Peter Green Guest Session: ‘Ah! Soul’ / ‘Uranus’

In October of 1969, Bob Brunning asked Peter Green if he would be interested in joining the Brunning Sunflower Band in the studio to cut a few tracks for their new album.  Green said yes.

The album that they were recording was a follow-up to the 1968 “Bullen Street Blues”, credited to the Brunning Sunflower Blues Band.

Brunning had left the music business, for all intents and purposes, near the end of 1967 seeking greater stability and steadier employment as a school teacher (a job he would maintain for thirty years).  For him, that first LP was a bit of a lark, an opportunity to play and record once again; for Bob “Sunflower” Hall, it was another in an already overflowing date book of sessions that he played on; the band never played a single live show.

Although only six months had passed when the label contacted Brunning about doing a second LP, the drummer, the lead guitarist and the vocalist from the first session had all moved on.

Rhythm guitarist Colin Jordan (who had played with Brunning in his first band, Five’s Company) still remained and Pete Banham was brought in on drums.  Green was to augment the new four man line-up.

 

A little more than a year earlier, Green had done some session work for his friend Duster Bennett and a new Blue Horizon signing, Gordon Smith.

He played on three tracks, along with McVie and Fleetwood, on the Bennett session and added harmonica to one song on Smith’s.

Here, he plays lead guitar on five of the LP’s eleven tracks, as well as taking the lead vocal on three of them.

Among the tracks that Green took the lead on was an instrumental titled ‘Ah! Soul’.

Brunning Sunflower Band

Peter Green: guitar / Bob Hall: piano /

Bob Brunning: bass / Pete Banham: drums

Recorded October 1969 (exact date not known)

 Saga Studios, London

Released on Trackside Blues (Saga 1969) (U.K. only)

Ah! Soul (B. Brunning) (2:35)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_9GuC0NBF8

Writing up the number for my book I wrote that this was the best Freddy King instrumental that he had never played.

Thanks to John Whitehill, I recently discovered that King had in fact recorded it, under the title ‘Funny Bone’

Freddy King

Freddy King: guitar /

Bobby “Blanco” King or Fred Jordan: guitar /

Benny Turner or Bill Willis: bass /

Philip Paul: drums

Released on Freddy King…Gives You a Bonanza of Instrumentals (King 1965)

Funny Bone (2:32)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYTfKuOAWc4

Further research reveals that King had recorded it twice.  The distinctive riff first appeared on a number titled  ‘Just Pickin’’ back in 1962.

Freddy King

Personnel probably same as above

Recorded April 05, 1961

Released, B-side of Federal single, ‘Come On’ (June 1962)

Just Pickin’ (2:31)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ICzjvLVFcA (begins at 2:57)

There is no doubt that Green knew the earlier recording as it appeared on ‘Let’s Hide Away and Dance Away with Freddy King’ which served as something of a primer for budding British blues guitarists.  Among the album’s twelve tracks were: ‘Hide Away’, ‘Sen-Sa-Shun’, ‘Side Tracked’, ‘The Stumble’ and ‘San-Ho-Zay’.

Listening to the Brunning Sunflower Band recording, it seems obvious that they were using ‘Funny Bone’ as their template, not ‘Just Pickin’’, although the first break seems to have been lifted from the latter.

On ‘Funny Bone’ King employs a “thin” tone and one can faintly hear a second guitar playing beneath his lead and the patter of sticks on cymbals.

Green’s tone is thicker, with a hint of reverb; Banham counters that with the dry rattle of his snare drum, his precise, measured foundation carpeted by the Hall’s plush undulating piano work and Brunning’s bass.

Surprisingly for a session done so quickly, Green and the band took the time to record a second take that day.  Without logs there is no way to be certain which was done first, but it is easy to imagine that ‘Ah! Soul’ was the first of the two; a fairly close approximation of ‘Funny Bone’ with a little ‘Just Pickin’’ thrown in.

The “alternate”, while remaining true to its source, is a far more free-wheeling affair.

Brunning Sunflower Blues Band

Peter Green: guitar / Bob Hall: piano /

Bob Brunning: bass / Pete Banham: drums

Recorded October 1969 (exact date not known)

 Saga Studios, London

Released on I Wish You Would (Saga 1970) (U.K. only)

Uranus (3:21)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=batedezv7hs

There is a slight uptick in the pace and Banham’s drumming is far looser.  Also coloring our perception is the fact that Hall is now much higher in the mix, as is Brunning.  Hall’s fills and accents towards the end of the number are another reminder, (as if any were needed) of why he was such an in-demand session player.

Green also sounds less like King here, and more like himself.  He hasn’t bent notes like this in the studio since his Bluesbreakers days.

“Then Play On” was a few months old and ‘Oh Well Pts. 1 & 2’ had just hit the stores at the time of these recordings.  In the studio, Green’s own compositions had taken on a more serious, darker hue.  What comes across on these two recordings (and the others done at this session) is that he actually seems to be having fun, something that could still be heard in the concert recordings from the time, but in the studio recordings, not so much and that was unfortunate.

 

Some have bemoaned the fact that Green recorded these songs without acknowledging King as their source, but it was actually Brunning who took the credit where none was due.

A look at the label of the original LP reveals that the four covers that Green performed at the session were all credited as “Trad. Arr. Brunning”.

When Sanctuary Records began reissuing the recordings on various compilations in the early 2000s they corrected the songwriting credits for the three vocal numbers but were apparently unaware of the origins of ‘Ah! Soul’ and its alternate take, ‘Uranus’, listing Brunning as the sole writer on the two numbers.

Worse, in the liner notes written for the Sanctuary “Two-fer” combining “Bullen Street Blues” and “Trackside Blues” Brunning still states that all of the songs on both LPs were original.

 

Before these recordings, another musician had taken a shine to King’s composition, Buddy Guy.  At one of his last sessions for Chess Records in 1966, he recorded a song titled ‘Going To School’.  Chess apparently didn’t think much of it as it remained unreleased until 1992 when it appeared on “Buddy Guy – The Complete Chess Studio Sessions”.

In 1968 Guy re-recorded the number under the title ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’ for his first LP for his new label, Vanguard.  They liked it enough to release as a single.

Also in 1968, the great Earl Hooker used the tune for his ‘Two Bugs and a Roach’ (thanks to Christopher Conklin for bringing that one to my attention)

If anyone knows of any other songs, before or after the King recording, built on this riff, please pass it on and I will add it to this post with full accreditation.

1 Comment

  • comment-avatar
    Chris Conklin April 28, 2018 (4:29 pm)

    Another great write-up – masterful research. My favorite version is Peter’s second one, too. Note – check the sentence about bending notes – I think the word “this” is excluded. Also, probably the most famous use of the riff among today’s blues fans is SRV’s version of “Lamb”, from his debut album. Thanks as always!