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  • The Chicago Blues Box - The MCM Records Story (8CD)
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The Chicago Blues Box - The MCM Records Story (8CD) Box set

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Product details

  • Audio CD (22 April 2013)
  • Number of Discs: 8
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: Storyville
  • ASIN: B00BWS4T74
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 242,970 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Product Description

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By C. hill on 10 Jun. 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
The music in this 8cd box is first class, nice to see this bold release., all in all very good,however i have a few niggles , it would have been so much better to have had [jewel cases] instead of the cheap cardboard ones, also a cube box would have been better for stacking , a bit surprised to see made in china ,the quality of box excellent however ,last point is a printing mix up on cd 2 on the sleeve of [big mojo elem] it has printed [jimmy dawkins/hip lankchan] the track listings are correct but title incorrect. The correct title does not appear and seems to have been "lost"and does not turn up on any of the remaining 7 cds, music great,,,, production not 100% ,rather expensive considering points made.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3 reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Stuart Jefferson - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
"We came to one club that was like a disused warehouse, with a chicken wire fence all around it. The band stopped, and maybe thirty faces turned towards me." Jacques Morgantini.

Fans of post-war, electric Chicago blues may want to check out this 8 CD set, recorded live in the late 70's at various Chicago clubs. These tracks can also be found on several individual albums by each artist, on the Storyville label. The 24 page booklet has an essay on how the French woman, Marcelle Morgantini formed the MCM label, and some good period photos, including the artists and a great photo of Morgantini at her mixing board at a club, plus a great shot of Maxwell Street, in the days when the blues could be heard on the street. The discs slip inside cardboard sleeves, which have song titles and personnel on the back. Everything fits into the standard long-box package we all know. An interesting thing--if you put all the cover sleeves together, they form the photograph that's on the box lid of Morgantini's friend Jimmy Dawkins--which is kind of different.

This collection floats somewhere between 3 and 4 "stars", depending on the artist, the performance, and the various well known compositions blues fans have heard many times. You'll hear versions of "Going Down Slow", "The Things That I Used To Do", "Honest I Do", "Red Light", "Reconsider Baby", "Route 66", "Rock Me Baby", "Little Red Rooster", "It Hurts Me Too", and others. A few errors I found--CD 2 lists the performers as Jimmy Dawkins and Hip "Lankchan", the last name which is incorrect (he uses the name Hip, from "Hipstick" a boyhood nickname and Linkchain--a name his father used, taken from a logging tool), when in fact the performers are Big Mojo Elem and John Littlejohn--which is what the booklet lists correctly. The track listing is correct. CD 3 lists the songs "Basin Street Blues" and "Flying Home" (for a total of 14 songs) in the booklet (the CD has the correct listing for 12 songs), when in fact they're not on CD 3 or anywhere else in this box set. A small error is the total time for CD 6 is missing from the booklet, but is listed on the CD sleeve. Attention to detail would have easily caught these errors.

A brief background: A French woman (Morgantini) loved American jazz and blues, and coming into some money ("I do not want an expensive coat or jewels--I want to go to Chicago to record the blues."), she made several trips to the U.S. with mics, a tape machine, and a small mixing board, and became friends with bluesman Jimmy Dawkins (check out his album "Fastfingers"), who helped her immensely. He introduced her to other blues artists, and took her to several clubs to record her favorite music. But she couldn't get her tapes released on the label she started, MCM, for lack of funds and other problems. The European label Storyville has released a number of albums from the individual performers--some still available and some at a pretty high price. As with other European labels now, this set was manufactured in China, so beware of possible reading/tracking problems that I've heard sometimes occur with Chinese discs.

Artists in this collection include: Disc 1--Magic Slim (a personal favorite--listen to his solos on "Going Down Slow"). Disc 2--Big Mojo Elem/John Littlejohn. Disc 3--Eddy Clearwater/Eddie Taylor. Disc 4--Bobby King (a lesser known good guitarist/vocalist who died prematurely). Disc 5--Jimmy Johnson/Luther Johnson Jr./Willie Kent. Disc 6--Jimmy Dawkins/Hip Linkchain. Disc 7--Jimmy Dawkins/Big Voice Odom. Disc 8--Andrew "Blueblood" Mac Mahon/Joe Carter. All the music was recorded between the years 1975-1977 live in various clubs. The sound is a bit raw--the lead guitars and drums are too far forward, and the bass and second guitars are too far back in the mix--but does give the feeling of being at a club--which include Ma Bea's, the Golden Slipper, Queen Bee's, and Big Duke's. In addition there's a number of sidemen that will be familiar to blues fans.

"It was natural and for real without over preparation. You get the feeling of the room, the music, the audience and the blues. It is what it is, just some guys in a bar playing the blues." Jimmy Dawkins.

These recordings (over eight hours worth) come from the (arguably) last true era of hard, electric blues, before the blues became "popular" (after the 60's "blues boom") across the U.S. and around the world, and clubs started catering to fans from outside the area. This was an era when blues music was a part of life, not a lifestyle choice. This is the "old style" music heard in neighborhood clubs--places that are now gone. The clubs and many of the musicians who played them are now either forgotten or gone. But with this collection we can once more go back to a time when authentic, hard blues could be heard for the price of a drink. This was towards the end of that period when, after work, you could stop in at your favorite club for a drink, some conversation, and hear some authentic blues. This isn't "properly" produced music recorded in a studio--its live as it happens. If the drummer gets turned around a bit on the beat sometimes, or a note is missed by the guitar player--that's just the way it went down.

The fact that several of these performers are little known, and are playing for (largely) their local fans gives the music an added edge. This is full of the real deal North Side and West Side blues styles of Chicago--even if there's sometimes a reliance on blues standards. The playing is mostly inspired as are the vocals. Is every track of equal worth? No. But overall, this is a box set worth hearing if this era of blues music is your thing.

One more thing. I've reviewed a couple of blues box sets, and I'm reminded of the great 18 CD (packed in a small "shoebox full of blues") set from House Of Blues (HOB), released some time ago. Fans of blues music will no doubt know about these releases, but I thought I'd bring this great set to the attention of anyone who doesn't know about this great little collection. Check it out on Amazon. For the relatively low price (compared to purchasing the individual sets) this is a no-brainer. Yes, people still quibble about who was and wasn't included, but the bottom line is that, like HOB says, this is "essential blues." The sound is fine and the booklets are informative as far as they go--like the music, the information is designed to (hopefully) get you to delve further into the blues. Pretty cool.
This is a box that will grow on you with time 18 July 2014
By Bluesfan - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Assembled here is an eight disc set featuring mid 1970’s live recordings made by blues enthusiast Marcelle Morgantini, a French woman who put up her own inheritance money to document live blues musicians in situ. It was certainly a laudable effort and she deserves credit as there are precious few blues recordings from this era, much less live and in bona fide Chicago blues clubs.

I believe that all of the musicians on this box have had their own releases in the past 10-12 years on the Storyville label, which has been reissuing the MCM material. My sense of the recordings assembled is that there are quite a few gems across these eight discs, but one has to be patient is taking in all its contents. Often the discs are programmed with a few tracks by one musician, then a couple from someone else, before returning to the first musician on a disc. A quick internet check of track listings reveals that Magic Slim’s disc has material pulled from both of his Storyville/MCM CDs. These are some of his very first recordings and feature him playing in a raw, single note solo style in a stripped down group setting. Both Eddie Clearwater and Jimmy Dawkins have at least five tracks each from their Storyville/MCM releases. Andrew “Blueblood” Mac Mahon’s 12 of 14 tracks from his Storyville/MCM release are here; however I found his voice not particularly strong. I did a double take upon hearing Luther Johnson sing and play All Your Love originally waxed by Magic Sam; he is so spot on it is eerie! Two Joe Carter tracks are duplicated from The Aces And Their Guests album. And so it goes.

Andrew “B.B.” Odom’s Goin’ To California Storyville/MCM album is also mostly included. And it sounds great! Jimmy Dawkins provides cutting, electric blues drenched fills throughout. Odom and Dawkins recorded (notably Delmark’s All For Business album) and toured together close to the time of these recordings and perhaps that’s why these two synch so well together. Carey Bell’s cameo on I Can’t Go On (This) Way further fills out the band sound. I think this is the best disc in the box. And for Odom fans, there are several more cameos on the other discs.

Bobby King’s MCM The Chaser album is here in its entirety. He turns in a really engaging set with impassioned vocals, nice guitar work, mixed tempos, some fun stage banter (“Junior Wells is in the house!”) and a selection of standard covers. This is also one of the better discs in the box. It’s easy to understand why Marcelle wanted to record him again.

Much of Big Mojo Elem’s live MCM album is also aboard. I’m a big fan of Elem, but honestly don’t feel this recording captures him at his best. Although Long Meter Stomp is quite a nice up-tempo instrumental credited to Willie James Lyon and Wayne Bennett from that set. A Big Mojo Elem album I can strongly recommend is Mojo Boogie! released on St. George and still available for about $10 on Amazon. It’s a really great album, especially if you like Chicago blues.

One of the criticisms regarding the music presented here is the “sameness” quality throughout all these recordings typified by the use of similar cover songs and same tempos. I think it’s a fair criticism. For one thing, there isn’t a wide range of musicians playing in the bands. Jimmy Dawkins is on as maybe half the tracks. Johnny Littlejohn and Willie James Lyon also show up repeatedly. The band arrangements are also similar: vocalist, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, and drums. This format kind of reinforces the impression of “sameness” between all the bands in sound. And in comparison to the previous 3 decades of exciting change and development in electrified blues music, the ‘70s recordings as a whole just aren’t as exciting. It was generally a less dynamic time for the genre as a whole.

I also wonder a bit about the overall production on this project. It’s okay, but not particularly polished. For instance, the Bobby King Chaser album was just copied in its entirety w/o any pretense that it was something special for this box. Even the album cover art comes up on the music player and not the “Chicago Blues” cover image used on other discs belonging in this box. There are also some obvious erroneous song title credits and misprints as well. I did enjoy the informative essay and many black and white photos in the booklet, even though the essay had been previously published.

These recordings are especially unique and capture the Chicago barroom sound in the mid-1970s. It stands on its own as a document and worth having in your blues collection. There are better quality recordings from this period available, however. Recordings on the Delmark label are probably your best bet there and I’ve also reviewed a few other 1970s recordings still available. If you want a healthy sampling of the live music recorded by Morgantini without having to buy all the individual MCM releases, this box ably does the job. If you don’t want the entirety of the selection that this box offers, I would then recommend the Andrew Odom and Bobby King individual MCM released sets without reservation.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Brenda Knight - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
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