Various Artists

Messing with the Blues

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Atlantic did not record a great deal of blues records, focusing even on its outset on more urban music that could be more comfortably classified as R&B (and later rock and soul). It did its share of worthwhile, though not classic, blues from the late '40s to the early '60s, and 25 examples are collected on this CD. Overall, the Atlantic blues sound, as heard here anyway, was usually smoother and more polished than that of more blues-oriented big indie labels like Chess and Modern. Of the famous figures on this anthology, Ray Charles is represented by three early cuts, the standout being "Losing Hand," with its unusual (for blues) minor jazz-tinged melody. T-Bone Walker is heard on a couple of okay 1955 singles; Jack Dupree does slightly jazz piano blues on two songs from a 1958 LP. John Lee Hooker's two characteristically biting, scabrous 1953 tracks were actually waxed for De Luxe in 1953, though the masters were later bought by Atlantic. Joe Turner's sole cut is his 1954 Top Ten hit "TV Mama," which featured guitar by Elmore James. James also plays guitar on the five sides by his pianist, Little Johnny Jones, who does acceptable journeyman Chicago blues. The other performers who fill out the disc -- Tiny Grimes, Frank Culley, Jimmy Earle, Lucky Davis, Chuck Norris (no, not the famous actor), Jimmy Griffin, Odelle Turner, and Hal Paige -- do passable songs only of note to collectors, though Larry Dale does a nice 1961 cover of the standard "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee." [This U.K. import is not available for sale in North America.]

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