Various Artists

The OKeh Rhythm & Blues Story 1949-1957

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AllMusic Review by

The three-CD set is a real eye opener. As the most straight-laced and self-consciously upscale of the major labels, Columbia Records isn't usually thought of as having had much to contribute to the history and development of rhythm & blues. That impression was never more than partly true, however, as every track on this three-disc set reminds us. The postwar OKeh label was Columbia's attempt to grab a piece of a market that, as early as 1948, it knew it was losing, and the music is as solid a representation of R&B of the era as that of any major label of the period. It's true that Okeh had only sporadic success and developed a relative handful of R&B stars: Chuck Willis, Big Maybelle, the Treniers, and Screamin' Jay Hawkins. A great many other notable artists passed through, however, either after their biggest successes or in the years prior to their emergence, including LaVern Baker (known at the time as Bea Baker) singing with Maurice King & His Wolverines, Marvin Gaye as a member of the Marquees (working with Bo Diddley), Hadda Brooks, Annie Laurie, and the Ravens. They're all represented here, and there's not a second-rate song anywhere on this set, which also features some of the cleanest, richest remastering heard on a Columbia CD set of truly vintage material up to that time. The booklet is also pretty impressive in its details, listing individual band members and filled with concise encapsulated biographies (where known) of the artists.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 2:33 SpotifyAmazon
2 2:34 Amazon
3 2:45 SpotifyAmazon
4
2:27 SpotifyAmazon
5
SpotifyAmazon
6
SpotifyAmazon
7
2:14 Spotify
8 2:41 SpotifyAmazon
9 2:16 SpotifyAmazon
10 2:18 Spotify
11
2:55 SpotifyAmazon
12 2:22 SpotifyAmazon
13
2:51 SpotifyAmazon
14 3:11 SpotifyAmazon
15
2:25 SpotifyAmazon
16
3:03 Amazon
17
2:46 Amazon
18 2:30 SpotifyAmazon
19
2:50 SpotifyAmazon
20 2:22 SpotifyAmazon
21 2:12 SpotifyAmazon
22
2:54 Amazon
23 2:56 SpotifyAmazon
24 2:54 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 2:24
2 3:03
3 2:48 Spotify
4 2:53
5 2:32 Spotify
6 2:38 Spotify
7 2:27 Spotify
8 2:52 Spotify
9
2:26
10 3:12 Spotify
11 2:39
12
2:21
13 2:32 Spotify
14 2:47 Spotify
15
2:25 Spotify
16 2:35 Spotify
17 2:38 Spotify
18 2:51 Spotify
19 2:44 Spotify
20 2:19 Spotify
21 2:58
22 2:26 Spotify
23
2:42 Spotify
24 2:09 Spotify
25 3:06 Spotify
26 2:01 Spotify

Track Listing - Disc 3

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1
2:49 Spotify
2
2:10 Spotify
3
3:15
4
2:24 Spotify
5
2:20 Spotify
6 2:50 Spotify
7 2:52 Spotify
8 2:59 Spotify
9 2:12
10
2:03
11
2:30
12 2:47 Spotify
13 2:14 Spotify
14 2:25
15 2:29
16 2:30 Spotify
17 2:23 Spotify
18 2:25 Spotify
19 3:03 Spotify
20 2:16 Spotify
21 2:48 Spotify
22
2:30 Spotify
23
2:27 Spotify
24
2:25
25 2:23
26 2:23 Spotify
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