Various Artists

The Blues, Vol. 1 [Chess/MCA]

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Even though Chess should be releasing collections with more than just over 30 minutes of music on them, this thin blues roundup from the legendary Chicago label's vaults still works well enough as a sampler of vintage electric blues. Recorded between 1952 and 1960, the 12 tracks spotlight such legends as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, and Sonny Boy Williamson. Most of the numbers are classics, including Waters' "Hoochie Coochie Man," Wolf's "Smokestack Lightning," and Walter's "Juke." The inclusion of Lowell Fullson's perennial "Reconsider Baby," Chuck Berry's "Worried Life Blues," and Jimmy Witherspoon's "When the Lights Go Out" does come as a surprising but welcome addition to a basic overview such as this. In addition to being floored by Buddy Guy's manic, high-voltage performance on "First Time I Met the Blues," fans will be pleased to see legendary Chicago blues sidemen like Otis Spann, Willie Dixon, Jimmy Rogers, Fred Below, and Hubert Sumlin filling the support roles. A fine yet slim blues collection that's best purchased for a discount price.

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