This 26-track overview brings together the early and impossibly rare tracks James recorded for imprints like Chance, Colt, USA and others, from his earliest efforts in 1952 into the mid-1960s before signing with Prestige and producing the Blues on the South Side album for them. The first 15 tracks are culled from his 1952 and 1953 sessions for Chance Records (including an alternate take of his first single, "Lonesome Old Train"), and some great harp work from Big Walter Horton on the instrumental "Williamson Shuffle." Along with the surviving Chance material are stray singles for USA (an uptown version of "Crossroads" featuring a droning sax section), Colt ("Set a Date"), UK Decca ("Got to Move"), Spivey ("Can't Hold Out") and a pair of sides shared with Sunnyland Slim ("Sunnyland/Homesick Special"). There are no real session dates or personnel information on here, and only scant liner notes only giving introductory information; the set also leaves off both sides of his 1960 Atomic H single and thus can't be a complete overview. But the music is just as fine as you could possibly ask for, grade-A Chicago blues chock full of raw slide guitar and Homesick's grainy vocals, making this the best overview of this artist's early work available on compact disc.
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