James Booker, Classified: Remixed and Expanded (Rounder Records)

James Booker, Classified Remixed and Expanded, album cover

The rap on James Booker’s Classified is that it was good, but not even close to what one might see and hear on any given night at the Maple Leaf Bar or Faubourg Center or Tipitina’s when Booker would wow crowds there. Scott Billington, Rounder Records’ original producer of Classified, has gone back through the original tapes of the Classified sessions and added nine previously unissued songs to the original album. The new songs and the newly remixed sound of this record are a revelation. Like his concerts, they show off Booker’s range with soulful classical pieces such as “Warsaw Concerto,” the organ prowess of “Yes Sir That’s My Baby,” down-home New Orleans rhythm and blues shot through with Booker’s dense chording on the solo version of “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” and dark, melancholy jazz of “Angel Eyes.” It’s also great to hear more refined studio versions of the songs that have only been heard on live Booker bootlegs and recordings, such as his medley of “Tico Tico/Papa Was A Rascal/So Swell When You’re Well” and “All These Things.” In addition, the new tracks show how sympathetic and attuned to Booker his band was. Saxophonist Alvin “Red” Tyler, who knew Booker for most of his life, is especially on target with great fills, solos and riffs that dart and weave between Booker’s solos and piano chords. The extra songs that Rounder has added to Classified make this an even better record and enhance Booker’s already formidable reputation as a pianist unparalleled.