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James Ramey, or Baby Huey (named after the cartoon duck) , a chicago native, was a protege of Curtis Mayfield (who produced this album and released it via his Curtom imprint) and somewhat of an eccentric. He was 400 pounds, had a huge afro, a King Tut beard and dressed flamboyantly. The picture on the back of this album is priceless : him in a pinstripe suit with a huge ankle length robe over it standing reading a cookbook.

Huey performed live, but recorded a handul of singles with the Babysitters and died of a drug related heartattack aged 26 before this album came out in 1970. He took his cues from Chicago groups like The Impressions (the group Curtis Mayfield fronted before going solo), Mayfield himself, the psychedelic blues albums by Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf released on legendary Chicago label Chess Records in the late 60's and then mixed them with some raw, ballsy Stax soul via Booker T & The M.G's melting pot to create something that only Mayfield, Issac Hayes, James Brown, Funkadelic and Sly Stone managed to better. You have the driving, gritty soul of "listen to me" & "hard times", the funked-up psychedelic blues of "mighty mighty" & "runnin'" (which Mayfield wrote and later recorded but the Huey original is the definitive version), instrumental jams like "mama get yourself together" & "one dragon, two dragon" and, finally, you have what have to be two of the greatest cover versions ever recorded : his funked up version of "california dreamin'" and his staggering 9 minute version of Sam Cooke's "a change is gonna come" which has to be heard to be believed.

Rap fiends should definately check this album as it's full of really good breaks. If you're a fan of blues or Hendrix and would like to start investigating soul/funk but find James Brown too dancefloor friendly or Marvin Gaye too polished then give Baby Huey: The Living Legend a listen.

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