Various Artists

Windy City Blues [Delta]

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Though this compilation does have blues recorded in Chicago from 1959-1970 by notably famous and reasonably well-known bluesmen, it's a kind of patched-together product of odds'n'ends to which Fantasy holds the rights. Half a dozen performers are represented on these 17 tracks: Albert King, Otis Spann, Willie Dixon, Billy Boy Arnold, Sunnyland Slim, and Homesick James. Certainly the songs that will excite blues collectors the most are the four by King, as all of them were previously unreleased, recorded with the Willie Dixon Band in early 1970 (though Dixon himself, oddly enough, doesn't play on the cuts). They're decent and representative of King's soul-tinged blues in his Stax period, but not brilliant, though the band does feature impressive talent, including guitarists Matt Murphy and Mighty Joe Young, bassist Phil Upchurch, pianist Lafayette Leake, and a brass section including Gene Barge. Two of the tunes are obscure Dixon compositions, "Need More Mamma" and "Love Me to Death," and the liner notes speculate that another, "Put It All in There" (first recorded in 1968 by Wild Child Butler), is also Dixon-penned, though it was credited to a friend. Elsewhere on the disc, the Spann, Dixon, Arnold, and Slim tracks are all taken from Prestige albums that were readily available on CD at the time this anthology was issued. These are, again, good but not great Chicago blues, and Arnold's three 1963 tracks are slightly perfunctory affairs that don't represent him at his best. The collection concludes with three raucous, slide guitar-heavy Homesick James tracks that might be of interest to heavy-duty collectors, as they were previously unissued. They're not of as much interest for their rarity value as the Albert King numbers, however, since these James performances are alternate takes rather than songs that were previously unreleased in any form.

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