Various Artists

Big Ol' Box of New Orleans Sampler

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This is a rather remarkable release. Before mentioning the music on the four CDs, it is impossible to ignore the packaging. Housed in a book-size box, the collection has a colorfully illustrated 80-page booklet that discusses not only the music but the culture, food, lifestyle and atmosphere of New Orleans. It makes one feel as if they are visiting the city. New Orleans has been America's magical musical city since the 1890s, and this set has generous samplings of the many kinds of music that can be found in New Orleans today. Included among the 81 selections are traditional jazz and Dixieland (but surprisingly no modern jazz), blues, zydeco, Cajun music, a little bit of klezmer and a lot of New Orleans R&B . There are some historical recordings dating back to the 1920s although most of the set focuses on the past 50 years and especially on the late 20th century scene. Among the many stars who make appearances are Kermit Ruffins, Fats Domino, Dr. John, Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Sidney Bechet, Johnny Adams, the Meters, Clifton Chenier, Buckwheat Zydeco, the Neville Brothers, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Professor Longhair, Kid Ory, Irma Thomas, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Champion Jack Dupree, Pete Fountain and James Booker. Included along the way are virtually all of the most famous Mardi Gras and party hits. Even collectors who have the majority of the material will want this "big ol' box" for the book. Not only does this set look great on the record shelf, it is also a joy to hear.

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