Mississippi-born Eddie Boyd recorded his key tracks for Chicago's Chess Records in the 1950s, but his output was anything but the typical Chicago blues piano material, opting instead for a kind of jazz blues hybrid that featured his down-to-my-last-dime late-night vocals. Boyd recorded initially for RCA Victor's Blue Bird imprint from 1947 through 1950 (the Blue Bird sides were collected on EPM's Complete Recordings: 1947-1950), and following one-off singles for Regan and Herald Records, he arranged his own session in 1951 for what would become his signature song, "Five Long Years." Boyd brought the master of "Five Long Years" to JOB Records, who promptly sold it to Parrot Records, who in turn passed it on to Chess Records, and after the song hit the R&B charts in 1952, Boyd signed a contract with Chess, producing several striking sides during a stormy stay with the label that finally ended in 1959. This set collects tracks from Boyd's first two years with Chess, the period in which he was arguably at his peak as a writer and performer, and the period on which his legacy ultimately rests. Included here are Boyd's exhausted-sounding masterpiece "Five Long Years," the equally desolate "24 Hours," and the mournful lament "Third Degree," all of which made the R&B charts. Nothing on this set rises much above a midtempo, and anyone looking for typical Chicago blues piano fare will be disappointed. But this is actually pretty interesting stuff, riding along on Boyd's breezy, jazz-inflected piano style and his deceptively effective singing, which projects an arresting exhaustion into every phrase, making these Chess sides the perfect after-hours listen. There isn't much Eddie Boyd product on the market, and since this collection includes the original recordings of his best songs (he recorded frequent do-overs as the years went on), it's the one to get until something more career-spanning comes along.
Five Long Years - The Complete Recordings, Vol. 2: 1951-1953 Review
by Steve Leggett