Various Artists

Chicago Blues from Federal Records

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Although the Federal label (a subsidiary of King) wasn't a huge force in electric blues in the late 1950s and early '60s, it did make some interesting, quality Chicago blues sides, 22 of which are collected here. Kid Thomas leads off with eight tracks, including the fine 1957 single "Wolf Pack" b/w "The Spell," which sound like Chess '50s blues heavily influenced by Howlin' Wolf, and crossed with a smidgen of Screamin' Jay Hawkins. The other six Thomas tunes were previously unissued, and are decent outings that, again, could have fit in well with the Chess label with the shrill, full sound, Thomas' accomplished harmonica playing (reminiscent of Little Walter), and the slight echo on the production. Next are four early-'60s singles by Smokey Smothers, which sound a few years behind the times in their basic electric blues arrangements, but are certainly fine performances, particularly "I've Been Drinking Muddy Water," which contains some excellent guitar licks by Freddy King. Pianist Willie Mabon weighs in with four 1957 efforts, only two of which were issued, although they're solid numbers with soulful vocals. Bobby King, the most obscure artist on the anthology, is represented by four 1961-1964 tracks that are quality early blues-soul, although unfortunately (considering his last name) they sometimes show a heavy B.B. King influence; "W-A-S-T-E-D" was co-written by Pat Vegas, later of Redbone. Eddy Clearwater wraps it up with his 1962 single "Real Good Time" /"Hey Bernardine," which is about as close a facsimile of Chuck Berry in the "You Never Can Tell" era as you're likely to hear.

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