CD Review: Lefty Dizz and Shock Treatment Live in Chicago
A regular fixture of the Chicago blues scene from the mid-'60s into the early '90s, Walter Williams, known to blues fans the world over as Lefty Dizz, was without question one of the wildest, most unbridled showmen to ever set foot on stage.
Not only was he a commanding vocalist, his guitar style was raw and distorted, and when he got going, there was nothing, literally nothing, that could stop the man as he laid down note after note of greasy, kick-ass Chicago blues.
Lefty Dizz and Shock Treatment: Live in Chicago, comes as a complete surprise, as I stumbled across the disc by accident, and boy am I ever glad I did.
This is a true "diamond in the rough" that features recordings taken from two shows that Lefty Dizz and Shock Treatment did in Chicago back in '82.
It's important to note that these are audience recordings that capture the rough and raw qualities of these shows.
You won't find any studio polish here, and thank God for that, as this disc captures Dizz at full throttle, truly at the height of his powers, lighting up two local clubs like nobody's business.
The audio only adds to the charm and is of acceptable quality, as these recordings were mastered in 2006, using modern sound engineering techniques.
The editing here is seamless and a lot of work was done to present the shows faithfully, with the best sound quality possible.
On these live recordings, Dizz is backed by his regular band of the time, Shock Treatment, featuring long-time members Jimmie Smith on guitar and Nick Charles on bass, with Carl Snyder on keyboard and Charles Caldwell on drums.
The first seven tracks were recorded at Chicago's Granada Theater, and include a smoking four-piece horn section featuring saxophonist Detroit Gary Wiggins.
While the material here is mostly made up of covers, the performance kicks into high gear right from the start with a smoking introduction that takes us straight into a barn-storming, "Baby Please Don't Go", followed by a smoking take of the Elmore James classic, "It Hurts Me Too", that truly highlights Dizz's unique style, while Carl Snyder's keyboards simply shine, adding just the right touches throughout.
Dizz, influenced by Elmore James, and having served as the last guitarist in Hound Dog Taylor's Houserockers, was inspired by Taylor to get that "raw" electric slide sound using only his bare fingers.
Dizz played a well-worn, right- hand Fender Stratocaster turned upside down without being restrung, resulting in a bending technique that pulled and dragged the treble strings down from the top.
This, coupled with his wild vibrato, created a unique sound that simulates the slide guitar of James and Taylor so much so that most folks assume that Dizz used a slide.
This sound was further enhanced by his use of a beat- up Fender Twin Reverb amplifier with each and every volume and tone knob cranked all the way up to 10.
Dizz never used a slide or any effects devices; he didn't need them.
He developed a unique style that conjured up the spirit of the old bluesmen, as well as the spirit of Jimi Hendrix in tonal similarities, with a supercharged sonic attack that became his trademark.
Other highlights from this show include Lefty's take on two Louis Jordan classics, where he fuses together "Caledonia/Saturday Night Fish Fry", and makes them his own.
The entire band, including the horn section, scream their way through this one - a true showpiece - running just over six minutes, that ends way too soon.
Dizz follows this up with his lowdown "Bad Avenue” and the rambling "Boogie All Night Long", that wraps up a truly great show.
The last four tracks on the disc are taken from a show at Chicago's Sports Corner in June of '82.
The wild-ass energy of the previous tracks doesn't stop for a second as Dizz tears into a ten-minute "All I Want", that's quickly becoming my favorite track on the CD, followed by the slow-burning "You Don't Know", the rollicking "It's Alright", along with the set closing "Bring It On Home", that wraps up one of the finest live performances that I have heard in a long time.
Lefty Dizz wasn't recorded often, and he was never properly presented on his too-few studio sets.
Ain't It Nice To Be Loved on JSP, Shake For Me on Black & Blue, and the long unavailable Somebody Stole My Christmas on Isabel all suffered from shoddy production and inadequate backup.
Lefty was at his best live, and with Lefty Dizz and Shock Treatment: Live in Chicago, longtime fans finally have a recording that solidifies his stature as one of Chicago's most explosive and flamboyant performers.
Sadly, Lefty Dizz passed away on September 7, 1993, following three decades of memorable performances.
Special thanks go out to Jimmie Smith for making these valuable recordings available. This is a genuine labor of love.
* Granada Theater
** Sports Corner
One CD is $15.00 plus $2.00 shipping to U.S. addresses.
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