It is kind of amazing to stop and think how a drummer who has played on an enormous amount of hit recordings over the past 50 years is not really a household word. I mean, a quick look at the Wikipedia page for Bernard Purdie lists albums he’s played on by Nina Simone, James Brown, Al Cooper, Shirley Scott, Yusef Lateeef, Eddie Harris & Les McCann, Miles Davis, King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, Bette Midler, Hall & Oates, Jimmy McGriff, Wilson Pickett, Larry Coryell, Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Cocker, Cat Stevens, Steely Dan, Gato Barbieri and so many more.
Chances are you have a recording in your collection featuring this legendary pulse-maker of popular music. Heck, even on his website he is touted as “the world’s most recorded drummer” (a role he may share with Hal Blaine or Earl Palmer, just sayin’).
It’s undeniable that he is a session drumming legend. Musicians and deeper collectors of jazz and soul grooves are into him, for sure. But I suspect that not many average folk know of his albums from the late 1960s and early ’70s, many of which are much sought after collector’s items.
Thankfully, the good folks at Craft Recordings have reissued a real solid Bernard Purdie album —Purdie Good! — via its Jazz Dispensary subsidiary in conjunction with Vinyl Me Please (subscription club) which might help to open some new ears to this man and his music. The results are excellent.
Issued in limited colored vinyl editions of 1,000, these albums were all mastered AAA from original tapes, with 180-gram colored vinyl pressing done at the respected RTI (Record Technology Incorporated) plant.
What makes Purdie Good! stand out is the quality of his group and the material Mr. Purdie lays down. Right from the start of his driving cover of James Brown’s “Cold Sweat” through to rollicking originals like the title track, it is apparent that Purdie is out to deliver some memorable fun. The grooves are thick, tight and swingin’…
It is worth noting that pulling off a James Brown cover credibly isn’t easy and Purdie delivers that rich stuttering first-funk groove in a way that hits a bit harder than the original in many ways — the rhythm is the central focus on Purdie Good! and this funky drummer takes it out into territories where the percussion can own the spotlight.
While there is no denying the beatific stride of James Brown’s band The Famous Flames on the original recording, the focus there is pretty much always the vocal until James lets his drummer (I think it was Clyde Stubblefield, if the internet is accurate) take the lead for a bit.`
Just listen for Purdie’s interaction with Conga player Norman Pride during the breakdown in the middle of his version of “Cold Sweat.” While there may be no Maceo Parker firing up the horn section, Purdie more than makes up for the heat with his rhythms… and his band members are no slouches either.
In general, I think this Jazz Dispensary / Vinyl Me Please reissue of Purdie Good! is pretty great. The recording by Rudy Van Gelder is excellent and the album pressing at RTI is dead quiet and well centered. And it is on lovely opaque purple vinyl with some slight swirls of red and blue.
Probably the only issue at hand here is the price on this reissue which feels a little high (and some readers on Facebook have asked me about VMP’s pricing in general). There is no doubt its a premium priced platter.
However, finding a pristine original copy would no doubt cost a lot more and probably wouldn’t sound quite as quiet as this one. There are only a handful of VG+ plus copies on Discogs at present, each costing more than $60 per album. It is no wonder that this purple vinyl edition is already getting some high priced listings (also on Discogs). There is a less costly UK edition out there, but that seems to be a direct metal mastered version from a digital source so it probably won’t sound as nice as this. Food for thought…
If you aren’t quite ready to plunk down the cash for the reissue just yet, you can listen to Purdie Good! streaming in high 24-bit, 192 kHz resolution on Tidal/MQA (click here) and on Qobuz (click here). This might be a good place to start until you can find a vinyl copy. Both streaming versions sound good but don’t deliver quite the same warm vibe I was hearing on the Vinyl Me Please reissue. Of the two, this time ‘round I am leaning toward the Qobuz version which seems to have a little less hard edge to it, but I’m admittedly splitting audiophile hairs here – both sound fine and about the same ultimately.
Either way, check out Purdie Good! Sweet grooves live here.