The title Great R&B Instrumentals suggests a category wide enough to include a lot more than the 25 songs, spanning the late '40s to the mid-'60s, heard on this disc. You wouldn't turn to this CD as the ultimate gathering of the cream of the crop, as it excludes a number of classics, like Bill Doggett's "Honky Tonk Pt. 2." Some of those, admittedly, are not here because Ace chose not to overlap with other compilations on its label, particularly in the Teen Beat series, which had already included cuts like "Honky Tonk" and others. What you end up with is a mix of big hits and things that are mostly the province of specialty oldies radio shows. It's still a pretty respectable collection, if a little spotty. Among the familiar tunes, some of those are unquestioned classics, like Jimmy Forrest's 1952 number one hit, "Night Train," Joe Liggins' "The Honeydripper" (though it's a 1950 remake and not the 1945 original), Pee Wee Crayton's "Blues After Hours," Paul Williams' "The Huckle-Buck," Joe Houston's astonishingly athletic sax showcase "All Night Long," Ernie Freeman's "Jivin' Around" (both parts are included), and Booker T. & the MG's' 1965 single "Red Beans and Rice" (not a hit, but one of their great grooves anyway). Much of the rest is of also-ran quality, however, even if some of the names (Rene Hall, Maxwell Davis, Plas Johnson) were important session men and arrangers. Of the numbers that might be known to a few, perhaps the best is "Hard Grind," with the biting blues-rock guitar of Wild Jimmy Spruill, famous as the soloist on Wilbert Harrison's huge hit, "Kansas City." Big Bob Dougherty's "Honky" is also worthy of mention as a sax showcase of exceptional urgency.
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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger