There were already quite a few CDs' worth of early Hooker sides from the late '40s and early '50s on the market -- such as The Legendary Modern Recordings 1948-1954, the three-CD Alternate Boogie: Early Studio Recordings, 1948-1952, and Graveyard Blues -- prior to the 2001 appearance of this collection. So, is there a point to unearthing yet more tracks from his first years as a recording artist? Yes, actually, although this grab bag of early cuts, together with half a dozen previously unissued alternate versions, is not as solid or essential a pickup as The Legendary Modern Recordings 1948-1954. There may be no one alive who could ascertain exactly which of these tracks were never reissued prior to this release, or never reissued on CD prior to this release. Basically, however, it's known that several of these cuts (previously released or not) make their first appearance on compact disc here, and on the whole it's devoted to his lesser-known early Modern sides. Hooker was a very consistent artist even at the outset, and the trademarks that make his early recordings so appealing -- the stomping foot, haunted vocals, and spidery guitar work -- are all in force here. Particularly fine is the stomping title cut (an alternate take). Particularly unusual are the previously unissued take of "I'm in the Mood," which has a harmonica overdub, and the presence of sax, piano, and drums on a few numbers; the 1955 singles "Hug and Squeeze" and "I'm Ready" are very good full-band R&B arrangements. Eddie Kirkland (billed as "Little" Eddie Kirkland) appears on second guitar and vocals on a couple of tracks.
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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger