Various Artists

Blues Is Alright, Vol. 3

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There was clearly some serious care taken with this CD, at least as far as the track selection and the careful use of masters. Subtitled "Greatest Hits," this third in a four-volume series mostly lives up to that title and then some -- it's also the most generously programmed of the four, with a full 16 tracks. Opening with Bobby "Blue" Bland's soulful, soaring "Get Your Money Where You Spend Your Time," the collection lofts from there into several different directions, from Z.Z. Hill's rougher, more retro-oriented "Open House at My House" through to Latimore's smoother, more pop-focused "Sunshine Lady" (a track so pretty that it's almost worth the price of the CD by itself), Little Milton's bluesy "Annie Mae's Cafe," and Johnnie Taylor's gospel-flavored "I Found a Love." Of course, a lot of people, and even most novice listeners, will already have tracks like B.B. King's "Sweet Little Angel" in their collections (it's only on about 100 different releases), but for the casual listener or those not already immersed in soul-blues, this is a fine collection, and doubly so given the excellent sound. And given the latter, one would think the makers would have paid at least some attention to the packaging as well -- which points to the major flaw in this CD, the total absence of any annotation, or even of release dates, original labels, etc. It's still a great listen, more than once, but it's also a missed opportunity to say something about the music and, especially, some of the less well-remembered figures represented here.

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