Various Artists

Blues, Vol. 2 [Roots]

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Featuring more or less the same artists as the previous album in the series, The Blues, Vol. 2 has just as bewildering a selection. Everything is taken from the Chess catalogue, but the recording dates vary from 1950 to 1968, and the styles span over country blues and early Chicago blues to soul. The artists featured include everything from big stars like B.B. King and Elmore James to the much less-known likes of Larry Williams. On the other hand, most blues compilations out there are pretty pointless, and this actually includes some great highlights and avoids the most common numbers. "It Must Have Been the Devil" -- with heavy drums and Otis Spann on distorted vocals -- is as fierce as it would get in 1954, and "Weak Brain Narrow Mind" is a dark country blues by Willie Dixon, who is otherwise mostly seen on the credit lists. The album ends with "Need to Belong," Laura Lee's version of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready." Of course it is not blues, but since the song is good, that doesn't really matter. And since the album is a cheap one, these songs make it worth buying. It could also serve as an introduction to Chicago blues and some related styles for the just-past-beginner listener.

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