A fine 24-track distillation of Johnson's lengthy career for Decca, during which he and his musicians served as a key link between Harlem big bands, jump blues, and R&B. Spanning 1941 to 1952, the focus is on the bluesier and/or more uptempo sides credited to either Buddy or sister Ella, as well as tracks with Johnson associations cut by Arthur Prysock and Harold "Geezil" Minerve. Several of the Johnson clan's most celebrated performances are here: "Walk 'Em" (a sort of signature tune for Buddy), Ella's original version of "Since I Fell For You," Ella's huge R&B hits "That's the Stuff You Gotta Watch" and "When My Man Comes Home," and Buddy's 1949 Top 20 pop hit, "Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?" (surely one of the greatest baseball/pop novelties ever). Some of the raunchy sax breaks are signposts for a style that would become prevalent in R&B and early rock'n'roll; the gritty instrumental "Shake 'Em Up," for instance, anticipates the sound of Bill Doggett's "Honky Tonk" by four years.
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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger
feat: Ella Johnson