JOHNNY GUITAR WATSON: Untouchable (Label: Ace)

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This flamboyant blues guitar-slinger from Houston, Texas, is probably best remembered for his funk-fuelled ’70s hits ‘A Real Mother For Ya’ and ‘Superman Lover,’ both issued when he was signed to the UK-based DJM label (then home to Elton John). But Watson’s story goes back much further, right to the birth of rock and roll in the mid-’50s when he scored a Top 10 Stateside hit with ‘Those Lonely, Lonely Nights,’ for RPM. This commendable 27-track compilation doesn’t go back that far but it begins with 1959’s rambunctious R&B offering ‘The Bear’ and then proceeds to collect all of Watson’s early ’60s sides for the Arvee, Escort, King, Jowat, Highland and Magnum labels. The lion’s share of the material stems from a two-year tenure with Syd Nathan’s Cincinnati King label. Amongst these is the big US hit, ‘Cuttin’ In,’ and Watson’s original blues-drenched version of ‘Gangster Of Love’ – as recently used in a UK TV ad – a song he later resurrected in the ’70s with a funk backdrop and which dented the US charts (unlike the first version). Some of Watson’s ’60s sides are also treasured by Northern Soul fans – among them, rarities in the shape of the driving ‘Ain’t Gonna Move’ and ‘Big Bad Wolf,’ both featured here and which illustrate the singer’s move away from blues to soul. Copious and pertinent liner notes by Tony Rounce add to the appreciation of this antique collection.
(CW) 4/5