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The History of Rhythm & Blues (Part One)

March 14, 2012

First published December 2007

The first release from Rhythm And Blues Records gets this new label off to an auspicious start. Over four thematically-arranged CDs the 97 tracks provide a comprehensive overview of what compiler Nick Duckett describes in his excellent and extensive detailed sleeve notes as “the accidental synthesis of jazz, gospel blues, country and pop into a defineable form of black popular music”, first described as Rhythm and Blues by Jerry Wexler in 1949.

Disc One ‘From The Delta To The City’ features country blues and spirituals, kicking off with Austin Coleman’s extraordinary tribal stomp ‘My Soul Is A Witness” from 1934 and featuring the original versions of staples such as Diddie Wah Diddie, Roll and Tumble Blues (aka Rollin’ and Tumblin’), Millk Cow Blues  and Outside Woman Blues as well as less well known items from the repertoire  of Memphis Minnie and Skip James. Disc Two features piano boogie-woogie, ragtime and jazz again with well known performers such as Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway complemented by the likes of the less well-known but equally fine Harlem Hamfats.

Disc Three is entitled ‘Up River To Chicago’ and features urban blues and gospel. Here the roots of the UK blues-boom are visible through Sonny Boy Williamsons ‘Good Morning Little Schoolgirl’ with its now-extraordinary lyric, ‘Don’t You Lie To Me’ (here by original author Tampa Red, not Chuck Berry as widely thought), ‘I Feel So Good’ (Big Bill Broonzy). The final disc is ‘After Hours Swing and Jive’, kicking off with Albert Ammons and His Rhythm Kings ‘Boogie Woogie Stomp’ from 1936 and featuring Count Basie and Cab Calloway before ending with a mighty double whammy of Lionel Hamptons ‘Flying Home’ and T-Bone Walkers ‘Mean Old World’ where electric guitar makes an early (1942) appearance.

Remastering has given the tracks best-quality sound at a uniform level – no need to keep making grabs for the volume control, the bane of lesser compilations. The four discs come packaged in a nifty box with a 32 page booklet which puts everything here in context. Altogether a package superior in every way to the ‘Your Greatest Blues Tracks Ever’ budget compilations found in garages and garden centres throughout the UK. With this release Rhythm And Blues Records has managed to provide an excellent beginners guide whilst also including some more obscure gems for afficionados. I look forward to Volume Two.

 

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