Classic urban Blues with down home musical support from a gifted group of musicians including Charlie Musselwhite, Mike Bloomfield and Robbie Robertson
In the same year that Judy Roderick released "Woman Blue", John Hammond was taking the blues in a different direction. That year, he was one of the younger performers plugging in and harnessing the power of electric amplification-Bob Dylan, Paul Butterfield and the Chambers Brothers had all made the same move. What has always made 'So Many Roads' of special importance, however, is that the backing band includes future members of The Band: Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm and Garth Hudson, plus the legendary blues guitarist Mike Bloomfield (here on piano), harmonica giant Charlie Musselwhite and bassist Jimmy Lewis. A gritty, blues-drenched selection of twelve blues covers, including Howling Wolf's Down In The Bottom, Muddy Waters' Long Distance Call, Bo Diddley's Who Do You Love (The Band revisited this song in the film The Last Waltz with vocals by rock'n'roll legend Ronnie Hawkins) and Robert Johnson's Rambling Blues, "So Many Roads" remains a fine reminder of the longevity of John Hammond's life in the blues.
01. Down In The Bottom 3:01
02. Long Distance Call 3:18
03. Who Do You Love 3:00
04. I Want You To Love Me 4:05
05. Judgement Day (A.k.a. If I Had Possession
Over Judgement Day 3:22
06. So Many Roads, So Many Trains 2:40
07. Rambling Blues 3:15
08. O Yea! 3:32
09. You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover 3:28
10. Gambling Blues 3:10
11. Baby, Please Don't Go 2:19
12. Big Boss Man 2:40
Total time: 37:50 min.
Originally released in 1965
as Vanguard Stereolab VSD-79178
John Hammond (g), Charlie Musselwhite (harmonica), Robbie Robertson (g), Levon Helm (d), Michael Bloomfield (p), Jimmy Lewis (b), Garth Hudson (Hammond organ)
Cover photo by Barry Feinstein
Art design: Jules Halfant
Liner notes: barry Kittleson
"So Many Roads is Hammond's most notable mid-'60s Vanguard album, due not so much to Hammond's own singing and playing (though he's up to the task) as the yet-to-be-famous backing musicians. Three future members of the Band - Robbie Robertson, Garth Hudson, and Levon Helm - are among the supporting cast, along with Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica, and Mike Bloomfield also contributes. It's one of the first fully realized blues-rock albums, although it's not in the same league as the best efforts of the era by the likes of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band or John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. In part that's because the repertoire is so heavy on familiar Chicago blues classics by the likes of Willie Dixon, Bo Diddley, and Muddy Waters; in part that's because the interpretations are so reverent and close to the originals in arrangement; and in part it's also because Hammond's blues vocals were only okay. Revisionist critics thus tend to downgrade the record a notch. But in the context of its time - when songs like "Down in the Bottom," "Long Distance Call," "Big Boss Man," and "You Can't Judge a Book By the Cover" were not as well known as they would become - it was a punchy, well-done set of electric blues with a rock touch."
Richie Unterberger -All Music Guide