Various Artists

Classic Rhythm & Blues

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Time-Life's fine 1999 collection Classic Rhythm & Blues is made up of 26 songs from the '50s that truly live up to the lofty title. The set is a nice mix of soulful ballads (Tommy Edwards' "It's All in the Game," Lee Andrews & the Hearts' "Long Lonely Nights," Phil Phillips' "Sea of Love"), gritty blues (Bobby Bland's "I Pity the Fool"), funky New Orleans sounds (Lee Dorsey's "Ya Ya," Fats Domino's "I Want to Walk You Home"), and wild rockers (Wilbert Harrison's "Kansas City," Lloyd Price's "Stagger Lee," Hank Ballard's "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go"). Add an incendiary couple of tracks from James Brown ("Please, Please, Please," "Try Me"), some Jackie Wilson, and a couple of doo wop classics (the Five Satins' "In the Still of the Night," Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs' "Stay"), and you've got a very strong and exciting disc. It is by no means a definitive collection of '50s R&B (no Atlantic artists, for example), but it will do as an introduction to the music of the era.

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