Chicago / The Blues / Today! (3-CD)
by Various Artists
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- Number of Discs: 3
- Released: July 27, 1999
- Label: Vanguard Records
Dirty Linen - 2-3/00, pp.53-4"...one of the most eye-and-ear-opening sets in the history of blues music....for any musician who traveled the road from rock to blues in the 60s, these recordings were a vital bridge....a must for blues lovers."
Tracks on Disc 1:
- 1.Help Me (a Tribute To Sonny Boy Williamson) - Junior Wells Chicago Blues Band
- 2.It Hurts Me Too (When Things Go Wrong) - Junior Wells Chicago Blues Band
- 3.Messin' With the Kid - Junior Wells Chicago Blues Band
- 4.Vietcong Blues - Junior Wells Chicago Blues Band
- 5.All Night Long - Junior Wells Chicago Blues Band
- 6.Going Ahead - J.B. Hutto & The Hawks
- 7.Please Help - J.B. Hutto & The Hawks
- 8.Too Much Alcohol - J.B. Hutto & The Hawks
- 9.Married Woman Blues - J.B. Hutto & The Hawks
- 10.That's the Truth - J.B. Hutto & The Hawks
- 12.Burning Fire
- 13.S. P. Blues
- 14.Sometimes I Wonder
- 15.Spann's Stomp
Tracks on Disc 2:
- 1.Cotton Crop Blues - Jimmy Cotton Blues Quartet
- 2.Blues Keep Falling, The - Jimmy Cotton Blues Quartet
- 3.Love Me or Leave - Jimmy Cotton Blues Quartet
- 4.Rocket 88 - Jimmy Cotton Blues Quartet
- 5.West Helena Blues - Jimmy Cotton Blues Quartet
- 6.Everything's Going To Turn Out Alright - The Otis Rush Blues Band
- 7.It's a Mean Old World - The Otis Rush Blues Band
- 8.I Can't Quit You Baby - The Otis Rush Blues Band
- 9.Rock - The Otis Rush Blues Band
- 10.It's My Own Fault - The Otis Rush Blues Band
- 11.Dust My Broom - Homesick James & His Dusters
- 12.Somebody Been Talkin' - Homesick James & His Dusters
- 13.Set a Date - Homesick James & His Dusters
- 14.So Mean To Me - Homesick James & His Dusters
Tracks on Disc 3:
- 1.One More Time
- 2.Kid Man Blues
- 3.My Black Mare
- 4.Stealin' Back
- 5.I Got Mine In Time
- 6.Tighten Up On It
- 7.Dynaflow Blues - The Johnny Shines Blues Band
- 8.Black Spider Blues - The Johnny Shines Blues Band
- 9.Layin' Down My Shoes and Clothes - The Johnny Shines Blues Band
- 10.If I Get Lucky - The Johnny Shines Blues Band
- 11.Rockin' My Boogie - Big Walter Horton's Blues Harp Band
- 12.Mr. Boweevil - The Johnny Shines Blues Band
- 13.Hey, Hey - The Johnny Shines Blues Band
Performers include: Junior Wells, J.B. Hutto, Otis Spann, Jimmy Cotton, Otis Rush, Homesick James, Johnny Young, Johnny Shine, Big Walter Horton, Memphis Charlie.
All tracks have been digitally remastered.
Personnel: Johnny Young (vocals, guitar, mandolin); Homesick James Williamson, J.B. Hutto, Johnny Shines, Otis Rush (vocals, guitar); Jimmy Cotton, Junior Wells (vocals, harmonica); Otis Spann (vocals, piano); Robert Crowder (alto); James "Pee Wee" Madison, Luther Tucker, Buddy Guy (guitar); Big Walter Horton, Charlie Musselwhite (harmonica); Roger Jones , Floyd Jones , Willie Dixon, Herman Hassell, Hayes Ware, Jack Myers (bass instrument); Elga Edmonds, Willie Lion, Fred Below, S.P. Leary, Frank Kirkland (drums).
In early 1966, blues history was made with the issuance of a three-volume set of new recordings produced by blues historian Samuel Charters. This series was known as Chicago/The Blues/Today! and the release sent shock waves through the world of rock & roll. Every artist on the three volumes had recorded before (some, like Otis Rush and Junior Wells, had actually seen small hits on the R&B charts), but these recordings were largely their introduction to a newer -- and predominately white -- album-oriented audience. The "Today!" part of the title was no bit of hyperbole, either. This series accurately portrayed a vast cross section of the Chicago blues scene as one could hear it on any given night in the mid-'60s. Rather than record full albums (which Charters had neither the budget nor the legal resources to pull off), each artist simply came in for a union-approved session of four to six songs, with each volume featuring three different groupings. With these recordings, blues suddenly gained respectability as something much more vital and vibrant than just a poor cousin of jazz. A new market for this music began, one that exists today in full blossom. Their effect on musicians was enormous. It's fair to assume that most blues-influenced artists had all three volumes in their respective collections, and the songs on them ended up in the repertoires of everyone from Jimi Hendrix (Junior Wells' "Rock Me") to Led Zeppelin (a note-for-note copy of Otis Rush's "I Can't Quit You Baby") to Steppenwolf (Junior Wells' "Messin' with the Kid") and beyond. These recordings have stayed in print and have been reasonably good sellers over the years since their original release, all coming out on compact disc. This new packaging puts all three volumes together, but with no bonus tracks, as no extras were recorded for these sessions.
So if one already owns these sides, what's the incentive this time around? That's easy: the sound is massively improved, with the bass that was rolled off the vinyl and original CD versions now being restored. This makes the tracks truly come alive, especially on the Otis Rush and Junior Wells sides, both fortified with some major amounts of badass bass thumping by Roger Jones and Jack Myers, respectively. One can really hear the spaciousness of the old RCA studios where this stuff was cut for the first time, and the detailing of the mix is in sharp focus throughout, although the increased bass causes some unwanted distortion on the Homesick James Williamson tracks. The other plus is the new packaging, which features a nice booklet with detailed, updated notes from Charters, a nice appreciation from Ed Ward, and absolutely eye-boggling session photos taken by Charters' wife, Ann, that alone are worth the price of the set. With the glut of blues reissues out there, it is often a coin toss regarding where best to spend your hard-earned money. Even if you still have the original vinyl or CDs, this is one of the times when it would be best to spend the dough and add this one to your collection, because blues records seldom come as important, innovative, or just plain pleasurable to listen to as this set. File under "essential." ~ Cub Koda
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