2120 South Michigan Avenue

George Thorogood and the Destroyers

Capitol, 2011


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


After nearly four decades at his craft, one cannot say that George Thorogood hasn’t dedicated his life to the blues.

He could have been a mega-star, having tasted fame with “Bad To The Bone,” if he had just compromised his music and image to keep up with popular fickle tastes. But Thorogood has refused to do so, remaining focused instead on crafting a style of “get up and party” blues that not only gets people to tap their feet, but that also pays tribute to the roots of the music that Thorogood plays.

His latest disc, 2120 South Michigan Avenue, is proof of his dedication to his roots, as he and the Destroyers launch themselves into a collection of songs made famous by the artists of Chess Records. This album doesn’t break any new ground, though I don’t believe that was his primary concern, but it does help to introduce classic blues to a new generation while staying fairly true to the original songs.

Let’s face it – anyone who takes on a rock and roll classic like “Bo Diddley” knows they’re fighting an uphill battle, as that particular song is so ingrained in the memories of rock fans. Thorogood wisely tries neither to replay the song note-for-note nor reinvent it. Instead, he follows the basic backbone of the song (complete with the jangling guitar lines) while putting just enough of his own unique spin on things. The end result, while not as good as the original, is a respectful take that stands well on its own.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The same can be said for many of the covers on this disc. Thorogood sounds like he’s thisclose to completely tearing things up on “Seventh Son” (which is meant as a compliment), while he nearly does hit note-for-note his version of “High Heel Sneakers” (complete with guitar work from Buddy Guy that, at times, feels like it’s too energetic for the song). Some of the lesser-known songs that might send the kids running to the library or iTunes to check out older Chess recordings include “Two Trains Running,” “Help Me” (which is possibly the hidden gem of this collection) and “My Babe”(featuring harmonica work from Charlie Musselwhite).

With all respect to Thorogood as a singer, perhaps the best track on 2120 South Michigan Avenue is the instrumental title track, which gives all the musicians (including Musselwhite) plenty of room to stretch their legs and showcase their talents.

Of the two originals on this disc, “Willie Dixon’s Gone” is the better of the batch, turning into less of a mourning song and more of a playful remembering the past track. “Going Back” isn’t a bad song in comparison, but doesn’t have the same kind of punch that even some of the covers do.

While I understand that 2120 South Michigan Avenue is meant to pay tribute to the artists of Chess Records, I admit I was disappointed to not hear any props paid to Thorogood’s mentor, Hound Dog Taylor. I mean, Jake and Elwood Blues got name-dropped on “Going Back,” and they never recorded for Chess. (Yes, I’m aware Thorogood paid tribute to Taylor on “The Sky Is Crying” off his Live disc.) Perhaps Thorogood could be convinced to do a companion album that paid similar tribute to artists on Alligator?

Thorogood has possibly been the most dedicated stalwart of the blues standard than any white musician in the past 30-plus years, and has kept a solid fanbase throughout that time. 2120 South Michigan Avenue will be a treat to not only that fanbase, but to students of classic blues music – and, if the listener learns something while enjoying this disc, all the better.

Rating: B

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© 2011 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol, and is used for informational purposes only.