Inspired by the successful American Folk Blues Festival that swept Europe in the '60s, the founders of the French Black & Blue label decided to kick off their own Chicago Blues Festival tour in 1969. Volume one of the Chicago Blues Festival anthology spans the festival's early years (1969-1971) and captures performances at various French venues by the Aces, Roosevelt Sykes, Eddie Taylor, Homesick James, Cousin Joe, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, John Lee Hooker, and Jimmy Dawkins. Except for the two Eddie Taylor tunes, all of the material here has been previously released, and much of it has a tentative, rehearsal-type quality that doesn't measure up to the classic, live, blues-revival-era recordings associated with the Newport Jazz Festival and the American Folk Blues Festival. The ad hoc nature of the combos obviously has something to do with it; Dawkins, for instance, finds himself backing (and then being backed by) Gatemouth Brown and Cousin Joe, and neither side really complements the other. Sykes, Hooker, and Taylor share the bandleadership award -- they're the only ones who are able to wrestle submission from (and cohesion out of) their respective sidemen, and consequently their tracks are the only ones that stand out in this collection.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Chang