Various Artists

Anthology of the Blues, Vol. 6: Detroit Blues

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This album collects a few performances each by four different bluesmen, the most famous of whom is John Lee Hooker. Two of the others are players who were also associated with "the Hook," Eddie Kirkland and Eddie Burns. The fourth performer is Sylvester Cotton, about which very little is known. The album's packaging is overblown, hinting at something much more grandiose than what is here. A cover shot of two cute black kids has about as much to do with the music as the listener's last haircut, while two photos of John Lee Hooker -- the same shot, actually, in mini and maxi sizings -- and no pictures of anyone else seems hack. It gets worse. No one takes credit for the ugly gray-and-white line drawing inside the gatefold; it portrays not only a bluesman strumming his guitar, but prostitutes, several couples embracing, a robber with a knife, a man reading a newspaper with the word "War" visible in the headline, and a boxer dog. There also seems to be some liquid all over the ground. Wow. Hooker fans need not embark on a quest in order to own this record, as there is plenty of this bluesman's material available elsewhere. The four tracks here offer his remarkable vocals and a guitar sound that will literally throttle the speakers. What really makes this album of interest to collectors would be the Kirkland tracks. This terrific player has gone in and out of the spotlight over the years, and hearing some of his earlier material is a treat, even if it is just a squibbly little pair of tracks. Eddie Burns played some mighty fine harmonica on Hooker sides from this period, but when it came time to make his own recordings, he switched to guitar. His material has a nice, rhythmic feel, but not particularly thrilling lyrics. The Burns songs pale alongside the tracks by Sylvester Cotton, one of which is titled "I Tried" and is an apology in advance to listeners who might not approve of what he has done in the recording studio.

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