Monday, July 06, 2009

Popa's In The Basement

Popa Chubby
Brooklyn Basement Blues
Biography by Richard Skelly & Al Campbell
Born Ted Horowitz in the Bronx, NY, Popa Chubby was the son of a candy store owner. At 13, Chubby began playing drums; shortly thereafter, he discovered the music of the Rolling Stones and began playing guitar. Although he grew up in the 1970s, Chubby took his cue from artists of the 1960s, including Sly & the Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton, among others. By the time he was in his early twenties, he enjoyed and played blues music, but also worked for a while backing punk poet Richard Hell. Chubby's first big break was winning a national blues talent search sponsored by KLON, a public radio station in Long Beach, CA. He won the New Artist of the Year award and opened at the Long Beach Blues Festival in 1992. Chubby has continued to play more than 200 club dates a year through the 1990s. His Sony/Okeh debut, Booty and the Beast, was produced by longtime Atlantic Records engineer/producer Tom Dowd, whose recordings by Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett, and others are legendary. In 1994, Chubby released several albums on his own Laughing Bear label, It's Chubby Time and Gas Money, before landing his deal with Sony Music/Okeh Records for Booty and the Beast, his major-label debut, released in 1995. In 1996, the 1 (800) PrimeCD label released a live recording of Chubby's, Hit the High Hard One. Two years later, One Million Broken Guitars was released on Lightyear Records; Brooklyn Basement Blues followed in 1999. In 2000, Chubby signed with the Blind Pig label and released How'd a White Boy Get the Blues? in 2001. The disc turned out to be a slight departure, incorporating elements of contemporary pop and hip-hop. 2002's The Good, the Bad and the Chubby showed great development in the artist's songwriting and included the 9/11 commentary "Somebody Let the Devil Out." Blind Pig released a collection of early Chubby recordings, The Hungry Years, in 2003. Troubled by the war in Iraq, Chubby released his most political album, Peace, Love and Respect, a year later. Two albums previously available only in France -- Live at FIP and Wild -- were compiled by the Blind Pig label and released as Big Man Big Guitar in 2005, followed by a new studio set called Stealing the Devil's Guitar a year later. Electric Chubbyland, a two-disc set of Chubby covering Jimi Hendrix songs, appeared from Dixie Frog that same year, and then was repackaged and issued as two single discs by Blind Pig in 2007.
Review by Cub Koda
Popa Chubby plays loud blues-rock, plain and simple. The songs on this 1999 outing are almost all originals from his pen, with Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long" and Jimi Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary" being the only covers aboard. While blues purists will no doubt find his playing and demeanor rock-excessive, fans of burning bluesy guitar will actually find much here to savor. Chubby never really overplays (given the parameters of the genre he's working in, mind you) and the tunes show a stronger sense of melody this time out. There's a nice selection of grooves and all of them exist as songs first and as frameworks second. Fans of high-powered blues-rock will love this one.
1 Shakedown
2 If It Feels Like Love
3 Rats Get Whacked
4 She Said That Evil Was Her Name
5 Transformation
6 Arlita
7 White Devil
8 The Wind Cries Mary
9 Meat Helmet
10 I've Been Loving You Too Long
11 You Can't Keep a Brother Down