Wednesday, 9 June 2010

“The History Of Rhythm & Blues 1942-52” – by VARIOUS ARTISTS. A Review of the 2nd 4CD Box Set by Rhythm And Blues Records of the UK (2009).

"… I Heard Mama Say…Let That Boy Boogie-Woogie…”

Released in May 2009, this 4CD box set is the latest issue from Rhythm And Blues Records - a new label out of the UK specializing in quality issues of R&B music from way back. The first set “The History Of Rhythm And Blues 1925-1942” on RANDB001 was issued in early 2008 and is reviewed separately. And I’m delighted to say that this set is just as good as the first – and it’s improved presentation-wise.

RANDB003 breaks down as follows...

Disc 1: "Jumpin’ From Harlem To The West Coast"
1942 to 1948, 25 Tracks, 73:52 minutes
Disc 2: "Guitar Boogies – Sax Screamers – Gospel Roads”
1946 to 1949, 25 Tracks, 71:04 minutes
Disc 3: "Have You Heard The News – There’s Good Rockin’ Tonight"
1948 to 1952, 26 Tracks, 71:09 minutes
Disc 4: "Soul Train Mambo – Destination New Orleans"
1946 to 1953, 25 Tracks, 70:54 minutes

There's a paperback-sized outer card wrap, which houses a 3-way fold out clip holder. The 64-page booklet is detached this time and twice the size of the previous set (the 1st box had it attached to the centre inner sleeve and was difficult to use because of it) – so it’s detachment is a huge improvement. The booklet is also such an enjoyable read. There’s detailed track-by-track analysis of each song - when it was recorded, players if known, USA catalogue numbers, chart positions etc. Between the texts are trade adverts, artist publicity photos and small colour pictures of those beautiful and evocative 78” and 7” labels – Imperial Records, Federal, Atlantic, Decca, Savoy, Chess and many more. If you want a full printed out version, the same detailed text is available from their website in colour.

Expertly and lovingly compiled by NICK DUCKETT, it’s remastered by and given the vintage of the recordings (1942 to 1952), the sound quality obviously varies enormously - some are awful, but others are superlative.

Like the 1st box, what doesn't vary is the sheer charm of the recordings themselves; the tracks sort of ‘flow’ into each other with real precision. There’s Blues of course (lyrics above to “Boogie Chillen” by John Lee Hooker), but there’s also Rhythm ‘n’ Blues, Jive, Doo-Wop, Hillbilly and even a little World War II swing. All manner of life is here – sexy songs, poverty songs, emigration and work songs, music as a solace and a liberation, drinking and cheating women and men who are no better, breaking free music, dancing on a Saturday night music - it all weaves a magical listen. We regularly use it in a shuffle-play of several discs and it has customers coming to the counter time and time again asking, "who's this?"

Retailing at just under twenty-three pounds from some online retailers, this box set of 101 remastered well-known and obscure titles is both revelatory and great value for money – and it's music you'll find yourself loving and wanting more of.

Like its predecessor – this is another rather lovely reissue really – and is highly recommended.

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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