Various Artists

It Came from Memphis: The Legendary Sounds of Memphis

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It has been said that the guys who wash dishes and collect garbage in Memphis, TN, are better musicians than you're likely to find in nearly any other American city, and there seems to be something about the place that inspires a strange and glorious blend of groove, soul, and belief -- any city that can produce Elvis Presley, Al Green, Isaac Hayes, Big Star, and Howlin' Wolf is a place where unique and gifted minds can follow any number of paths. It Came from Memphis: The Legendary Sounds of Memphis was created as a companion to Robert Gordon's book of the same name about the city's remarkable musical legacy (the author also compiled this set), and while it certainly helps to amplify and illustrate Gordon's excellent prose, it also does a fine job on its own of portraying Memphis' wildly divergent creative personality. While a number of the city's best-known artists are on board, Gordon also revels in the work of such inspired lesser-knowns as Mud Boy & the Neutrons, Elder Beck, Travis Wammack, and the Bo-Keys, and he's as likely to pick a choice obscurity to represent a musician as one of that musician's best-known songs. Rather than simply pull together a bunch of classic oldies from Memphis-based artists, Gordon has instead opted to chronicle the oddball genius and indomitable soul of one of America's great musical cities, as it expresses itself in blues, soul, country, rock, and even punk, and the result is a two-disc set that's fine history, impressive sociology, and great butt-rockin' music. Wonderful stuff.

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