BERNIE MARSDEN – Chess (2021)

BERNIE MARSDEN - Chess (2021) full

Former Whitesnake guitarist BERNIE MARSDEN is releasing ”Chess”, the second album in Marsden’s ‘Inspiration Series’, the follow up to the #1 Blues album ‘Kings’ appeared early this year. Featuring 10 songs that were originally issued by the legendary Chicago label Chess, this is another labour of love for Bernie.
Songs by giants such as Howling Wolf, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Elmore James, have all been given a new lease of life in these remarkably fresh recordings, and once again as on the first ‘Inspiration Series’ CD, there’s two Bernie Marsden penned tracks inspired by Chess artists appear as bonus tracks on the album.
”Chess” is blues, blues rocking, where he chooses and crafts his own interpretation of the iconic artists and songs that helped inspire and shape his own musical style and taste. It’s all great classic rock, thanks not only to Marsden (who sings as wonderfully as he plays), but also to his seasoned band.

In 2021, inspired by a conversation with Billy Gibbons, original Whitesnake guitarist Bernie Marsden began his ‘Inspirations series’ by releasing the well-received ‘Kings’, covers of songs by bluesmen Albert, BB and Freddie King. Now comes this similarly packaged second volume of songs once recorded for Chess, revisiting the musicians and records that helped shape Marsden’s life.
The album was recorded in the old- school way: live in one room, minimum overdubs, simply wringing the best out of a lifetime’s experience on vintage instruments. The result is a mixture of reverential re-tread and contemporary revamp.

It opens with a song that puts a blazing harmonica in the spotlight: Little Walter’s ‘Just Your Fool’. After that, riffs by legendary bluesmen motor by, among them ‘Back In The USA’ (Chuck Berry), ‘I Can’t Hold Out’ (Elmore James), ‘Fattening Frogs For Snakes’ (Sonny Boy Williamson) and ‘I’m Ready’ (Willie Dixon).
Any one of these could stand alone as a great recording by Marsden, and collectively they crackle with the energy of a man clearly thrilled to repay perceived debts to the musicians he first heard as a teenager.

Another Dixon song, ‘You Can’t Judge A Book’ (a hit for Bo Diddley in 1962), is a highlight, as is ‘Grits Ain’t Groceries’ (by Titus Turner, who wrote the song as All Around The World in 1955) done here in the style of Little Milton’s re-titled hit of 1969.
To slow things down, Marsden revisits the canon of Albert King for ‘Won’t Be Hanging Around’, here featuring a heartfelt vocal that perfectly matches the sweet notes of his guitar.

Two fine Marsden-written songs close the set as bonus tracks – ‘Lester’ (named for Les Paul) and ‘Johnny’ (as in Winter, because Marsden recorded the track using his 1964 Gibson Firebird, Winter’s weapon of choice) – but the album peaks with ‘Who’s Been Talking’ (by Chester Burnett, aka Howlin’ Wolf). It’s delivered in the style of Fleetwood Mac’s Otis Rush-inspired ‘Black Magic Woman’, with a stunning solo that matches the tone and feel of Peter Green. The track is truly beautiful, and cements ”Chess” as a work of both entertainment and education.
Highly Recommended


01 – Just Your Fool
02 – Back in the USA
03 – Grits Ain’t Groceries
04 – I’m Ready
05 – You Can’t Judge a Book
06 – I Can’t Hold On
07 – Won’t Be Hanging Around
08 – Fattening Frogs For Snakes
09 – That’s Alright
10 – Who’s Been Talking
11 – Lester
12 – Johnny

Bernie Marsden – vocals, guitars
John Gordon – bass
Jim Russell – drums
Bob Haddrell – keys
Alan Glen – harmonica



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