Sunday, 31 August 2014

"Atlantic Blues {1949-1970}" by VARIOUS ARTISTS - A Review Of the 2007 Rhino Handmade 4CD Box Set With Full Discography...

“…Stealing Through My Heart Again…” 

There seems to be 'mystery' in some circles surrounding this excellent but slightly elusive box set. Let's dissipate that discography fog right away...

"Atlantic Blues {1949-1970}" was released in the USA in September 2007 on Rhino Handmade RHM2 7737 (Barcode 603497773725). 4CDs in 5" picture card sleeves are housed in hollows in a 12" x 12" Silk Screen Printed Box Set with a 36-page full-sized booklet. It's numbered to 3000 (on the booklet) and breaks down as follows:

Disc 1, 20 tracks, LEADBELLY pictured, 62:24 minutes:
1. Drinking' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee - STICK McGHEE (1949, Atlantic 873, A)
2. Drank Up All The Wine Last Night - STICK McGHEE (1949, Atlantic 898, A)
3. The Razor Ball - BARRELHOUSE SAMMY (first appeared on the 1972 BLIND WILLY McTELL US LP "Atlanta Twelve String" on Atlantic SD 7224)
4. Last Dime Blues - BARRELHOUSE SAMMY (as per 3)
5. Mardi Gras In Orleans - ROY "Baldhead" BYRD [Professor Longhair] (1949, Atlantic 897, A)
6. Hey Now Baby - PROFESSOR LONGHAIR (1972 US LP "New Orleans Piano" on Atlantic SD 7225)
7. She Walks Right In - PROFESSOR LONGHAIR (as per 6)
8. Tee Nah Nah - VAN "Piano Man" WALLS and his AFTER HOUR SESSION BOYS [Vocal by SPIDER SAM] (1950, Atlantic 904, A)
9. Let's Do It - STICK McGHEE and His Buddies (1950, Atlantic 912, A)
10. House Warmin' Boogie - STICK McGHEE (1950, Atlantic 926, A)
11. Dallas Bebop Blues - LAWYER HOUSTON (1950, Atlantic 916, A)
12. In The Army Since 1941 - SOLDIER BOY HOUSTON (this is the same song as 11 by the same artist but with different lyrics - first appeared on the 1971 Various Artists LP "Texas Guitar: From Dallas To L.A." on Atlantic SD 7226 in the USA)
13. Goodnight Irene - LEADBELLY (1950, Atlantic 917, A)
14. Vicksburg Blues '51 - LITTLE BROTHER MONTGOMERY (1972 US LP by JIMMY & MAMA YANCEY called "Chicago Piano Volume 1 - Blues Originals Vol.6" on Atlantic SD 7229)
15. Talkin' Boogie - LITTLE BROTHER MONTGOMERY (as per 14 - note 14 is an instrumental whilst 15 has talking vocals throughout)
16. Yancey Special - JIMMY YANCEY (1951 US LP "Yancey Special" on Atlantic 130)
17. Santa Fe Blues - JIMMY & MAMA YANCEY (as per 16)
18. Monkey Woman Blues - JIMMY & MAMA YANCEY (as per 16 - note 16 is a piano instrumental while 17 and 18 have vocals by Mama Yancey)
19. Worried Life Blues - RAY CHARLES (1953 US LP "The Genius Sings The Blues" on Atlantic 8052)
20. All Night Lover Blues - JIMMY "Baby Face" LEWIS and His Band (1949, Atlantic 884, A)

Disc 2, 20 Tracks, RAY CHARLES pictured, 56:46 minutes:
1. Jump Everybody Jump - JOE MORRIS and His Orchestra (1951, Atlantic 931, A, Joe Morris Vocals)
2. Anytime, Any Place, Anywhere - JOE MORRIS and His Orchestra Featuring LAURIE TATE (1951, Atlantic 914, A, Vocals Laurie Tate)
3. I'm So Good To You (Pretty Baby) - JIMMY "Baby Face" LEWIS and his Band (1949, Atlantic 901, A)
4. Rock Me Daddy - JOE MORRIS and His Orchestra featuring LAURIE TATE (1950, Atlantic 965, A)
5. Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! - JOE MORRIS and His Orchestra (B-side of 1, is a Louis Prima cover version)
6. Chains Of Love - JOE TURNER with Van 'Piano Man' Walls Orchestra (1951, Atlantic 939, A)
7. Bump Miss Susie - JOE TURNER with Van 'Piano Man' Walls Orchestra (1951, Atlantic 949, A)
8. Let's Get Together And Make Some Love - JIMMY LEWIS and his Band (1951, Atlantic 943, A)
9. Every Time - LIL GREEN with Howard Biggs Orchestra (1951, Atlantic 951, A)
10. I've Got That Feeling - LIL GREEN with Howard Biggs Orchestra (B-side of 9)
11. Sweet Sixteen - JOE TURNER with Van 'Piano Man' Walls Orchestra (1952, Atlantic 960, A)
12. Alarm Clock Boogie - ODELLE TURNER with Jesse Stone & His Orchestra (1952, Atlantic 964, A)
13. Messin' Up - CHUCK NORRIS (1953, Atlantic 994, A)
14. Losing Hand - RAY CHARLES (1953, Atlantic 1037, A)
15. Feelin' Sad - RAY CHARLES (1954, Atlantic 1008, A)
16. TV Mama - JOE TURNER (1953, Atlantic 1016, A, features ELMORE JAMES on Slide Guitar
17. Oke-She-Moke-She-Pop - JOE TURNER (B-side of 16)
18. Last Call For Whiskey - CHOKER CAMPBELL [Vocals Harold Young] (1953, Atlantic 1014, A)
19. Tipitina - PROFESSOR LONGHAIR 91953, Atlantic 1020, A)
20. Who's Been Fooling You - PROFESSOR LONGHAIR & his Blues Scholars (B-side of 19)

Disc 3, 20 Tracks, T-BONE WALKER pictured, 64:04 minutes:
1. Big Foot May - HAL PAIGE and his Blues Boys (1953, Atlantic 1032, A)
2. In The Evening - JOE TURNER (1954 Atlantic EP 565)
3. Roll Baby Roll - FLOYD DIXON and His Band (1954, Cat 106, A)
4. Wait Baby - LITTLE JOHNNY JONES (1972 Various Artists US LP "Blues Piano: Chicago Plus" on Atlantic SD 7227)
5. Hoy Hoy - LITTLE JOHNNY JONES  (1953, Atlantic 1045, A)
6. Chicago Blues - LITTLE JOHNNY JONES (as per 4)
7. Hey Bartender - FLOYD DIXON (1954, Cat 114, A)
8. When I Get Lucky - FLOYD DIXON (as per 4)
9. Floyd's Blues - FLOYD DIXON (as per 4)
10. Papa Ain't Salty - T-BONE WALKER (1955, Atlantic 1065, A)
11. Play On Little Girl - T-BONE WALKER (1955, Atlantic 1074, A)
12. T-Bone Blues Special - T-BONE WALKER (as per 12 on Disc 1)
13. Roll `Em Pete - JOE TURNER (1956 US LP "Boss Of The Blues" on Atlantic 1234)
14. Piney Brown Blues - JOE TURNER (as per 13)
15. Down Through The Years - GUITAR SLIM (1956, Atco 6072, A)
16. It's Too Late - CHUCK WILLIS (1956, Atlantic 1098, A)
17. Ain't Nobody's Business - JIMMY WITHERSPOON with Wilber De Paris "New" New Orleans Band (1956 LP "New Orleans Blues" on Atlantic 1266 - credited to Wilber De Paris Plays Jimmy Witherspoon Sings)
18. How Long Blues - JIMMY WITHERSPOON (as per 17)
19. T-Bone Blues - T-BONE WALKER (1958 LP "T-Bone's Blues" on Atlantic 8020)
20. Call It Stormy Monday - T-BONE WALKER (as per 19)

Disc 4, 20 Tracks, FREDDIE KING pictured, 68:02 minutes:
1. After The Lights Go Down Low - AL HIBBLER (1956 US LP "After The Lights Go Down Low" on Atlantic 1251)
2. Empty Bed Blues - LaVERN BAKER (1958 US LP "LaVern Baker Sings Bessie Smith" on Atlantic 1281)
3. Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out - LaVERN BAKER (as per 2)
4. Preaching The Blues - LaVERN BAKER (as per 2)
5. Nasty Boogie - CHAMPION JACK DUPREE (1958 US LP "Blues From the Gutter" on Atlantic 8019)
6. Junker's Blues - CHAMPION JACK DUPREE (as per 5)
7. Along About Midnight - GUITAR SLIM (1971 US Various Artists LP "Texas Guitar: From Dallas To L.A." on Atlantic SD 7226)
8. My Time Is Expensive - GUITAR SLIM (1996 US CD "Atco Sessions" Atlantic 81760)
9. Trouble In Mind - JIMMY RICKS (1964, Atlantic 2246, A)
10. Romance In The Dark - JIMMY RICKS (B-side of 9)
11. Two Years Of Torture - RAY CHARLES (1959 US LP "The Genius Of Ray Charles" on Atlantic 1312)
12. I'm Getting' Long Alright - ESTHER PHILLIPS (1966 US LP "Confessin' The Blues" on Atlantic 1680)
13. Confessin' The Blues - ESTHER PHILLIPS (as per 12)
14. Cherry Red - ESTHER PHILLIPS (as per 12)
15. Going Down Slow - ARETHA FRANKLIN (1967, Atlantic 2427, A)
16. Today I Sing The Blues - ARETHA FRANKLIN (1969 US LP "Soul '69" on Atlantic 8212)
17. River's Invitation - ARETHA FRANKLIN (as per 16)
18. Play It Cool - FREDDIE KING (1970 US LP "Freddie King Is A Blues Master" on Cotillion SD 9004)
19. I Don't Know - FREDDIE KING (1970 US LP "My Feeling For The Blues" on Atlantic SD 9016)
20. My Love For You Will Never Die - OTIS RUSH (1969 US LP "Mourning In The Morning" on Cotillion SD 9006)

Compiled by the peerless BILLY VERA (assisted by MASON WILLIAMS) - initially I was disappointed by the size and content of the booklet - only 36 pages and a lot of that filled with track lists that don't even list musicians (but have catalogue numbers). But the more I delved - the more I began to dig it. First of all I love the way it looks and feels - all of the photos and text are given this sepia tint that feels like you're riffling through an old newspaper that's aged with decades. The BILLY VERA liner notes are great fun and informative of course and the plethora of Cash Box and other US music magazine adverts peppering the text looks fabulous - as do the full page photos given over to artists who never get real recognition - Chocker Campbell, Jimmy Yancey, Joe Turner, T-Bone Walker and Guitar Slim. But musically is where the real action is - cool choices and a dip into the murky lesser-heard Blues past of Atlantic Records and its subsiduaries...

CONTENT/SOUND: Long-standing tape engineers BILL INGLOT and DAN HERSCH have done a wonderful job with the remastering. As you can imagine - given their age - 'some' of the tracks on Disc 1 can sound rough ("All Night Lover Blues" by Jimmy "Baby Face" Lewis has bad tape disintegration) but actually 95% don't - beautifully transferred - full of life and lovely clarity. The bulk of the 4 CDs concentrate on the rarer Forties and Fifties sides with only Disc 4 reaching The Sixties and Seventies half way through its playing time. In fact the eagle-eyed collectors amongst you will notice from the disc-by-disc breakdown above that some of those superb "Blues Originals" LPs that came out of the States in their lovely textured gatefold sleeves in 1972 (Atlantic SD 7224, 7225, 7226 and 7229) are being given CD reissue here for the first time in many cases. And of course on top of that there's those rare early 78's and 45's on Atlantic, Atco and Cat to savour...

Fantastic discoveries include the pure acoustic blues of "Dallas Bebop Blues" by Lawyer Houston that sounds just incredible given its vintage - while Leadbelly's classic "Goodnight Irene" sounds like it was recorded in a shack adjacent to cotton fields (basic and atmospheric). The piano instrumental "Vicksburg Blues '51" by Little Brother Montgomery has incredible atmosphere and there's a classy sepia photo of him taking up the whole of Page 19.

Disc 2 ups the pace considerably by introducing Jump Blues in the shape of Joe Morris and Jimmy Lewis...and there's gorgeous slow blues from Lil Green on "I Got That Feeling" (lyrics from it title this review). She gets a full-page photograph on 21 whilst my personal hero Big Joe Turner gets Page 22 - a superb photo of him standing by Atlantic bosses Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun and piled-high boxes of the "Corrine Corrina" 45 - all three burly men smiling as wads of centerless singles are shipped out to eager punters. Just as rocking is Odelle Turner who tears it with "Alarm Clock Blues". But "Messin' Up" by Chuck Norris is clearly dubbed off a bad 45 and is included for rarity value. Genius choice goes to the lesser-heard Ray Charles masterpiece of Blues "Losing Hand". And I don't care how knackered the 45 of "Last Call For Whiskey" is - it's the most fun and a wonderful inclusion ("drunk with your elbows on the bar..."). Discs 3 and 4 see genius like "Roll 'Em Pete" by Joe Turner updating his Forties hit with superb brass backing while the Jimmy Witherspoon and Wilber De Paris sides are a brilliant inclusion. T-Bone Walker, Jimmy Ricks, Champion Jack Dupree and the irrepressible LaVern Baker ("Empty Bed" is so good) all impress.

To sum up - although it may seem too 'slight' at first - over time I've grown to adore this box - it's a lovely thing to listen to and behold. And I know the playing times are too short and in some respects it's a bit of a 'missed opportunity' as other reviewers have quite rightly pointed out. But living with what I've got - I play "Atlantic Blues" more than other box sets with twice as much under the hood. In fact I liked it so much - I had to get my grubby paws on the other 12" x 12" entries in this short-lived Rhino series. So for me - recommended like a tin of rejuvenating spinach...

PS: the other two themed 4CD Box Sets released by Rhino Handmade in the same (numbered) packaging are: "Atlantic Vocal Groups {1951-1963}" and "Atlantic Soul {1957-1975}".

No comments:

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

INDEX - Artists, Albums, Record Labels, CD Remaster Engineers, Liner Notes Authors, Links etc