The early 90s was a great time for CD reissues of old material. In 1992 MCA released the first of 3 double CDs that provided a comprehensive retrospective of Bland's Duke years. That '92 release covered the years 1952-59, with this release covering what many believe to be Bland's salad days, from 1960 to 1966. It was released 2 years later, in 1994. Finally in 1996 came the last double disc installment covering the last three years of Bland's tenure at the Duke label.
If there is any criticism to be leveled at this career overview, it's that it might actually be too extensive. Particularly early, there is a lot of similarity between many of the cuts. Also, the '92 release has two things going against it: it is the earliest music and has the pretty rough audio quality of many of the songs. This is further exacerbated by a low output and thin remastering job. The problem was rectified with Volume 2. Certainly these tracks were much better recorded, but the remastering job is also far superior. In fact, the audio quality on most of these tracks is breathtaking, making even the weaker and derivitive tracks an interesting listen.
Bland was at the peak of his powers in the early to late sixties, and he had Joe Scott's exciting arrangements, Wayne Bennet's crackling blues riffs and future James Brown drummer Jabo Starks' driving rhythms to provide ample power to throw him into overdrive. This was the epitime of jazzy blues. Everything was just right and blended together seamlessly. When the original material was excellent or the cover well-chosen, it was as good as it gets. Period.
It's sad that this series has been discontinued. One look at what this set is going for on the used market and you know it was a mistake to discontinue it. This is classic stuff; the time, the singer and the style came together in glorius synchronicity. It will not be repeated, so MCA should do the right thing and reissue this wonderful series. Six discs is not too much Bobby "Blue" Bland. Meanwhile, I'm sorry if you don't have this. If you have the money, volume 2 is worth every penny you will have to part with to find it and own it.