While some hardliners will point to his early 1950s Trumpet recordings as his most undiluted work, Sonny Boy's tenure at Chess Records was his longest and most successful and therefore deserves first look for the novice coming to this remarkable bluesman at ground level. This 20-track collection takes 17 tracks from the excellent two-disc Essential Sonny Boy Williamson collection and adds "Sad To Be Alone," "My Younger Days" and an alternate session-second version of "One Way Out" with Buddy Guy on guitar (yes, this is the version that the Allman Brothers used as the blueprint for their cover version) to the final mix. This is another entry into MCA's Chess 50th Anniversary Series and the digital transfers here are exemplary, making this an automatic audio upgrade for those who already have this material in their collection. Because his output for the label was of such a uniformly high quality, virtually everything Williamson put down on tape at the Chess studios could make a final cut on any best of package you'd want to put together on the man. So bemoaning the absence of any track here would be minor critical carping, especially in light of no less than five other Sonny Boy Chess packages still being in print at press time. But if you're only going to own one of them and your wallet tends to shy away from two-disc anthologies, this makes an excellent first purchase.
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AllMusic Review by Cub Koda