The 53 rhythm and blues classics contained on this two-disc compendium practically covers the entire lifespan of the Aladdin Records label. The imprint began as Philco in the mid-'40s by brothers Edward and Leo Mesner. After raising eyebrows from the manufacturers of Philco radios, they changed the moniker to Aladdin. The label's initial offerings were jazz-flavored R&B sides such as its first release "Flying Home" by Illinois Jacquet and his All Stars. The Mesners also began attracting top-shelf acts such as big band vocalist Helen Humes, who performs her own compositions "Be Baba Leba" and "He May Be Your Man" with Bill Doggett's Octet. Aladdin quickly became a haven for a plethora of A-list artists producing equally as impressive material. Among the roster to be included on the Aladdin Records Story (1994) are Mr. Blues himself, Wynonie Harris ("(I Don't Stand A) Ghost of a Chance"), Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown ("Guitar in My Hand"), Lightnin' Hopkins ("Shotgun Blues"), and the Five Keys ("Too Late," "Glory of Love," "Too Late," and "I'm High"). For a very short time, even the legendary Billie Holiday recorded there, backed by the equally revered Tiny Grimes ("Blue Turning Grey Over You"). As the R&B of the late '40s and early '50s began to shift into the seminal rock & roll era, so too did Aladdin. Classics such as Shirley & Lee's "Let the Good Times Roll" and "Rockin' With the Clock," as well as Lee Allen's "Rockin' at Cosmo's" and Thurston Harris' "Little Bitty Pretty One" all but defined the incremental stylistic progression from blues to rock. While the platters mentioned above only skim the surface, the entire two-plus hours reveal a true cross-section of the artists who created a musical glow in Aladdin's lamp. The double-CD set is packaged in a unique album style, similar to those that bound 78 rpm volumes. The accompanying 20-page booklet has photos and track annotations from Steve Kolanijan. The audio quality is nothing short of superior, impressing audiophiles and casual consumers alike. Sadly, the package has not been reissued and used copies have been known to trade hands for a princely sum. That said, the overwhelming value of adding these to any collection far outweighs most reasonable asking prices.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2