One of three simultaneously released, budget-priced Alligator blues compilations (the other two are Crucial Chicago Blues and Crucial Harmonica Blues), Crucial Guitar Blues is a 12-track, hour-long anthology of some of the hottest guitarists in the label's extensive catalog. Although the word "electric" is not featured in the title, this is definitely a plugged-in affair. Kicking off with Luther Allison's intense "All the King's Horses," the track list of Albert Collins ("Lights Are on but Nobody's Home"), Johnny Winter ("I Smell Trouble"), Roy Buchanan ("Country Boogie"), and Son Seals ("I Can't Hear Nothing but the Blues") is a roller-coaster ride through Alligator's marquee names. Lonnie Mack with Stevie Ray Vaughan charging through a breathless, self-explanatory "Double Whammy" adds even more firepower, and even the pace-changing, jaunty swing of Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown's instrumental "Pressure Cooker" that closes the disc maintains the fast-fret theme that is the album's calling card. Little Charlie & the Nightcats add some West Coast groove with their instrumental "Percolatin'," but generally tougher blues like Tinsley Ellis' "The Devil for a Dime" dominate. Oddly, there are no tracks from Alligator's two most celebrated guitar albums, Lone Star Shootout and the Grammy-winning Showdown with Albert Collins, Robert Cray, and Johnny Copeland slinging it out. Unfortunately, liner notes are MIA, as are detailed personnel listings for each track. Blurbs describing the albums the songs are picked from are more advertisements than informative, but that doesn't diminish the non-stop power and excitement of this excellent set.
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AllMusic Review by Hal Horowitz