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Each major genre of music has a basic image that defines it more or less for eternity.

A large part of this image derives from how it sounds of course, but most musical attributes shift over time, sometimes quite radically and so it’s never a fixed sonic fingerprint.

Already in just three years of rock ‘n’ roll we’ve seen the sax-based sounds start to incorporate more guitar and after a decade or so in which they’d vie for supremacy before the guitar seemed to win out and settle the matter once and for all both would find themselves suddenly usurped by more regimented rhythms with disco beats of the 1970’s and then the bass-heavy sample laden hip-hop cuts that best define rock over the past quarter century.

Yet another reminder that nothing stays the same forever, especially when it comes to music.

But rock survives not because of the musical attributes alone, but also because of the cultural perspective it represents which has proven far more enduring.

For rock ‘n’ roll it’s the celebration of freedom that gives the music its strongest identity… whether it’s a song coming out today or one dating from as far back as the late 1940’s and early fifties when Jimmy Liggins helped to ensure that this mindset would forever take center stage in rock’s dominant image.


Right Next Door To Ol’ Amos’s Chicken Shack
Nearly two years after its release – and three after it was record and sat languishing in Aladdin Records’ stockpile of material – it’s obvious how much of rock was built on another artist’s vision.

This is yet another song that owes its life to Amos Milburn as it stands as one of many vital records that stripped his classic Chicken Shack Boogie for parts, leaving behind only a few bent nails, some empty bottles and a scrawny chicken in a pot behind. But despite its wholesale theft of the rest of the building materials, Jimmy Liggins has managed to created something vibrant and fresh from those floor plans and delivers a record that’s full of its own distinct character.

If you’re going to construct something new from the rubble of earlier monuments then Saturday Nite Boogie Woogie Man is the way to go about it, as the laid back pace suits his vocal style perfectly, his conversational patter helping the song rather than acting as something of a detriment to it as occasionally happened on other compositions.

Yet comparisons between the two songs can’t be downplayed entirely when discussing this and so we’ll start with the respective openings, the same musical structure but with a small but significant twist in that Liggins has sped his up just a little to distance it from the earlier record. The horns are pitched slightly higher with the emphasis on different notes while the piano has a more restless feel in how it’s played.

The tonal qualities of their voices are apparent as well and each factor in to their respective performances unique sense of self with Milburn’s drowsier and slightly deeper voice making him sound as if he was already being hit with the effects of certain herbal inducements while Liggins’s nasal tone is helped by the impatient way in which he delivers this, suggesting he might have had more liquid refreshments to start off the night.

The last comparison we’ll make is that while Milburn was luring you in by conveying a hint of mystery as part of the appeal, Liggins is more like an eager salesman, anxious to play up the excitement and the freedom of being able to enjoy it, the key line in this regard being one whose meaning will probably fly over a lot listeners heads as he says “My money’s alright so let me shake your hand”.

In other words, the place he’s going is going to let him in, not keep him out as the white establishments would, letting everybody know that where he’s headed represents a world unto itself which ultimately is one of the true joys of early rock ‘n’ roll.


Gonna Raise Some Sand
Musically this formula has yet to wear thin over multiple Milburn incarnations, including one released just weeks earlier, and we’re happy to report that it holds up just as well with Jimmy Liggins taking it over for his own nefarious means. Of course it helps in his case that this session was arranged and produced by Maxwell Davis who oversaw and played on the Milburn original and whose saxophone takes the featured role here as well.

Having mentioned the shift in tempo already it also is worth pointing out how the emphasis has changed within the similar frameworks. Both have multiple instrumental interludes but on Chicken Shack the solos were fairly mellow as Davis kept things in low gear while Milburn added the melodic embellishments, trying to get you in a trance rather than get you worked up too much.

But on Saturday Nite Boogie Woogie Man Davis flips that on its head, playing more frantic lines after the vocal refrains while the extended solo is lusty and full of vigor. When he hands things over to Bo Cyphers’ piano it comes across as equally agitated giving this the sense of anxiousness that you have when you’re headed out to a really lively party and you don’t want to miss a single minute of the festivities.

From a postmodernist point of view – that is, anyone more familiar with (and comfortable with) later eras of rock – there’s a chance that this record will even surpass the original rendition of the idea itself because it sounds more animated and thus has the aural replication of the drunken rave-up itself, whereas Milburn’s was more like the sly invitation to a later bash.

When placed back in their proper context however then you may ease back off your enthusiasm for this just a little, especially when factoring in the relative lack of originality in the concept itself.

But only a little, because as anybody who is not a hapless shut-in well knows, each party has their own distinctive vibe and just because you’ve been to one party doesn’t mean you never have to go to another and with rock ‘n’ roll there’s ALWAYS another… and another… and another.


The Sun Is Rising, It’s Almost Day
Since much of this review was understandably about Amos Milburn who started this journey, we’ll leave the final word to Jimmy Liggins who puts this song and the attitude that it embraces into perspective when he says, “You only live but once and when you’re dead you’re done, so you better hang on baby to my hand cause I’m your Saturday Nite Boogie Woogie Man”.

Freedom takes on many forms. From the hedonistic celebration of life without care, be it teenagers before they’re forced to take on the weight of increasing responsibility or slightly older listeners temporarily shedding those heavier concerns for a weekend in which they can cut loose, to the far more serious concerns of struggling to obtain cultural freedom in a country that seeks to curtail that intrinsic right based on how you look, this need to publicly proclaim your resistance to such oppression – big or small – is one of rock’s primary characteristics no matter the era.

On the surface this record is largely about the former outlook and thus can be enjoyed without ever giving thought to anything but living it up at a wild party on a Saturday night, but underneath that carefree façade lurks the weightier issues that made searching for such outlets so important to a community’s long term emotional survival.

Consciously or not Jimmy Liggins music often embodied both perspectives and to be able to make those two basic human needs seem so codependent was a talent that he’s still not receiving proper credit for more than seven decades down the line.

But it safe to say that the parties that rock has thrived on ever since began jumping in the first place thanks in large part to the mindset he embraced so instinctively and the music he carried off on record so effortlessly.


(Visit the Artist page of Jimmy Liggins for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)