Bargain CD's show up on a regular basis at CD outlets and second-hand record shops, and this one is a winner from beginning to end, with over 70 minutes of playing time, solid liner notes from Tony Watts, and good packaging. Peter Chatman, alias Memphis Slim, recorded many fine blues 78's during the heyday of Chicago, and this 25 track set offers up some prime examples of slow blues, a few rocking boogies, and hints at the upcoming jump style that soon became rock and roll, which would eclipse many Chicago heavies. All tracks have top-notch sonics, and the only drawback is for those with an interest in the original recording data, sidemen, and myriad labels that Slim recorded for, as there is little in the way of session details.
The title track gets things off to a right smart start and finds Slim joined by a small band as he rakes the piano with solid fills and triplets and sings the classic lines many of us know. "Old Taylor" is an ode to the popular beverage of the time, and Slim even mentions Lester Melrose, the man responsible for the bulging Bluebird stables that included such stalwarts as Big Bill Broonzy, Tampa Red, Big Maceo, Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup, and many more. "Blues At Midnight" offers a taste of Jazz Gillum's plaintive harmonica stylings, and is excellent in showing Memphis Slim's diversity, as he was able to cross crooning blues with downhome styles easily. "Kilroy Has Been Here" proves that what we know as rap music today, had roots that went back decades, with fast-talking, streetwise rhyming. "Angel Child" may be recognized lyrically from Sam Myers and Anson Funderburgh, as it's a track they recorded on their first long-player, back in 1985. The autobiographical "Grinder Man Blues" is a stark, double-entendre piece with only upright bass in support, and "Miss Ora Lee Blues" returns to the downhome style with more solid harp, and a small band. Slim made great use of stop-time grooves, and the excellent "Maybe I'll Lend You A Dime" finds him playing a lonesome solo blues, with tough lyrics. Whistling the blues is no easy task, but Slim seems to have no trouble taking the odd solo space in "Throw This Poor Dog A Bone," later reworked by Junior Wells at his States sessions. The closer here, "Rockin' The House," features a stirring upright bass solo by Willie Dixon, and the fine sax pairing work of Alex Atkins and Ernest Cotton.
Recorded between 1940 and 1948, for a number of small record labels that included Melody Lane, Miracle, Old Swingmaster, and more, this fine set is a great listening CD that manages to touch on many styles. Memphis Slim moved operations to foreign shores in later life, and enjoyed his well-earned star status, at least in Paris, France. These early sides show the Tennessee native was equally adept at house rockin' boogies, or slow drags, and handled any style with aplomb and dexterity. Snail mail address is Prism Leisure Corp. PLC. P.O. Box 481, Enfield, EN3 72X, England.
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.