Bernie Marsden – Big Boy Blues And Green (1995-2005) (4CD Set)


Whitesnake, UFO, Babe Ruth, Alaska… the list of great bands that have included Bernie Marsden within their line-ups is impressive. BUT, and it’s a huge but (ooh! err! Misses) it has to be said that Bernie is never happier than when he is playing the blues. This collection finds him paying homage to one of his greatest heroes, Peter Green (Green And Blues) as well as showcasing many of his own original blues tracks (Big Boy Blues) alongside out-takes, alternate versions and demos (Big Boy Blues Sessions) and is topped off with an in concert disc (Big Boy Blues: Live At The Granary).

The backbone of this set is supplied by the two studio albums, Green And Blues from 1995 and the much later Bog Boy Blues from 2003. Although not exclusively featuring Green related tracks Green And Blues includes tracks made famous during Peter Green’s time with John Mayall and The Blues Breakers and Fleetwood Mac. Opening with Blues Breakers track ‘Hideaway’ which is a perfect showcase for both Marsden and Green. This is one of three instrumental tracks along with the Mick Taylor era Blues Breakers track ‘Snowy Wood’ and PG original ‘The Supernatural’ which are all total candy to the ears. Fleetwood Mac era material makes up a good chunk of the tracklist (8 tracks) but with blues tunes like ‘If You Be My Baby’, the harmonica heavy ‘Rollin’ Man’, ‘Shake Your Money Maker’ which is ever popular on the blues live circuit and the heartfelt ‘Love that Burns’ this is no bad thing. If you want to close out a blues album dedicated to a legend you can’t go wrong with a stunner like ‘Man Of The World’, probably the most emotional song on the planet made all the more poignant since Green’s passing in 2020.

Big Boy Blues sees Marsden’s songwriting front and centre, augmented by tracks from a few blues greats like Sonny Boy Williams (‘Do It If You Wanna’), Junior Parker (‘Man Or Mouse’), George Jackson (‘Downhome Blues’ with its punchy vocal courtesy of Marsha Raven) and once again Peter Green (‘Loved Another Woman’). The mighty harp of Phil Wiggins bookend the set with ‘Burn Your Bridges’ just the first of Wiggins outstanding contributions throughout an album which closes out with the equally cool ‘Tone Down’. The original compositions cover all the bases with the country blues of ‘Dream On’, funky horns on ‘Memphis’, slow blues coming from ‘Funny People’ dripping with Green’s influence and ‘Lady Friend’ which would have fitted perfectly on any early Whitesnake album enhancing the more traditional feel of ‘Working For The C.S.A.’, ‘Place In My Heart’ and ‘Pick It Up’ where Marsden is found duelling on vocals with Michael Roach and switching between his resonator and some scorching soloing. Backed by a stellar cast including Don Airey on keys, Andy Hamilton on sax and Andy Pyle on bass to name but a few, quality is guaranteed on every track. True blues for the 21st century.

Disc three Bog Boy Blues: The Sessions does exactly what is promises on the tin (or box). Supplying alternative mixes, demo and studio out-takes from the recording of the 2003 release. Main moments of note come once again in the shape of Phil Wiggins in full Boogie Woogie mode on ‘Wiggin’s Wail’, a wonderful big horn take of Freddy King’s ‘Someday After’ (covered by Eric Clapton on his From The Cradle album), the pared down and very laid back acoustic demo of ‘Pick It Up’ and closing out with a moody instrumental version of ‘Place In My Heart’. Top marks on the third disc however go to yet another Peter Green song, an unreleased version of ‘If you Be My Baby’ with Marsden’s guitar filled with all the emotion worthy of his hero.

The only way to complete a set like this is with a live album and Big Boy Blue: Live At The Granary ticks that box off nicely. Recorded at the intimate venue, The Granary in Marsden’s sleepy home town of Buckingham (where I recall many years ago spending a lazy Sunday below the Town Hall listening to Marsden, family and friend jamming – but that’s another story). With a set centred around his then current album (Big Boy Blue) fronting a full nine piece band the set gets under way with ‘Downhome Blues’ as well as including the head down boogie of ‘Man Or Mouse’ and the easy horns of ‘Place In My Heart’ with Michael Roach guesting on vocals and each track packs even more punch than its studio counterparts. The enthusiastic crowd is also treated to some well chosen covers including ‘Knock On Wood’, Freddie King’s ‘Tore Down’ with Sharon Watson showing her ever powerful presence, Nik Payn’s harmonica duetting with Marsden’s vocal on Big Bill Broonzy’s ‘Key To The Highway’ and Ian Parker joining the fray for a run through of B.B. Kings ‘3 O’ Clock Blues’. There are two things that any Marsden live set wouldn’t be complete without, the first being a Peter Green tune and here that is fulfilled by ‘Loved Another Woman’ a song from the same mould as ‘Black Magic Woman’ made even more smokey with Watson’s dulcet tones. The other must have is supplied during the encore with a totally stripped back version of ‘Here I Go Again’, an absolute classic (in any form) from the Moody/Marsden era of Whitesnake and it leaves the crowd baying for more.

Since selling his soul full-time to the blues in 1995 Marsden has produced many fine albums, no more so than his latest trio of Conquest Music titles, Kings (2021), Chess (2021) and Trios (2022) paying further respect to his musical heroes. With bluesmen from BB King to Joe Bonamassa singing his praises over the years the Marsden name deserves to be mentioned amongst the likes of Clapton, Moore, Winters, Green and the three Kings. No longer “Walking In The SHADOW Of The Blues”.

CD 1: Green And Blues (1995)

1 Hideaway
2 Don’t Want No Woman
3 If You Be My Baby
4 Little Girl
5 Rollin’ Man
6 Merry Go Round
7 Watchout
8 Snowy Wood
9 My Heart Beats Like Hammer
10 Shake Your Money Maker
11 Love That Burns
12 The Welfare (Turns It’s Back On You)
13 Steppin’ In
14 The Supernatural
15 Man Of The World

CD 2: Big Boy Blue (2003)

1 Burn Your Bridges
2 Working For The C.S.A.
3 Man Or Mouse
4 Dream On
5 Downhome Blues
6 Lady Friend
7 Memphis
8 Funny People
9 Loved Another Woman
10 Pick It Up
11 Do It If You Wanna
12 Place In My Heart
13 Tone Down

CD 3: Big Boy Blue: The Sessions (2003)

1 Wiggin’s Wail (Alternate Mix) 2 Someday After (Alternate Mix) 3 Dream On
(Session Outtake) 4 Working For The
C.S.A. (Session Outtake)
5 I’m Tore Down
6 Pick It Up (Acoustic Demo)
7 Pick It Up Groove (Session Outtake)
8 Do It If You Wanna (Alternate Mix)
9 Place In My Heart (Alternate Vocal Mix Version)
10 Funny People (Alternate Harmonica Mix Version)
11 If You Be My Baby (Alternate Version)
12 Place In My Heart (Instrumental Mix)

CD 4: Big Boy Blue Live At The Granary (2005)

1 Downhome Blues
2 I’m Tore Down
3 Funny People
4 Key To The Highway
5 Loved Another Woman
6 Knock On Wood
7 3 O’Clock Blues
8 Man Or Mouse
9 Place In My Heart
10 How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)
11 Hold On I’m Coming
12 Here I Go Again


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