Tampa Red

Dynamite! The Unsung King of the Blues

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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Amazingly, many of the recordings guitarist Tampa Red made for RCA Victor and Bluebird in the '40s and early '50s never saw reissue until this 2015 double-disc by Ace. As John Broven points out in his rightly evangelical liner notes for Dynamite! The Unsung King of the Blues, CD-era reissues of Tampa Red usually began at the beginning, which for the guitarist meant 1934, and petered out by the late '40s, which is when Tampa Red eased away from hokum and into earthy guitar-and-piano blues that had substantial influence on the electric blues of the '50s. On Dynamite! The Unsung King of the Blues, the interaction between Tampa Red and his pianists Big Maceo Merriweather and, later, Maceo's protégé Little Johnnie Jones certainly points the way to the classic sound of Chicago blues -- particularly when it's paired with a big, swinging drumbeat -- and the bluesman's repertoire was also cherry-picked by B.B. King, who found "Sweet Little Angel" here, while Elmore James took "When Things Go Wrong with You" and turned it into "It Hurts Me Too." This alone would make the RCA/Bluebird recordings here historically important but they're also an undiluted pleasure due to that easy interplay between guitarist and piano, plus Tampa Red's masterly fretwork and full, open voice. This is music pitched perfectly between the acoustic blues of Tampa Red's earliest recordings and the electrified, hopping sound of electric blues and it retains a kinetic kick all these years later; it's about time these sessions got back into print.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Tampa Red 03:02 Amazon
2 Tampa Red 03:15 Amazon
3 Tampa Red 02:46 Amazon
4 Tampa Red 03:09 Amazon
5 Tampa Red 03:03 Amazon
6 Tampa Red 02:38 Amazon
7 Tampa Red 03:01 Amazon
8 Tampa Red 02:23 Amazon
9 Tampa Red 03:02 Amazon
10 Tampa Red 03:22 Amazon
11 Tampa Red 02:51 Amazon
12 Tampa Red 02:54 Amazon
13 Tampa Red 02:43 Amazon
14 Tampa Red 03:04 Amazon
15 Tampa Red 02:45 Amazon
16 Tampa Red 02:51 Amazon
17 Tampa Red 03:16 Amazon
18 Tampa Red 02:21 Amazon
19 Tampa Red 02:55 Amazon
20 Tampa Red 03:00 Amazon
21 Tampa Red 02:49 Amazon
22 Tampa Red 02:58 Amazon
23 Tampa Red 03:16 Amazon
24 Tampa Red 03:19 Amazon
25 Tampa Red 02:35 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Tampa Red 03:15 Amazon
2 Tampa Red 02:57 Amazon
3 Tampa Red 03:01 Amazon
4 Tampa Red 02:58 Amazon
5 Tampa Red 03:03 Amazon
6 Tampa Red 03:07 Amazon
7 Tampa Red 02:41 Amazon
8 Tampa Red 02:56 Amazon
9 Tampa Red 03:01 Amazon
10 Tampa Red 02:33 Amazon
11 Tampa Red 02:47 Amazon
12 Tampa Red 02:56 Amazon
13 Tampa Red 03:15 Amazon
14 Tampa Red 02:35 Amazon
15 Tampa Red 02:43 Amazon
16 Tampa Red 03:09 Amazon
17 Tampa Red 03:14 Amazon
18 Tampa Red 02:53 Amazon
19 Tampa Red 02:40 Amazon
20 Tampa Red 02:59 Amazon
21 Tampa Red 03:20 Amazon
22 Tampa Red 02:54 Amazon
23 Tampa Red 02:50 Amazon
24 Tampa Red 03:04 Amazon
25 Tampa Red 02:52 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick