Midnite Blues Party Volume One contained some 28 ultra-rare tracks taken from obscure 45's, all from the collection of legendary blues archivist Eddy B. A veritable survey of soul and blues circa late-fifties through the mid-seventies, the performances were uniformly top-notch, the package assembled with loving care; not surprisingly, the resultant reviews were uniformly ecstatic.
So a follow-up seemed only logical. Now, if Electro-Fi were a multinational conglomerate presided over by accountants, instead of music lover Andrew Galloway, we'd no doubt see more of the same. Why mess with success? And why not milk the cow for all it's worth?
Rather than take that safe approach, Eddy's chosen to dig even deeper to come up with a series of sides that pre-date most of the material on Volume One. The majority of these cuts are taken from an era when tracks were limited in length by the constraints of 78 RPM records, and when novelty songs could still capture the public's imagination; the latest recording date listed is 'mid-fifties."
As with Volume One, the majority of the artists represented will be unknown to all but the most devoted of scholars. But whereas the artists on the initial outing were undeservedly obscure - the material, without exception, was first-rate - Volume Two could stand as testimonial to the 'also-rans."
There's much here that's derivative - this was, after all, a free-wheeling era when 'answer songs' appeared within weeks, if not days, of an original, and whatever worked was quickly imitated - yet there's something about many of these cuts in particular that renders 'em them somewhat short of timeless. Whether it be an unduly laboured vocal, a too-hokey-for-words spoken intro, or an arrangement that simply doesn't stand up, there's a reason why many of these tracks have faded from sight.
Does that make Volume Two any less successful? Not at all, if one places it in context. It's a fascinating glimpse into a time now irretrievably lost, an era far more innocent than ours. It's also a veritable study in what works and what doesn't, with both sides equally represented - history, of course, lending the essential perspective. But with sound quality uneven - all tracks were taken from Eddy's own collection of 78's, scratches and static included - and with a significantly higher curiosity (rather than purely musical) value, I can't see this one going into heavy rotation on a regular basis. If you're at all interested in the history of the blues, though, in how it became rock 'n' roll, and why some music has survived and some hasn't . . . this is an essential piece of the puzzle, and I'd venture to say your education can't possibly be complete without it.
Recommended without reservation for those serious about music. Those seeking little more than pleasant 'aural wallpaper' will likely do better elsewhere.
40 Beaverdale Road, Toronto, Ontario M8Y 3Y4
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