2007   MARCH 9   #068

Ram John Holder - Black London Blues

01 Brixton Blues (3:21)
02 Pub Crawling Blues (5:24)
03 Too Much Blues (3:07)
04 Notting Hill Eviction Blues (2:47)
05 Black London Blues (2:37)
06 Ladbroke Grove Blues (3:04)
07 Sleeping Alone Tonight Blues (3:32)
08 Wimpy Bar Blues (4:48)
09 Piccadilly Circus Blues (4:21)
10 Hampstead To Lose The Blues (3:29)

"Black London Blues" was an LP recorded by the acclaimed British stage, screen, and TV actor Ram John Holder in 1969. I bought it as a youngster (my copy is on the US Phillips label) for 47 cents in a Woolworth's cutout bin. The cover is a moribund B&W photo of a gussied-up Ram in an abject ghetto; no liner notes, no personnel listing. Every cut is titled the "(something) Blues", and the track playing times on the label are different than those on the cover by several seconds, and I think neither is correct. My pre-pubescent friends and I used to howl with laughter listening to it (even though the cover scared the hell out of us), and, as with many things you hear when you're too young to understand them, it wasn't until years later that I was able to see the musical virtues of it.

The cover photo and music, as described on soulstrut.com: "Black and white photography really captures the dismal and depressing side to a wet, overcast day, and oddly enough we have Holder wearing velvet trousers and sunglasses as a juxtaposition to the poverty of Brixton. He doesn't look too happy, but neither would I if I'd produced an album of mediocre crap like this. Blues without the rhythm." Conversely, thewire.co.uk listed the album as one of the "100 Records That Set The World On Fire (while no one was listening)". No wonder I couldn't decide at age 12 whether it was transcendent or putrid.

Original copies on the UK Beacon label are now fetching between $75 and $200 on ebay (guess I made a pretty good investment buying in at 47 cents, eh? No, I won't sell!). These are certainly tracks that have a laughable level of incompetence at times (especially the solos), and are yet undeniably endearing, catchy, and soulful, and the Ram actually knows the blues and sings with a lot of soul.

- Contributed by: Hoppy Stone

Media: 12" LP
Album: Black London Blues
Labels: Beacon, Philips, Trans-World
Date: 1969

Bonus: Check out this Ram John Holder myspace page!