The music -- a meld of blues and older, more satiric songster-inspired material, as well as gospel-influenced sides -- speaks for itself on this, the widest-ranging and best-sounding collection of Frank Stokes' work issued on CD. The Best of Frank Stokes, released by Yazoo, combines the highlights of such previous releases as Frank Stokes' Dream and Creator of the Memphis Blues, for a total of six solo sides by Stokes, a dozen by Stokes accompanied by Dan Sane (usually credited to the Beale Street Sheiks), and four more on which he is accompanied by Will Batts on the fiddle. The result is a brilliant showcase for the Memphis blues legend, though with some inevitable shortcomings. As producer Richard Nevins freely admits in his opening annotation, virtually every copy of most of Stokes' original records were marred by pressing flaws (even in otherwise perfect discs) that make for a certain amount of noise -- coming out as hiss -- in the background on playback. Additionally, because many of Stokes' sides were recorded in a hall that was much too large for solo- or duet-performing acoustics, and didn't have the guitars mic'ed properly, the instruments do have a slightly boomy quality, without the presence and impact that one would expect. That said, the widely varying dynamics of the vocals have been balanced out here, so that this CD does, indeed, sound significantly better than the original 78's in at least one essential respect.
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder