Once again we dust off and review another fine out of print blues record. Oakland Blues was arranged/directed by Jimmy McCracklin and contains excellent performances cut in 1968-69 by three severely under recorded artists: L.C. "Good Rockin'" Robinson, Lafayette Thomas and Dave Alexander. The record was issued on the World Pacific label (originally Pacific Jazz) which was mainly a jazz label although they issued some good blues records notably by Big Joe Williams (”Hand Me Down My Old Walking Stick”), George Smith (”Blues With A Feeling: A Tribute To Little Walter”), Luke ‘Long Gone’ Miles (”Country Born”) and “Down South Summit Meeting” by Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Big Joe Williams among others. Some of this material has been issued on CD by Capitol/EMI which owns the rights but Oakland Blues remains long out of print.
The five L.C. Robinson tracks that make up side one are, incredibly, his first recordings since waxing a lone record for the Rhythm label back in 1954 ("If I Lose You Baby" b/w "Why Don't You Write To Me"). He also cut four sides for the Black & White label in 1945 as the Robinson Brothers with his brother A.C. Robinson. Robinson was a dynamic performer who played guitar and fiddle, but was really known for his incredible steel guitar style. Robinson's fluid steel playing and laconic, yet impassioned singing is heard in fine fashion on "Clean Your House" the blazing instrumental "Jack Rabbit Boogie" and the shuffling "Bring My Baby Back Home" the latter two featuring some sparkling boogie piano from Dave Alexander. On "Train Time" he proves himself equally capable playing standard guitar. These tracks, sans the latter, also boast the sizzling guitar work of Lafayette Thomas which makes a nice contrast with Robinson's steel playing. Robinson only got a couple of more opportunities to record; in the 1970's he cut the outstanding House Cleanin' Blues for Bluesway which has not been issued on CD and the excellent Ups And Downs for Arhoolie which has been reissued with bonus tracks as Mojo In My Hand.
Lafayette Thomas was a brilliant T-Bone Walker influenced guitar player who's stinging fret work can be heard on numerous recordings by Jimmy McCracklin, Jimmy Wilson, Roy Hawkins, Juke Boy Bonner and many others. He was the perfect session man, one who made every record he was on sound better. During his lifetime only a scant fifteen sides were issued under his own name (a number were left unissued). The three songs here were unfortunately his last recordings under his own name. Thomas is in masterful form cutting loose on the rocking "Party With Me" laying down knotty, blistering T-Bone Walker like runs while putting it on simmer on "I Had A Dream" backed prominently by L.C. Robinson's shimmering steel guitar and the insinuating, mellow blues of "A Fool's Way Of Doin' Things" the latter two showcasing Thomas' fine soulful singing, an aspect of his talent that usually gets overlooked. As far as I know the only recordings he did after these were some 1970's session work with Sugar Pie DeSanto.
Pianist Dave Alexander (later known as Omar Sharriff) makes his debut here with three songs in the company of heavyweights Albert Collins and George "Harmonica" Smith. Collins was hooked up with Imperial during this period which may be why he's listed as the Houston Twister although Pete Welding mentions him by name in the liner notes. Perhaps the best number is the six minute "Love Is Just For Fools" a fine low down ensemble cut underpinned by big toned, mournful blowing from Smith and crisp stinging guitar from Collins. For his part, Alexander is a deliberate, easy going vocalist and versatile pianist at home playing boogies or more introspectively. "Good Soul Music" is more in a rock and roll vein boasting some wailing harp and rollicking boogie piano while "Highway 59"is a steamy instrumental with a bit of a soul-jazz feel featuring excellent ensemble playing from everybody. Alexander has recorded sporadically since this session cutting a pair of albums for Arhoolie in the early 1970's and after a lengthy hiatus a record in the 1990's with his latest issued in 2004.