Various Artists

Chess Blues Classics: 1947-1956

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Part of a two-volume set as part of MCA's Chess 50th Anniversary collection, this offers a 16-track thumbnail sketch of the sounds that made the label the tops in the blues field. Beginning with two Aristocrat sides (the label's original moniker) from 1948 and 1949 featuring Muddy Waters ("I Can't Be Satisfied") and Little Johnny Jones ("Big Town Playboy" with Muddy on backup guitar), the collection rolls through its treasures chronologically, virtually cherry-picking the hits from the innumerable classics stored in the Chess vaults. With Jimmy Rogers' "That's All Right," Eddie Boyd's "Twenty-Four Hours," John Lee Hooker's "Sugar Mama," Lowell Fulson's "Reconsider Baby" and J.B. Lenoir's "Eisenhower Blues" providing nice changes of pace from the big hits of Muddy, Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Little Walter aboard, this is by no means a lightweight collection. As a greatest-hits package, perhaps one could easily nitpick over what isn't on here, while also just as easily dismissing their inclusion as another repackaging of the same old stuff. But as a simple-to-digest primer of some of the best the label had to offer during its first landmark decade in business, this compilation hits the bullseye in a big way. A perfect one to stick in a multi-disc CD player, hit shuffle play, and prepare to be continually pleased.

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