Various Artists

Riot in Blues

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This showcase for different varieties of blues, from the acoustic harmonica/guitar work of Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee to the electric band work of Ray Charles and Arbee Stidham, is more substantial than its 23 cuts, divided between five performers, would lead one to expect. There's no shortage of Lightnin' Hopkins recordings -- and even of great Lightnin' Hopkins recordings -- but he is in such fantastic form on the first four cuts of this multi-artist collection that it's worth the price of admission just for his acoustic playing on "Buck Dance Boogie," and when he jumps to electric blues on "Hello Central," his work is even more impressive. Ray Charles may only do three numbers, but he shows off some surprising attributes, his singing overpowering everything around him for the first two tracks, "Why Did You Go?" and "I Found My Baby There," before he yields to the band on the instrumental "Guitar Blues," the guitarist getting most of the dialogue and the last word over Charles' piano. The Cajun-flavored work of James Wayne adds still greater variety, along with his decidedly more R&B-based approach to the blues, with the piano, acoustic guitar, and sax-driven "Please Baby Please" coming off almost like a full-blown rock & roll number. Producer Bob Shad outdid himself in recording and selecting this material, and this collection -- originally released on the Time label -- deserves to be better known than it is.

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