Various Artists

West Side Chicago Blues

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One of four simultaneously released bargain priced compilations celebrating the Delmark label's 50th anniversary in 2003, West Side Chicago Blues is the most logical. Delmark, after all, was home to Magic Sam, possibly the most popular of all West Side acts, and arguably the most influential. There's only one track from Sam here, but it's also one of his best. "I Need You So Bad" originates from Delmark's West Side Soul disc, one of the definitive Chicago blues albums. But there is more where that came from, and the other eight tracks from such stalwarts as Syl Johnson, Luther Allison, Jimmy Dawkins (performing a blistering instrumental version of Kenny Burrell's "Chittlins Con Carne"), Willie Kent, and of course Otis Rush, are far from filler. Even the relatively obscure Tail Dragger, the album's least-known performer outside of Chicago and a ringer for Howlin' Wolf, checks in with a solid performance helped by Wolf's bandleader Eddie Shaw on tenor sax. The sequencing is random though, with Sam's track recorded back in 1967 sitting next to Willie Kent's 1997 "Do You Love Me?" Also impressive is Johnny B. Moore, whose quicksilver guitar and snappy horn section on "Sittin' Here Thinkin'" is one of this album's many highlights. The lack of liner notes describing the artists is a major omission though, even if the $7.98 suggested retail price is the bargain of the century for blues music this compelling.

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