Sunday, 15 May 2016

"Atlanta Twelve String: Blues Originals Vol. 1" by BLIND WILLIE McTELL (2012 Japanese 'Atlantic 1000 R&B Best Collection' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…Broke Down Engine Blues…"

Back in the early Seventies Atlantic Records began reissuing a lot of Blues and old time R’n’B on vinyl – one such string of tastily presented albums was the “Blues Originals” series – historic names given a new airing in lavish gatefold sleeves. Apart from the occasional track on the “Atlantic Blues” 4CD Box Set from 2007 on Rhino Handmade – many of these albums have remained elusive on CD. Blind Willie McTell had two tracks on that 4CD retrospective but this is to my knowledge the first time the entire album has been made available on CD. Here are dying crapshooter details…

Released November 2012 – "Atlanta Twelve String: Blues Originals Vol.1" by BLIND WILLIE McTELL on Warner Brothers Japan/Atlantic 1000 R&B Best Collection WPCR-27595 (Barcode 4943674126972) pans out as follows (44:49 minutes):

1. Kill It Kid
2. The Razor Ball
3. Little Delia
4. Broke Down Engine Blues
5. Dying Crapshooter’s Blues
6. Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie
7. Blues Around Midnight
8. Last Dime Blues
9. On The Cooling Board  [Side 2]
10. Motherless Children Have A Hard Time
11. I Got To Cross The River Jordan
12. You Got To Die
13. Ain’t It Grand To Live A Christian
14. Pearly Gates
15. Soon This Morning
Tracks 1 to 15 are the album “Atlanta Twelve String: Blues Originals Vol.1” – released 1972 in the USA on Atlantic SD 7224

When the LP was released Stateside in 1972 – all but two tracks were Previously Unreleased at the time. The two that weren’t were “Kill It Kid” and “Broke Down Engine Blues” - originally issued in 1949 as the A & B-sides of a 78” on Atlantic 891 credited to Barrelhouse Sammy The Country Kid.

Just a word about the Japanese CD Series "Atlantic 1000 R&B Best Collection" – it first appeared in October and November 2012 and has been ongoing ever since (there's now a whopping 250+ titles across every WEA label, genre and time frame). The '1000' in the title refers to their price code - each features a budget price tag of 952 Yen which (depending on exchange rates) is roughly $9 to $11 for US customers, £5.50 to £7.50 for UK buyers and 8 to 9.20 Euros for Europeans (with P&P added on of course). As of early 2015 - roughly speaking they weigh in between £5 to £10 sterling per title including post - which is the cheapest I've seen quality Japanese CDs ever go for.

And what's really enticing is that most issues feature 2012, 2013 and 2014 Digital Remastering (DSD) with many titles reissued that are either entirely new to CD or have been long out of print and due sonic upgrades. Each release comes in a standard jewel case (not mini repro sleeves nor SHMs) with an inner booklet (16-pages on this one) containing the English lyrics. There's the usual outer Obi strip and an essay in Japanese (no liner notes nor other details). The CD label design will usually mimic the original release too (the Atlantic Black & Red logo here). These ancient Mono recordings have been digitally remastered (says so on the obi but doesn’t say who did it) and given the vintage they’re incredibly clean and clear.

Musically this is one man and his 12-string guitar singing songs about dying, gambling, cheating women and God (what’s new). This is the kind of album Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin must have swooned over – there’s an eerie edge to the recordings – “On The Cooling Board” and “Broke Down Engine Blues” being amongst the best. Lyrically “Dying Crapshooter’s Blues” has some howling lines like – “Jessie was a wild reckless gambler…police walked up and shot my friend Jessie down…at his bedside…how you wanna go Jessie…eight crapshooters to be my pallbearers…a crooked card put on my hearse…dig my grave with the ace of spades…” I like it…

Blind William McTell is a footnote in Blues history now - but on the evidence of this cool little CD - what an imprint he left…

PS: I've posted a full list of all 255 titles in the Series to January 2015 - just Google "Atlantic 1000 R&B Best Collection"...

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