CD's like this are both a bargain and a blessing, but can also be a curse, in that if you're getting your first tastes of differing styles of R&B and Blues, your wallet will flatten faster than a glass of beer left outside in the August sun as you track down more music by these greats. Indigo has put together a packed two-fer that is simply loaded with great tracks from the cream of R&B and Blues stars from all over the US map. Many times, when issues like this hit the stores, we look over the track listing to find many glaring omissions. This one hits the mark with a cross section of artists from Amos Milburn to Wynonie Harris and lots of others in between. With 48 tracks and not a dud in the bunch, you can't go wrong plunking down the cash for this gem.
Disc one starts with Ivory Joe Hunter's "I Almost Lost My Mind" and ends with Calvin Boze's "Safonia B" - but the other 22 cuts sandwiched in the middle pull out all the stops. Little Esther's "Double Crossing Blues" with the Johnny Otis Orchestra is a killer, John Lee Hooker's "Huckle Up Baby" is stripped-down bull's-eye, Roy Hawkins' "Why Do Things Happen To Me" is a classic, and the slow Blues of Charles Brown's "My Baby's Gone" features some brilliant guitar work. If that weren't enough, Amos Milburn's "Walking Blues," Roy Milton's "Information Blues," Clarence Garlow's "Bon Ton Roula," and Wynonie Harris' ridiculously funny "Sittin' On It All The Time" are all wonderfully remastered with excellent sound. You also get Lowell Fulson, Joe Turner, Louis Jordan, Nellie Lutcher, Tiny Bradshaw, and more. Bradshaw's "Well Oh Well" is a smoldering jump Blues with more power than a freight train heading full-throttle into the West Coast switching yards.
The second disc opens with Little Esther and Mel Walker dueting on the brilliant "Cupid Boogie" backed by Johnny Otis once again and doesn't stop until the final note of Piano Red's burning showcase titled "Rockin' With Red." The music on the first CD is enough to make this a bargain, but with everything else on disc 2, it's better than a deal; it's a must have. Roy Brown's "Hard Luck Blues" and "Love Don't Love Nobody" are here, Lightnin' Hopkins stops in with "Shotgun Boogie," Helen Humes leaves off the down and dirty "Million Dollar Secret," and Percy Mayfield; the poet-laureate of Blues and R&B, is in tow with the never-better "Please Send Me Someone To Love." Floyd Dixon shows up with "Sad Journey," Lloyd Glenn gets into the act with his "Old Time Shuffle," and the Mel Walker/Johnny Otis standout, "Rockin' Blues," is worth the price of admission alone! Add Ruth Brown, the Ray-O-Vacs, Fats Domino, Larry Darnell, Laurie Tate with the Joe Morris Orchestra, and lots more to get the drift of what's here.
Sound is crisp and beautiful, liner notes by Les Fancourt are short, but informative, and the 48 examples of R&B styles give you a couple of hours of listening pleasure. This is a perfect pair to drop in the CD player for your next Blues party, but pull back the rug and put some sawdust on the floor first! Check out www.trojan-records.com for further info and a full track listing, and while you're there, look into the rest of the series of "R&B Hits" discs that start in 1942 and wind up here at 1950. Hats off to the folks at Indigo for another winner and the two-for-one price tag.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Craig Ruskey, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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