Ken Colyer

This Is the Blues

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One of the most important albums of the British trad boom, Ken Colyer's This Is the Blues was such an accurate signpost for the direction in which the music (and, more importantly, the musicians) were destined to head that, listening back to it today, it is hard to believe that British blues histories have not made a bigger deal about it. Recorded during 1960-1961 for release in 1962, this crystalline Denis Preston production captures Colyer and company pounding through ten blues (or thereabouts) numbers, drawing the selections from as far back as the "classic jazz" era ("Aunt Hagar's Blues"), through a stunning rendition of Bessie Smith's "St. Louis Blues," a smattering of country and 12-bar numbers, and a phenomenal "See See Rider." There's also a nod toward so-called popular tunes -- "Sentimental Journey," for example -- but even these are blues-ified to stunning effect. This Is the Blues was the first album recorded by Colyer following the series of defections that ended the original version of the band. Ian Wheeler, Mac Duncan, and Ray Foxley (his sidemen across his years of greatest popularity) were all gone, and it was the comparatively untried combination of Graham Stewart, Sammy Rimington, Ron Ward, Johnny Bastable, and Colin Bowden who came into play here. But fears that the old magic might have been diluted were instantly laid to rest, not only by the daring of the album in general, but also by a telling remake of one of Colyer's most frequently recorded numbers, "Tishomingo Blues." Three bonus tracks complete the CD reissue, a pair of late-1961 numbers taken from Colyer's final session with Denis Preston ("Postman's Lament" and "Darkness on the Delta"), plus one track from the album bluesman Eurreal "Little Brother" Montgomery cut in London during the summer of 1960. Produced by Preston and backed, for the most part, by Alexis Korner and Jack Fallon, the album also featured three duets with Colyer, including the remarkable "Buddy Bolden's Blues." Listeners still await a reissue of the entire album, but at least now get a taste of what they've been missing.

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