The Stumble

Today as I was listening to A Hard Road by John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers for the first time, the song that most caught my attention was their cover of Freddie King’s “The Stumble”. Since I had recently added The Very Best of Freddie King to my iTunes collection, I knew I probably had the original:

iTunes search for "The Stumble"

Sure enough I had the version by Freddie as well as another by Jeff Beck I immediately queued them to play next: Freddie followed by Beck. In the meantime, I pulled up the Wikipedia article to find out more about this rollicking electric guitar solo + what is the wah wah effect. There’s not much there but the article does have a list of artists that have covered it. My eyes immediately found Gary Moore who was more or less a disciple of Peter Green, Mayall’s guitar player on his version of “The Stumble”. Having just downloaded a chunk of Moore’s work the night before, I anxiously scanned the files for his version of “The Stumble”. I dropped it into iTunes just as Beck’s version faded out.

As Moore’s version blasted my ears, I went to YouTube for further insight. I wasn’t able to find the Freddie King version but I did find Green, Beck and Moore as well as a couple of interesting versions.

Peter Green’s version is easily my favorite, but I’m a sucker for his mercurial story. He replaced Eric Clapton in the Bluesbreakers and then left after two albums to form his own band. He took John Mayall’s incredible rhythm section with him and combined their last names to create the name for his band, Fleetwood Mac. Green would eventually leave the band and lose his mind for the most productive years of his life while Mick Fleetwood and John McVie stayed in the band that would eventually abandon the blues and go on to make Rumours and Tusk, two of the biggest selling rock records of all time.

Jeff Beck’s version, which appeared on 1991’s Beckology, definitely has a more modern feel both in tone and technique. What I love about this version is the staccato bass part which drives the rhythm section more effectively than the conventional parts in the versions by Green and King.

Gary Moore’s version takes its cue from Beck but the result feels more like 80’s era metal than blues. If his over-revved rhythm section were anything but conventional here, he might be able to avoid words like “bombast” to describe this tripe. Unfortunately, they are not and he does not.

One of the off-putting parts of Moore’s version is the increased tempo which takes a lot of the “swing” out of the song. This version by Love Sculpture (Dave Edmunds‘ late 60’s band) also ratchets up the tempo but still keeps it interesting. I had no idea that Mr. Edmunds was such a great guitar player! Check out Love Sculpture’s version of “Sabre Dance” in the related videos.

Finally, I include this guy’s reading of Green’s version for the sake of watching how it’s played.