Various Artists

National Geographic: Destination Chicago

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A collection of the electric blues from the Windy City. These tracks are culled entirely from the old Alligator and Delmark archives (surprisingly not taking from the Chess archives). This avoidance of Chess aside, there's some noteworthy stuff in here. All of the major players from the Chicago scene are represented, from the beginning of the genre with Muddy Waters through to the almost-current recordings of Luther Allison. The album starts out with Allison, then moves into blues harp virtuoso Carey Bell in the shuffling "Low Down Dirty Shame." Koko Taylor is represented by "Let the Good Times Roll" (her signature "Wang Dang Doodle" being on Chess), and harpist Syl Johnson shows a side very close to later R&B grooves. The Texan influence is strong in a collaboration between Lonnie Brooks and Johnny Winter, and Buddy Guy teams with Junior Wells on a more thoroughly Chicagoan piece. Sugar Blue comes through with some more outstanding harping on the jumping "I Ain't Got You," and Floyd Dixon performs his old "Hey Bartender" (both of these songs became Blues Brothers standards later on). Son Seals and Eddy Clearwater each contribute a piece, and Magic Sam's classic "Sweet Home Chicago" readies the album for a big finish. Finally, Muddy Waters and Little Walter combine to pull out an outstanding cut of "Rollin' and Tumblin'." There are certainly plenty of blues compilations out there, but the majority have an extremely broad stylistic inclusion, with Louisianan, Texan, and Chicago blues all mixed together. This one is almost in a league of its own (perhaps with some of the albums in Rhino's Blues Masters series), bringing out some outstanding cuts from all of the masters of the sound. It makes for a good starting point to the Chicago sound, and a nice compilation for the collector, as well.

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