I Got What It Takes

Koko Taylor

Alligator, 1975


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


There is no doubt that, by the time of her death in 2009, Koko Taylor had more than earned her moniker of “Queen Of The Blues.” While she first tasted success in the 1960s with Chess Records, it was her series of releases on Alligator that pushed her to superstardom in the genre.

If you base your opinion of Taylor on her 1975 Alligator debut I Got What It Takesmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 , though, you might walk away a bit unimpressed. This is less of a powerful statement of her return than a tentative first step.

Maybe it’s the somewhat loose performances on a few tracks—where beats are added or even skipped—that threw me for a loop. Maybe it’s the rougher-edge production of the album, which doesn’t have the polish that future releases did (though this tended to be a trademark of Alligator’s early days). Maybe it’s an overreliance on Abb Locke’s saxophone, rather than the dual guitar work of Mighty Joe Young and Sammy Lawhorn that gnaws at me.

It’s not that Taylor isn’t in fine voice; she proves with the opening track “Trying To Make A Living” that she still has the power and swagger that propelled her to stardom just a decade prior with “Wang Dang Doodle.” But sometimes it feels like the source material she had wasn’t necessarily the strongest for an artist of her caliber. For every track like “Voodoo Woman” and “Honkey Tonkey” (both of which were written by Taylor), there are songs like her takes on “Big Boss Man” and the title track which just fail to inspire.

Yet there are tracks that give plenty of hope. By the time one reaches the last three songs on the album, Taylor finally sounds like she’s getting comfortable enough to throw some personality into the delivery. Had there been more numbers like “Happy Home” and “Find A Fool,” this disc would have been more noteworthy.

If anything, I Got What It Takes serves as an initial volley for Taylor. It let the blues world know not only that she was still around, but that she wasn’t going to be taken lightly. Yet she ended up treading a little more carefully—in this case, maybe too carefully—with this outing.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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