from the Northwest.

 

— winch

Sources:

Gonzales, Michael A. Pitchfork. “The Pitch: Sly’s Stone-Cold Genius in 10 Best Late, Great Songs.” http://pitchfork.com/thepitch/1447-slys-stone-cold-genius-in-10-late-great-songs/

Seida, Linda. All Music. “Artists: Kathi McDonald.” http://www.allmusic.com/artist/kathi-mcdonald-mn0000365553/biography
http://kathimcdonald.com/discography/

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Sunnyland Slim (1977) She Got That Jive (LP) Airway Records 4275

Sunnyland Slim

She Got That Jive 

1977

Airway Records 4275

*** Noteworthy


While he’d headed north to Memphis in the late 1920s, when he was in his early 20s and settled in Chicago in the late 1930s (Dahl), this 1977 outing is still soaked in the Mississippi mud of his rural birthplace.  It’s just dripping with it.


While he played with on countless classic Chicago blues dates and played alongside nearly every Chicago blues legend, and had in fact released plenty of his own sides, he never really became a household name for the casual listener.  Eventually he set up his own label, Airway, which released this set.  Likely they didn’t have all the latest studio technology and that just helps give this recording some nice basement sound that fits the blues like an old piano in the corner.

Mostly Slim and the band stick with slow and mid tempo numbers but get the thing chugging along like a fast train on the instrumental “Station Break.”  Along with the piano, Slim offers vocals on most of the cuts, Bonnie Lee lending her pipes to “Standing on the Corner.”  Fans of electric Chicago blues will likely find plenty to enjoy on this set.

— winch (author of )

Dahl, Bill.  “Sunnyland Slim.”  AMG to the Blues. 2nd Edition. 1999.