Jimmy Reed

Rockin' with Reed

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Jimmy Reed's second album was a little bit different from his first, but not in a way that detracted from its value. Oh, as with most blues albums of the period, it consisted mostly of previously released single sides, in this case that he'd recorded and released over the prior seven years; but three of the dozen songs here were new to listeners when they showed up on Rockin' with Reed. And, of course, that opens several possible lines of inquiry -- were the later tracks held back for an anticipated second (or third) Reed LP, or were they just not deemed suitable for singles or B-sides? And what of the 1953 vintage "Rockin' with Reed"? One suspects that the latter, given the slang of the period, might have been considered too raunchy as a title to release in 1953, whereas in 1960 it sounded like it could "pass" for something more innocent. But as the material here came from the very same sessions that yielded the uniformly phenomenal music that comprised his debut album, it's no surprise to say that this album is every bit as enjoyable and equally essential listening, including "Down in Virginia," "Going to New York," and "Take Out Some Insurance," the latter two the latest recordings on this album; and even the one or two seeming throwaways here, the instrumentals "Ends & Odds" and "My Bitter Seed" are worth hearing for what they reveal of the playing on these sessions. Reed's incredibly expressive voice, coupled with his sinewy guitar and virtuoso-level harp playing, is consistently great throughout the dozen songs here. The sound is also a little more consistent here than it was on his first album, as guitarist Eddie Taylor and drummer Earl Palmer (the latter preceded at the skins on the handful of really early tracks by none other than Albert King) are playing with Reed on most of what's here. Slow blues, ballads, boogie numbers, Reed could do it all, and with Taylor's restrained flourishes the impressive playing is spread around these recordings in large, healthy portions, all the better to be appreciated by modern listeners with the remastered sound that's been making the rounds since the end of the '90s on this library. [A Japanese remaster of the 1959 LP was released in 2006.]

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