Here’s a seasoned voice — Koko Taylor has been singing the blues for nearly 30 years — that jumps out at you with throaty verve and authority. But somewhere around the second song on this album you might start wondering what decade you’re living in. ”Stop watching your enemies,” Taylor sings. ”Keep your eye on your so-called friends.” It was one of her friends, see, who snuck off with her man.
Which is fine, but in modern times we’re getting used to women looking at love a little more deeply. In an old Ted Nugent song, ”Hey Baby,” Taylor roars with delight as she invites some lucky guy to jump in the back of her car. And yes, I know there’s something more promised here than just a drive. But I can’t help remembering that when K.T. Oslin asks a man to take a ride with her, she also likes to brag that at last she’s able to pay for the car herself.
You can enjoy the music for what it is. Taylor howls and laughs, delivering genuine Chicago blues; the guitar snarls, the piano pounds, the Hammond organ casts its cheesy glow. An Etta James song from 1966, ”Time Will Tell,” sounds almost timeless. Taylor, wondering whether her lover’s kiss was goodnight or good-bye, seems to ache for anyone who ever had to ask that question (and was too intimidated to ask it of the lover).
But even if she does sing songs by more modern rockers such as Nugent (and songs in more current R&B styles), her album seems caught in a time warp. It’s like classical music, performed by one of the few surviving old masters, perhaps, but still music of the past.