Various Artists

Roots of Rock [Yazoo 2001]

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Roots of Rock [Yazoo 2001] Review

by Nathan Bush

In addition to compiling definitive statements of the finest bluesmen of the 1920s and 1930s, Shanachie-owned Yazoo Records has assembled some wonderful themed compilations from the period as well. Roots of Rock has its parallels in releases like Roots of Rap, The Music Never Stopped: Roots of the Grateful Dead (both from Yazoo) and Catfish Records' Roots of Canned Heat. Indeed, four of the tunes here have been covered by the Los Angeles blues tributaries. Others have been appropriated to varying degrees by the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Captain Beefheart, and Lydia Lunch. While "Spoonful" is probably the most commonly rendered blues standard on the collection, there's nothing quite like Charlie Patton's take, recorded by the guitarist in the late '20s for Paramount. He alters the song's phrasing and syncopation to great effect, turning the lyrics into an animated conversation and the music into a thrilling slide guitar showcase (employing an impressive seven chords). Even more stunning is Skip James' "I'm So Glad." Anyone who is only familiar with the version from Fresh Cream has to hear this. It's difficult to match the majesty of James' gorgeous falsetto and dizzying, almost giddy guitar playing. It stands as one of the guitarist's greatest performances. Other highlights include Tommy Johnson's widely popular "Big Road Blues" and the more obscure "Outside Woman Blues" from Blind Joe Reynolds. Yazoo is hardly the only label to have pointed the way to such original source material, but its detailed liner notes and high mastering standards place the label a cut above the rest.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Blind Willie McTell 02:31 Amazon
2 Mississippi Sheiks 03:04 Amazon
3 Henry Thomas 03:24 Amazon
4 Kansas Joe & Memphis Minnie 03:10 Amazon
5 Robert Johnson 02:30 Amazon
6 Bessie Smith 02:47 Amazon
7 Robert Wilkins 02:53 Amazon
8 Blind Blake 02:58 Amazon
9 Sonny Boy Williamson I 03:01 Amazon
10 Skip James 02:53 Amazon
11 Big Joe Williams 03:24 Amazon
12 Clara Smith 03:00 Amazon
13 Blind Joe Reynolds 02:55 Amazon
14 Bukka White 03:00 Amazon
15 Kokomo Arnold 03:10 Amazon
16 Charley Patton 03:11 Amazon
17 Robert Johnson 02:17 Amazon
18 Cannon's Jug Stompers 02:56 Amazon
Tommy Johnson 03:21 Amazon
Blind Blake 03:04 Amazon
21 Robert Petway 02:54 Amazon
22 Big Joe Williams 02:50 Amazon
23 Memphis Minnie 02:43 Amazon
Robert Johnson 02:41 Amazon
25 Big Bill Broonzy 03:02 Amazon
26 Bo Carter 03:18 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick