Various Artists

The Blue Horizon Story, Vol. 1: 1965-1970

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While Blue Horizon gained its reputation as the home of great British blues (early Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac, Chicken Shack, and others), its spiritual home was in America, and it released far more American artists than most people realize, beginning with its first disc -- 99 copies (for tax reasons) of a Hubert Sumlin single. And that largely set the tone for the first five years of the label admirably covered in this three-CD set. Label head Mike Vernon was a blues lover and he released the music he loved, often licensing a track and sometimes signing and developing artists, as he did with his British stable, most especially Fleetwood Mac, born after Green left employer John Mayall (who also released two cuts on Blue Horizon, both with another former blues-breaker, Eric Clapton, and both, thankfully, here). Mac hit the big time with "Albatross," which definitely wasn't a blues, but their Chicago-influenced grit is apparent elsewhere, especially on "Temperature Is Rising (98.8F)," recorded with the legendary Otis Spann in the Windy City. But the label could easily move from the raw Delta sound of Bukka White to the electrifying slide of Hound Dog Taylor without it seeming unreasonable, while bringing on British artists like Duster Bennett, Jo Ann Kelly, and T.S. McPhee (who'd go on to head the Groundhogs) along the way. At best this can only be a taster, but it makes for a magnificent smorgasbord, not only of the real blues, but also of its very gritty and always authentic (at least on this label) British counterpart.