Various Artists

The History of Rhythm & Blues

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At four discs and nearly 100 tracks, this is only part one of Rhythm and Blues Records' ambitious history of R&B, covering the years 1925 to 1942. Diverse and revelatory, it shows how R&B, like most strands of America's music, is woven from several different sources. Each installment here is almost a history lesson in its own right, with the first disc covering country blues, spirituals, and jug bands, the second touching on boogie-woogie piano, ragtime, and jazz, the third spotlighting urban blues and gospel, and the fourth drawing on swing, boogie, and jive sides. It's all pretty impressive and its difficult to imagine any set doing a better job of tracing the roots of R&B.

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