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Recorded on a very stormy night at Chicago's Universal Recording Studios, this session stretched across midnight, from July 12-13, 1957. The morning afterwards, Broonzy checked into hospital for his first lung cancer operation. A programme of treatment continued until he died just over a year later. Amazingly, there is no sign of any illness in Bill's clearly-ringing voice. Originally a five-album box set, it's now condensed onto three CDs, a sequence of songs interspersed with dialogue. It was a relaxed session, a conversation between Broonzy and Bill Randle, the latter setting out to capture the essence of the blues lifestyle in documentary fashion. For its time, the recording quality is very impressive, capturing the feel of Broonzy sitting right in front of the listener, silvery strings picking out traditional tunes, mostly using his own arrangements. Considering that this is an end-of-career performance, Broonzy is in majestic shape, lucidly recalling old friends, describing the origins of each number and doggedly refusing to satisfy Randle's song requests. It all provides a deep insight for the confirmed fan, but also explains the itinerant entertainer's life to the uninitiated. You won't want to hear the dialogue every time, but the set retains its logical flow as a programmed music-only sequence. --Martin Longley