CDs from this collection began to appear in the sale of one after the other in early 1998. The collection was designed primarily for fans of blues and those wishing to join him in France, Canada and other French-speaking countries, as its literary part was originally made in French and it seems and has not been translated into other languages.
If Mamie Smith s Crazy Blues is the very first blues record then OKeh must stand proudly as the pioneering Blues label. This 2CD set showcases OKeh s superlative output in the early half of the Twentieth century with songs that would go on to define modern music.
This 2 CD set contains 40 original recordings from the RPM Records label, including titles from B.B. King, Lightnin' Hopkins, Johnny 'Guitar' Watson and many more. All tracks have been digitally remastered for optimum listening quality.
Booker White (his name was misspelled on the label for Shake 'Em on Down when it was issued on Vocalion in 1937, and it stuck) turned his vigorous guitar style, heavy voice, and considerable songwriting abilities into 20 classic blues tracks between 1930 and 1940. Then, following a last session for Vocalion in 1940 when he recorded the striking and passionate group of songs on which his reputation rests (including the ultimately revelatory "Aberdeen Mississippi Blues"), White effectively dropped off the public radar. Until 1963, that is, when graduate students and blues fans John Fahey and Ed Denson sent a letter addressed to "Bukka White, Old Blues Singer, c/o General Delivery, Aberdeen, MS," in an effort to locate the man who had recorded a 78 rpm called "Aberdeen Mississippi Blues" some 20 years earlier. Amazingly, the letter actually reached White, who was still alive, although he had since moved from Mississippi to Memphis. The two budding blues scholars rushed to Memphis to meet him, recording the songs found on this collection one afternoon in the singer's room. These historic recordings. released as The Sonet Blues Story, reveal that White's robust guitar playing and his gruff, thundering voice had lost none of their vitality in the intervening years, and the bluesman delivers impassioned versions of some of his key tunes, including "Shake 'Em on Down," and the song that led to his rediscovery, "Aberdeen Mississippi Blues." White even takes a surprisingly nimble turn at the piano for "Drunk Man Blues." These sessions were originally released on Fahey's Takoma label, and although White went on to do other recording dates for small labels, he never sounded quite this intimate and impassioned again. The only minor complaint about this reissue is that the haunting version of "When Can I Change My Clothes" included here is mislabeled as "Parchman Farm Blues." Blues historian Samuel Charters eventually included these recordings in his Legacy of the Blues series, which in turn were released by a small Stockholm jazz and blues label founded in the '50s called Sonet Records. Listeners should start with White's stunning 1940 sides to get a real sense of this powerful musician, but these initial rediscovery tracks are only a notch or two less combustive, and are easily the best of White's later years. - Steve Leggett (AMG)
Very little recorded material exists of Delta bluesman J.D. Short. He only recorded two sessions in the early '30s for Paramount and Vocalion, then quickly faded into obscurity, making this edition of The Sonet Blues Story such a welcome reissue. Thanks to music historian Samuel Charters, Short was recorded at his transplanted home base of St. Louis in 1961 while Charters was passing through the area making similar field recordings of Henry Townsend, Barrelhouse Buck Edith North Johnson, Henry Brown, and Daddy Hotcakes. Charters returned a year later in 1962 to shoot some footage for a documentary film. These ten cuts were recorded mainly in the kitchen of Short's ghetto home, performing informally with acoustic guitar and harmonica. Short played original material, some of which had been handed down to him during his childhood, notably "Slidin' Delta," which he claimed to have first heard in 1907, while other tunes were built around existing themes like "By the Spoonful," and "Make Me Down a Pallet." Although it's impossible to detect, a few months after the 1962 session J.D. Short unexpectedly passed away at the age of 60. Luckily, fans of unfettered country blues can include this gem in their collections. - Al Campbell (AMG)
Like many of the black blues and jazz musicians of his generation, Memphis Slim found both an audience and a home in Europe for the last 20-plus years of his life, basing himself in Paris beginning in 1962 and remaining there until his death in 1988. In that span he recorded an astounding 50 or so albums, not including the various recordings of his live performances that still continue to surface. While it could be argued that his peak years were in the '40s and '50s, the recordings he made in the last third of his life were incredibly intimate and frank, and he didn't shy away from addressing racial and social injustice in the later songs, even while he kept his blues performances smooth and accessible. This fine set, recorded in New York in 1967 on one of his U.S. tours, is a case in point. Slim sounds warm, assured, and often pointedly poignant on songs like the majestic "Freedom" and the direct and honest "I Am the Blues." He blasts loose at the piano for the barrelhouse "Broadway Boogie," then coasts warmly through the bubbling "A Long Time Gone." On the marvelous "Ballin' the Jack" he hits a light, swinging groove that isn't so much blues or jazz but a simple, elegant mixture of the two, given atmosphere by Eddie Chamblee's tenor sax and Billy Butler's sleek guitar. Slim recorded so much that it is difficult to say exactly when he was at his best, since he was always professional and solid, but this set is undeniably special, featuring Slim doing his thing backed by a fine band, and listeners will definitely get a feel here for the measure of the man. - Steve Leggett (AMG)
Mighty Joe Young (Young was using the name well before the movie of the same name was released) arrived on the Chicago blues scene from Louisiana a bit late in the game and never really received the critical attention he deserved. Add in health problems related to a pinched nerve in his neck, and Young's solo recording dates were relatively few (he was, however, an active sideman, working for a time as Otis Rush's rhythm guitarist) given his obvious talent as an electric guitarist and as a strong and sturdy vocalist. This solid set, The Sonet Blues Story, was tracked in Chicago in 1972 and was originally released as part of Samuel Charters' Legacy of the Blues series on the Stockholm-based Sonet Records imprint. It features Young with the rhythm section from his club band at the time: Sylvester Boines on bass and Alvino Bennett on drums, along with Chicago session pianist Bob Reidy, and horn men Charles Beechham (trumpet) and Walter Hambrick (tenor sax). Together they produce a classic South Side sound. Highlights include the elegantly done opener, "Rock Me Baby," a solid cover of Percy Mayfield's "Baby, Please," and a pair of horn-augmented gems, the instrumental soul piece "Just a Minute" and the blues/R&B blend of "Lookin' for You." Nothing here is too flashy, but that ends up being part of the charm. - Steve Leggett (AMG)