Various Artists - Essential Chicago Blues (Not Now Music, 2010)


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European labels have long used their generous copyright laws to anthologize American music in a way their counterparts in the States find difficult. This compilation draws from a number of record labels including Chess and Vee-Jay, skimming some of the cream of the crop of American blues during the period 1951-1959. The electric blues boom during this period coincided with a social phenomenon known as the great migration, which brought many African-Americans north looking for better working conditions and more dignity in society. The music soon followed, amplified to cut through the chatter of the crowded Chicago clubs. This is a generous double disc collection, 50 tracks in all, of dubious provenance but assured to be “digitally remastered for optimum sound quality." Regardless, it's a fine place for someone to start if there are curious about the blues and the legacy of the Chicago sound. All of the major players are represented with cuts from their prime, Chess legends like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson have several songs, while the second generation of bluesmen like Magic Sam, Otis Rush and Buddy Guy have a few songs each as a leader in addition to sideman appearances. There are a couple of ringers thrown in as well for variety like Freddie King and Elmore James, but overall the song selection is excellent and overall sound quality is acceptable for music of this vintage. Liner notes are minimal as they usually are with budget releases, but in the end it is the music that matters, and this is a fine introduction to post-war Chicago blues. Essential Chicago Blues—amazon.com

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This story appears courtesy of Music and More by Tim Niland.
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