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Album Review: Dr. Feelgood – I’m A Man: The Best Of The Wilko Johnson Years

2 min read

I’m A Man (Best Of The Wilko Johnson Years 1974-1977) leaves no doubt in its title – it is a homage to guitarist Wilco Johnson’s work with one of the most loved (and enduring) British rhythm and blues band, Dr Feelgood. The album features 16 essential studio and live tracks from the second half of the 70s, picked from the group first four LPs. At that time the line up featured, apart from Johnson and his Telecaster, Lee Brilleaux (vocals/slide guitar /harmonica), John B. Sparks (bass) and John Martin (drums).

dr.feelgood - I'm a manThe band was formed in 1971 and named after a Johnny Kidd and the Pirates version of a blues standard. In 1974 the first single was released, energetic Roxette, written by Johnson (the first song in this anthology), and a year after the album, Down by the Jetty, was issued. Apart from the debut single a number of songs from that magnificent first LP can be heard on I’m A Man, such as Cheque Book, Twenty Yards Behind and Keep It Out Of Sight. Dr. Feelgood’s follow-up, Malpractice, reached No.17 in the charts and helped defining the band’s sound as a milestone in the pub rock movement in Britain. Citing Wilko’s frantic guitar style, someone has even stated that the band influenced the punk rock movement as well.  We can have a taste of this irresistible rawness that would make even the bluesier Rolling Stones blush with the covers of Muddy Waters’ Rolling and Tumbling and Bobby Parker’s Watch Your Step, both taken from Malpractice.

This collection also gives us a taste of what the band did live on stage, with traks like Back In The Night, I’m A Man, All Through The City, Checking Up On My Baby and Going Back Home. All off of Dr.Feelgood third album, 1976’s Stupidity, that reached No.1 in the charts. The band’s final album with Wilco Johnson is 1977’s Sneakin’ Suspicion (the title track and the song Lights Out are featured in this collection). After that release, Wilko and Dr Feelgood split. Although their original guitarist was the heart and soul of the band, Dr.Feelgood are still around with a totally different lineup. As to Wilko, he miraculously survived cancer and in 2014, even before recovering, he recorded an album with Roger Daltrey of The Who. Most of the songs featured in I’m A Man were written by him and although 40 years have passed, they still sound brilliant.