Q - 6/01, p.1284 stars out of 5
- "...Harris lived it like he sang it: partying, drinking, womanizing and simulating masturbation onstage in an era when obscene gestures frequently led to jail sentences....Risque but right on."
Recorded between 1944 and 1950.
Contains 81 tracks.
This four-disc box set presents a comprehensive overview of jump-blues singer Wynonie Harris's 1944-'50 material.
This four-disc set from Proper could qualify as the best Wynonie Harris collection going. Sporting a 52-page booklet with detailed biographical and discography information -- not to mention the bargain price tag -- Rockin' the Blues contains all of Harris' sides from 1944-1950. Just some of the many highlights include his first recordings with the Lucky Millinder band ("Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well"), picaresque confessionals like "Drinking By Myself," and the unexpected pop side "Ghost of a Chance." Of course, such cornerstone moments as his duet with Big Joe Turner on "Battle of the Blues" and early King hits like "Good Rockin' Tonight" and "All She Wants to Do Is Rock" are here as well. Sure, it would have been nice if just one more disc was thrown in to cover early-'50s standouts like "Bloodshot Eyes," but with this much bounty already on hand, who's complaining? And adding to the consistently top-notch Harris vocals, there's plenty of fine instrumental highlights from the likes of Howard McGhee, Dexter Gordon, Teddy Edwards, Arnett Cobb, Joe Wilder, Hot Lips Page, Bill Doggett, Elmo Hope, Charles Mingus, and many other jump blues and jazz notables (Sun Ra even shows up for four cuts taped in Nashville). A stellar example of how all retrospectives should be presented. ~ Stephen Cook