If there`s one bluesman who rivals the great B.B. King for all-round chops as a singer and guitarist, as well as songwriter, then it must be George "Buddy" Guy from Louisiana, born in 1936 and still going strong at the time of writing. Others come close, such as those other two Kings, Albert and Freddie, but Buddy`s approach is even more protean than those two blues titans.
Beck, Clapton, Page and others have sung the praises of this man, he influenced Hendrix - but then, who didn`t! - and listening to these fifteen tracks recorded for Chess in the sixties - with Buddy still only in his twenties - one can easily appreciate why he has inspired so many.
The fact this is a compilation actually acts in its favour, since we hear a broader spectrum of what Buddy was doing in that decade, from the exhilaratingly sung B.B. King-like First Time I Met The Blues (one of THE great blues numbers?) to several smoking ballads such as I Found A True Love and the emotive I Cry And Sing The Blues.
Buddy was and is one of the most exciting of guitarists, while he`s as tastefully economical as B.B. yet as intense as Albert or Freddie. Everything he plays here is both to the point and keeps you on the edge of your seat, and he sings with enough soulfulness to give a few soul singers a run for their money. For example, Pretty Baby could almost be Solomon Burke, albeit with a terrific blues guitar solo to brighten up the bridge.
Buddy Guy has now won many awards and the respect he so richly deserves, but these are some of the sides he cut his teeth on, and each one is worth hearing, not least for the luminaries backing him on the songs, such musicians as Otis Spann, Phil Upchurch, and Buddy`s old buddy Junior Wells.
This amounts to 53 minutes of blues-soaked music played and sung by a master in the making. If this happens to be the first time you meet the blues - well, you`re a lucky devil.
Essential, if you ask me.