Various Artists

Original Memphis Blues Brothers

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This originally came out as a 1989 LP on Ace; look, however, for the expanded 2000 Ace CD, as it increases the number of tracks from 15 to 26 with the addition of material by B.B. King, Ike Turner, and Rosco Gordon. All of the songs were recorded in Memphis in the early '50s by the Bihari Brothers, and much of it was released on 45s on their Modern, RPM, and Meteor labels, though some of it wasn't issued for decades. This was two or three years before the ascendance of Memphis rockabilly, and blues/R&B crossover ruled the roost in the city. The CD is thus a rough snapshot of local electric blues just as it began to be recorded more often, with some of the earliest sides by Bobby Bland, Junior Parker, Johnny Ace, and the aforementioned King, Turner, and Gordon, as well as the nearly unknown Earl Forest. In comparison to the somewhat more famous early Memphis electric blues released in the early to mid-'50s on Sun, this is a little more sluggish, and more tilted toward barroom piano styles. The songwriting, too, is not as sharp and electric as the best Sun stuff. All that taken into consideration, this is still a noteworthy supplement to those Sun recordings, as a document of the sound of Memphis electric blues -- and, by extension, rock & roll -- in its infancy. The band plays some serious havoc with timekeeping on Parker's chaotic "You're My Angel," which sounds like a drunken after-hours jam; Bland is well on his way to establishing his foggy urban blues delivery on his two singles. Forest is a typical but unremarkable period bluesman; Ace is represented by just one performance, the 1953 ballad "Midnight Hours Journey"; and Turner turns in relatively rare (and competent) vocal performances on his 1952 single. B.B. King's catalog from this period is actually pretty well represented by reissues, so collectors will be interested to note that the four numbers here are alternate takes of his first two 78 singles for RPM, from 1950.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 2:24 Spotify
2 3:02 Spotify
3 2:00 Spotify
4 3:03 Spotify
5 3:00 Spotify
6 3:01 Spotify
7 1:57 Spotify
8 2:09
9 2:54 Spotify
10 2:29 Spotify
11
2:42 Spotify
12
2:12
13 3:00 Spotify
14
4:25 Spotify
15 3:32 Spotify
16 3:21 Spotify
17 2:50 Spotify
18 2:52 Spotify
19 2:56 Spotify
20 2:21 Spotify
21 2:33 Spotify
22 2:19 Spotify
23 3:19 Spotify
24 3:07 Spotify
25 3:06 Spotify
26 3:08 Spotify
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