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The History of Rhythm & Blues
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 21 November 2011
Disc One - The Blues From The Delta To The City - Country Blues And Spirituals
Disc Two - The Rhythm - Piano Boogie-Woogie, Ragtime And Jazz,
Disc Three - Up River To Chicago - Jug Bands & Hokum, Urban Blues & Gospel
Disc Four - Jazzin' The Blues - After Hours, Swing Boogie And Jive

Rhythm & Blues was one of the most identifiable musical art forms of the 20th Century, with an enormous influence on the development of both the sound and attitude of modern music. The History of Rhythm and Blues series of CDs investigates the accidental synthesis of jazz, gospel, blues, ragtime, country, pop and latin into a definable form of black music, which in turn would influence pretty well all popular music from the 1950s to the present. It is the first attempt to put together a comprehensive cross-label compilation showcasing the most important and influential records in the rise of Rhythm & Blues.

A cross-label 4CD set, which not only tells the story better than anything before, but offers insights into song origins and provides fascinating musical connections across decades....this 97-song set offers a wealth of insights into the cross-pollination of blues, jazz, country, gospel, pop and rock. -
Johnny Black, Mojo

One of the finest box-sets of recent years...finely chosen set of tracks... the reissue of the year by a country mile...Anyone who's heard Volume One will be counting down the days (to the release of Volume Two)... the three sets will become the standard work on the genre -
Jeremy Searle, R2

The most important and fascinating collection of rhythm and blues music compiled in recent years.... comprehensive and musically-savvy sleeve notes -
Bluesmans Blog

Its difficult to imagine any set doing a better job of tracing the roots of R&B -
Steve Leggett, All Music Guide

An illustrated 32 page booklet includes detailed sleeve notes with track-by-track commentary on each song.
[...]

The Rhythm and Blues Timeline

Pre 1910
1877 Invention of the Phonograph
1883 Racist coon songs introduced into vaudeville and burlesque
1896 Jim Crow Segregation laws ...1897 World's first radio station on the Isle of Wight
1890 Popularization of the cake walk dance
1908 Introduction of double-sided gramophone records

1910-1920
Black Diaspora from the south
1912 1st blues song published - W.C. Handy's Memphis Blues
1914 The foxtrot - danced with ragtime accompaniment
1917 Closure of Storyville - musicians move from New Orleans to Chicago & New York
1919 Prohibition Act ...1919 Victor & Columbia monopoly on record production broken

1920-1930
1920 1st American Radio Station ...1921 Crazy Blues by Mamie Smith
1922-7 Boom in sales of radios ...1923 Charleston dance premiered
1925 Introduction of the electrical recording process
1925 Standardisation of speed of disc recording to 78rpm
1925-30 Standardization of form of the Blues into 8 or 12 bar chorus
1926-32 Okeh Records Race Series
1927 Lindy-hop introduced leading to the jitterbug and jive

1930-1940
1931 Invention of the Microphone
1932-42 Bluebird Records
1933 Electrification of Tennessee Valley...1933 Repeal of Prohibition Act
1935 Rockola mass-production of Jukeboxes
1938 First recording of the electric guitar ...1938 From Spirituals To Swing Concerts

1940-1950
1940-5 Decca Sepia series ...1941 First Bebop Sessions
1942 AFM Musicians strike ...1942 Billboard Harlem Hit Parade
1942 Savoy Records ...1942 US entry into Second World War
1944 Louis Jordan G.I.Jive #1 in pop charts ...1944 King Records
1945 End of Second World War
1946 First mass-produced television sets ...1948 WDIA Memphis - first black radio station
1948 Columbia unveils 33rpm microgroove album
1949 Billboard Rhythm & Blues Chart ...1949 RCA introduces 45rpm vinyl record

1950-1960
1950 Introduction of 45rpm Jukebox. ...1950 Sun Records
1952 Whites start picking up transmissions from black radio
1954 July Chords Sh-boom #5 in pop charts
1954 August Bill Haley Shake Rattle & Roll # 7 in pop charts
1954 Mambo craze in America ...1954 December Alan Freed's Rock'n'Roll Show
1955 Rosa Parks & birth of civil rights movement
1955 1st hits for Bo Diddley & Chuck Berry ...1956 1st hits for James Brown & Elvis Presley
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 17 August 2008
This is an amazing collection of hand picked performances which will have you raising your eyebrows as you recognise influences from 80 years ago on todays modern sounds. I could wax lyrical about the choice of artists and tracks but prefer to just say BUY IT!!!

There is a big HOWEVER, which I have to add and that is a dissappointment in the packaging and information. I can't fault the music so have had to give a 5 star rating but unfortunately, a person without 20/20 vision would have difficulty reading the track list and there is also a loose leaf track list of which the print is also minute. In addition, where the information in the booklet explains the background to each track, this fails to have the track number next to it. I am not normally picky about these things but because this is one of the most interesting collections I have purchased, I would have liked it to be more user friendly.

All in all - please take a chance on this product for the wonderful choice and quality of recordings - a musical adventure which can't be missed.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Released in March 2008 - "The History Of Rhythm & Blues 1925-42" is the first issue from Rhythm And Blues Records - a new label out of the UK specializing in quality reissues of R&B music from way, way back. Volume 1 in this 4CD Box Set/Book Pack Series has been followed by Volume 2 (1942-52), Volume 3 (1952-1957) and Volume 4 (1957-1962) - all with heavily annotated booklets. I've collected the lot and love them. Here are the debut set's details...

Rhythm And Blues Records RANDB001 (Barcode 5065001126000) breaks down as follows...

Disc 1 (73:54 minutes):
"From The Delta To The City - Country Blues And Spirituals, Jug Bands And Hokum"
1. My Soul is A Witness - AUSTEN COLEMAN (1934, Library Of Congress 1)
2. It's Nobody's Fault But Mine - BLIND WILLIE JOHNSON (1927, Columbia 14303)
3. The Crucifixion Of Christ - JESSIE MAY HILL (1927, Okeh 8490)
4. Shake That Thing - PAPA CHARLIE JACKSON (1925, Paramount 12281)
5. Outside Woman Blues - BLIND JOE REYNOLDS (1929, Paramount 12927)
6. It's A Good Thing - FRANK STOKES (1927, Paramount 12518)
7. Minglewood Blues - GUS CANNON'S JUG STOMPERS (1928,Victor 21267)
8. Match Box Blues - BLIND LEMON JEFFERSON (1927, Okeh 8455)
9. Diddie Wah Diddie - BLIND BLAKE (1929, Paramount 12888)
10. Milk Cow Blues - SLEEPY JOHN ESTES (1930, Victor 38614)
11. Ease It To Me Blues - BARBEQUE BOB (1928, Columbia 14614)
12. No No Blues - CURLEY WEAVER (1928, Columbia 14388)
13. Apaloosa Blues - BOBBY LEECAN and ROBERT COOKSEY (1927, Victor 20853)
14. Little Rock Blues - PEARL DICKSON (1927, Columbia 14286)
15. Kansas City Blues - JIM JACKSON (1927, Vocalion 1144)
16. Train Whistle Blues - JIMMIE RODGERS (1929, Victor 22379)
17. Goin' Back To Texas - MEMPHIS MINNIE (1929, Columbia 14455)
18. Roll And Tumble Blues - WILLIE "HAMBONE" NEWBERN (1929, Okeh 8679)
19. If You Haven't Any Hay - SKIP JAMES (1931, Paramount 13066)
20. Kokomo Blues - SCRAPPER BLACKWELL (1928, Vocalion 1192)
21. It's Tight Like That - GEORGIA TOM and TAMPA RED (1928, Vocalion 1216)
22. Didn't It Rain - BRYANT'S JUBILEE QUARTET (1931, Banner 32175)
23. Beale Street Breakdown - JED DAVENPORT (1930, Vocalion 1478)
24. Milk Cow Blues - KOKOMO ARNOLD (1934, Decca 7026)

Disc 2 (72:38 minutes):
"The Rhythm - Piano Boogie-Woogie, Ragtime And Jazz"
1. Get Low-Down Blues - BERNIE MOTEN'S KANSAS CITY ORCHESTRA (1928, Victor 21693)
2. Mr. Johnson's Blues - LONNIE JOHNSON (1925, Okeh 8253)
3. Backwater Blues - BESSIE SMITH (1927, Columbia 14195)
4. Knockin' A Jug - LOUIS ARMSTRONG (1929, Okeh 8703)
5. Bullfrog Blues - CHARLES PIERCE ORCHESTRA (1928, Paramount 12619)
6. Pinetop's Boogie Woogie - PINETOP SMITH (1928, Vocalion 1245)
7. Cow Cow Blues - COW COW DAVENPORT (1928, Vocalion 1198)
8. Guitar Boogie - BLIND ROOSEVELT GRAVES and BROTHER (1929, Paramount 12855)
9. How Long How Long Blues - LEROY CARR & SCRAPPER BLACKWELL (1928, Vocalion 1191)
10. The Dirty Dozen No.1 - SPECKLED HEN (1929, Brunswick 7116)
11. Vicksburg Blues - LITTLE BROTHER MONTGORMERY (1930, Paramount 13006)
12. Sweet Miss Stella Blues - BLU HARMONY BOYS (1929, Paramount 12901)
13. Minnie The Moocher - CAB CALLOWAY & HIS COTTON CLUB ORCHESTRA (1931, Brunswick 6074)
14. St. Louis Blues - MILLS BROTHERS (1932, Brunswick 6330)
15. Someone Stole Gabriel's Horn - THREE KEYS (1932, Vocalion 1703)
16. Midnight Hour Blues - LEROY CARR (1932, Vocalion 1703)
17. Lafayette - BERNIE MOTEN'S KANSAS CITY ORCHESTRA (1932,Camden Victor 24216)
18. Flaming Reeds And Screaming Brass - JIMMIE LANCEFORD and HIS ORCHESTRA (1933)
19. Strut That Thing - CRIPPLE CLARENCE LOFTON (1935, Vocalion 02951)
20. Dirty Mother For You - ROOSEVELY SYKES (1936, Decca 7160)
21. Weed Smoker's Dream - HARLEM HAMFATS (1936, Decca 7234)
22. Press My Button - LIL JOHNSON (1936, Vocalion 3199)
23. Night Time Is The Right Time - ROOSEVELT SYKES (1937, Decca 7324)
24. The Blues Ain't Nothin' But - GEORGIA WHITE (1938, Decca 7562)

Disc 3 (72:59 minutes):
"Up River To Chicago - Urban Blues And Gospel"
1. Teasin' Brown Blues - LOUIE LASKY (1935, Vocalion 2955)
2. Barrelhouse Woman - LEROY CARR & SCRAPPER BLACKWELL (1934, Vocalion 2791)
3. Lead Pencil Blues - JOHNNY TEMPLE (1935, Vocalion 03068)
4. Policy Dream Blues - BUMBLE BEE SLIM (1935, Vocalion 03090)
5. Naptown Stomp - BILL GAITHER (1935, Decca 7179)
6. Sloppy Drunk Again - WALTER DAVIS (1935, Bluebird 5879)
7. Jockey Blues - JAZZ GILLUM (1936, Bluebird B6409)
8. Holy Mountain - ELDER OTIS JONES (1936, Bluebird 6626)
9. Standing By The Bedside Of A Neighbour - GOLDEN GATE JUBILEE QUARTET (1937, Bluebird 7278)
10. Louise Louise Blues - JOHNNY TEMPLE (1936, Decca 7244)
11. Barrelhouse When It Rains - BIG BILL BRONZY (1937, Arc 70764)
12. Good Morning Schoolgirl - JOHN LEE `SONNY BOY' WILLIAMSON (1937, Bluebird 7059)
13. Preachin' Blues (1936, Vocalion 04630)
14. Number Runner Blues - JIMMIE GORDON (1938, Decca 7536)
15. Tell Me Baby - JOHN LEE `SONNY BOY' WILLIAMSON (1939, Bluebird 8474)
16. Rockin' Chair Blues - BIG BILL BROONZY (1940, Okeh 06116)
17. Diggin' My Potatoes - WASHBOARD SAM (1939, Bluebird 8211)
18. This Train - SISTER ROSETTA THARPE (1939, Decca 2558)
19. Don't You Lie To Me - TAMPA RED (1940, Bluebird 8654)
20. Jivin' The Blues - JOHN LEE `SONNY BOY' WILLIAMSON (1940, Bluebird 8674)
21. I Feel So Good - BIG BILL BROONZY (1941, Okeh 6688)
22. Worried Life Blues - BIG MACEO (1941, Bluebird 8827)
23. Junker Blues - CHAMPION JACK DUPREE (1941, Okeh 06152)
24. Ain't No Business We Can Do - COCTOR CLAYTON (1942, Bluebird B9021)
25. Mean Ol' Frisco - ARTHUR "BIG BOY" CRUDUP (1942)

Disc 4 (72:49 minutes):
"Jazzin' The Blues - After Hours Swing, Boogie And Jive"
1. Boogie Woogie Stomp - ALBERT AMMONS and HIS RHYTHM KINGS (1936, Decca 749)
2. Boogie Woogie - COUNT BASIE as JONES-SMITH INC (1936, Vocalion 3459)
3. One-O-Clock Jump - COUNT BASIE (1937, Decca 1363)
4. Sing Sing Sing - BENNY GOODMAN (1937, Victor 25796)
5. Keep-A-Knockin' - LOUIS JORDAN's ELKS RENDEZVOUS BAND (1939, Decca 7609)
6. T'Ain't What You Do - JIMMIE LUNCEFORD and HIS ORCHESTRA (1939, Vocalion 4582)
7. Jumpin Jive - CAB CALLOWAY (1939, Vocalion 5005)
8. I Like To Riff - NAT COLE TRIO (1941, Decca 8592)
9. That's The Rhythm - THREE SHARPS AND A FLAT (1940, Okeh 05971)
10. I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water - THE CATS and THE FIDDLE (1939, Bluebird 8402)
11. After Hours - ERSKIN HAWKINS (1940, Bluebird 10879)
12. Floyd's Guitar Blues - ANDY KIRK & HIS CLOUDS OF JOY (1939, Decca 2483)
13. Gangster Blues - PEETIE WHEATSTRAW (1940, Decca 8592)
14. Roll `Em Pete - BIG JOE TURNER with PETE JOHNSON (1938, Vocalion 4607)
15. Down The Road A-Piece - WILL BRADLEY TRIO (1940, Columbia 35707)
16. Central Avenue Breakdown - LIONEL HAMPTON and HIS ORCHESTRA (1940, Victor 26652)
17. Death Ray Boogie - PETE JOHNSON (1941, Decca 3830)
18. Natchez Mississippi Blues - LEWIS BRONZEVILLE FIVE (1940, Bluebird 8445)
19. Confessin' The Blues - JAY McSHANN (1941, Decca 8559)
20. What's The Use Of Getting' Sober - LOUIS JORDAN and HIS TYMPANY FIVE (1942, Decca 8645)
21. Take It And Git - ANDY KIRK & HIS CLOUDS OF JOY (1942, Decca 4366)
22. Cow Cow Boogie - FREDDIE SLACK and HIS PORCHESTRA with ELLA MAE MORSE (1942, Capitol 102)
23. Flying Home - LIONEL HAMPTON and HIS ORCHESTRA (1942, Decca 18394)
24. Mean Old World - T-BONE WALKER (1942, Capitol 10033)

There's an outer card wrap that houses a 3-way fold out 4-disc clip holder. The 32-page booklet (attached to the centre inner sleeve) gives detailed track-by-track analysis of each song - when it was recorded, players if known, USA 78" catalogue numbers, chart positions etc... Between the texts are trade adverts, some artist publicity photos and small colour pictures of those beautiful Vocalion, Bluebird, Okeh, Decca and Brunswick 78" labels. The read for each entry is fabulous - great detail and clear affection for his subject matter. Some of these artists like Cab Calloway, Louis Jordan and Amos Easton (Bumble Bee Slim) were huge and had massive recording careers. There's a very cool advert for Cab Calloway 'world famous orchestra leader' endorsing Schenley Whiskey because it 'tastes better'.

Downsides - although the set looks nice, the discs are hard to get out of the clips and the attached booklet is difficult to read because it's attached. The 2nd volume from 2009 in this series rectified all that - different inner holder and a pouch for a separate booklet (see separate review). If you want a full printed out version, the same detailed text is available from their website in colour.

Expertly and lovingly compiled by NICK DUCKETT and remastered by PR INTERNATIONAL - given the vintage of the recordings (1925 to 1942), the sound quality obviously varies enormously - some are awful, but others are superlative. It's amazing how good some of the Thirties Blues sounds - "Knockin' A Jug" by Louis Armstrong is stunning and the amazingly lewd "Lead Pencil Blues" by Johnnie Temple (a man not troubled by Viagra problems) sounds so good - it's eerie.

But what doesn't vary is the sheer charm of the recordings themselves - the ballsy nature of the lyrics - the poverty and despair of an entire part of society on the move (lyrics from Bessie Smith's "Backwater Blues" - Track 3 on Disc 2 - give this review it's title). It's like eavesdropping on history - and it's a feel that is both funny and heartbreaking at the same time. I also found that around the centre of Disc 2, the track choices 'so' begin to work - flowing into each other - it weaves a magical listen that had many customers coming to the counter in our shop asking, "who's this?"

Retailing at under twenty quid (and often less) from most online retailers, and despite its packaging niggles, this box set of 97 remastered classics and obscurities is both revelatory and great value for money - and it's music you'll find yourself loving and wanting more of. A rather lovely reissue really - recommended...
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 11 February 2011
It's pretty amazing and well-presented, really well-produced. It comes with a lovely little booklet in fact I really would recommend it for the booklet alone. You really feel like you're submerged in musical history
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
[May 2012: This boxset was originally released in 2008 and since been re-released as a 4 CD bargain set. I have posted here my review for the original boxset, I don't believe there have been any changes apart from the packaging but if there has please let me know.]

The brainchild of Nick Duckett of Rhythm & Blues Records, this set is a comprehensive overview of the music scene in America between 1925-1942. From the opening primal blast of Austin Colemans' 'My Soul is a Witness' to the smooth West Coast Blues of 'Mean Old World' by T. Bone Walker, this four CD set takes you through the development of one of the most influential musical forms of the 20th Century, R&B.

Most casual listeners will know something of the usual suspects and songs of this period, so Robert Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson, Bessie Smith & Blind Lemon Jefferson are all here. But what makes this compilation such a joy is the inclusion of artists that are not so well known but were huge back in the day. Pettie Wheatstraw? Leroy Carr? Blind Blake? No, I didn't know much about these artists as well but they were the superstars of their day and this set includes them all to give a truly representative picture of the popular music scene in the 20's & 30's. I found reading Elijah Walds' Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues to be a perfect accompaniment whilst listening as a number of chapters cover this period of musical history and provide a vivid and engrossing picture of what people were listening to at the time.

The set mainly focuses on the development of the Urban Blues in Chicago in the 30's. The first disc entitled `Country Blues, Spirituals, Jug Bands and Hokum' looks at some of the influences, specific songs or artists as well as genres that would eventually coalesce and fuse together into R&B. We are treated to Spirituals in the shape of Blind Willie Johnson & Byrant's Jubilee Quartet, Country's Jimmy Rodgers, The Jug Band of Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers, Ragtime of Blind Blake and Hokum of Georgia Tom & Tampa Red.

The second disc focuses on the rise of Boogie-Woogie piano, Low Down Jazz of New Orleans, The Jazz influenced Classic Blues, & Kansas City Style Jazz. In essence what you hear is the transition from Country Blues to the more Urban Blues of the 30's. The breathtaking list of artists stretches from Pinetop Smith, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Leroy Carr & Cab Calloway.

The third disc finally introduces us to the Urban Blues of Chicago, particularly Big Bill Broonzy, Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell, Sonny Boy Williamson & Tampa Red. The fourth disc charts the rise of Gospel, Jive, Swing and the Big Bands of the late 30's-early 40's, particularly the music of The King Cole Trio, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton and Louis Jordan which led on the rise of West Coast Blues of T Bone Walker and Jump Blues in the 40's (see The History Of Rhythm And Blues 1942-1952 : The Pre Rocknroll Years).

As is always the case for compilations such as this there are a few niggles with the choice (or absence) of certain artists. Did we really need three tracks by Sonny Boy Williamson? Why is only Bessie Smith included as representative of Classic Blues, why not Ma Rainey or Victoria Spivey who were also incredibly popular? More importantly where's Charley Patton & Son House?! Possibly they were not included as the sound quality of their recordings are pretty poor, but then again Skip James' recordings have the some problem and he is included, (although the track included on this set is probably the best quality one we have).

The booklet is detailed and informative with extensive notes for each track explaining how each track chosen helped influence and shape the future direction of R&B. As some other reviewers have noted the contrast of black lettering on a grey background doesn't make for the easiest read. There were also a few layout issues with lines being repeated and diagrams overlapping text. (Both these issues were addressed for future volumes). The information in the booklet can be accessed and read on the Rhythm & Blues Records website if you still struggle. There appeared to have been a mastering issue with disc three so a replacement is provided, a nice touch and shows that Rhythm & Blues Records listen to comments/ criticism and respond promptly for the benefit of the customer. (How we wish that some of the majors could be bothered!!)

The mastering is superb and really brings out the warmth, complexity, and sometimes rawness of the music. Overall for the price this is an extraordinary labour of love and a great introduction to what has become one of the best series released on R&B. For the price you really can't go wrong and I cannot strongly recommend enough that you purchase this now.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 June 2009
The music on this 4CD compilation is fantastic - a really great selection from a wide range of (mainly black) American pre-war music.

However, the packaging is very disappointing. The copy I received is monochrome throughout, with very amateurish graphics that belong on a VHS tape from the 80s, and don't look anything like the artwork on this listing. The tracklisting on the back only covers the first 2 discs, with a small paper insert added at the last minute with the remaining tracks listed. The mechanism that holds the CDs themselves is also somewhat arcane.

I note from Rhythm & Blues Records website that one of the discs has been poorly mastered, and a replacement CD is available to all purchasers. They are also offering a new slipcase for volume 1 with sales of volume 2. Hopefully this will rectify some of the problems with this package - what is after all a genuine musical labour of love.

Imagine if this had been put together with the care that, for instance, the Harry Smith Anthology received! Mind you, it would have been considerably more expensive than this bargain, I'm sure!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The brainchild of Phil Duckett of Rhythm & Blues Records, this set is a comprehensive overview of the music scene in America between 1925-1942. From the opening primal blast of Austin Colemans' 'My Soul is a Witness' to the smooth West Coast Blues of 'Mean Old World' by T. Bone Walker, this four CD set takes you through the development of one of the most influential musical forms of the 20th Century, R&B.

Most casual listeners will know something of the usual suspects and songs of this period, so Robert Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson, Bessie Smith & Blind Lemon Jefferson are all here. But what makes this compilation such a joy is the inclusion of artists that are not so well known but were huge back in the day. Pettie Wheatstraw? Leroy Carr? Blind Blake? No, I didn't know much about these artists as well but they were the superstars of their day and this set includes them all to give a truly representative picture of the popular music scene in the 20's & 30's. I found reading Elijah Walds' Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues to be a perfect accompaniment whilst listening as a number of chapters cover this period of musical history and provide a vivid and engrossing picture of what people were listening to at the time.

The set mainly focuses on the development of the Urban Blues in Chicago in the 30's. The first disc entitled `Country Blues, Spirituals, Jug Bands and Hokum' looks at some of the influences, specific songs or artists as well as genres that would eventually coalesce and fuse together into R&B. We are treated to Spirituals in the shape of Blind Willie Johnson & Byrant's Jubilee Quartet, Country's Jimmy Rodgers, The Jug Band of Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers, Ragtime of Blind Blake and Hokum of Georgia Tom & Tampa Red.

The second disc focuses on the rise of Boogie-Woogie piano, Low Down Jazz of New Orleans, The Jazz influenced Classic Blues, & Kansas City Style Jazz. In essence what you hear is the transition from Country Blues to the more Urban Blues of the 30's. The breathtaking list of artists stretches from Pinetop Smith, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Leroy Carr & Cab Calloway.

The third disc finally introduces us to the Urban Blues of Chicago, particularly Big Bill Broonzy, Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell, Sonny Boy Williamson & Tampa Red. The fourth disc charts the rise of Gospel, Jive, Swing and the Big Bands of the late 30's-early 40's, particularly the music of The King Cole Trio, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton and Louis Jordan which led on the rise of West Coast Blues of T. Bone Walker and Jump Blues in the 40's (see The History Of Rhythm And Blues 1942-1952 : The Pre Rocknroll Years).

As is always the case for compilations such as this there are a few niggles with the choice (or absence) of certain artists. Did we really need three tracks by Sonny Boy Williamson? Why is only Bessie Smith included as representative of Classic Blues, why not Ma Rainey or Victoria Spivey who were also incredibly popular? More importantly where's Charley Patton & Son House?! Possibly they were not included as the sound quality of their recordings are pretty poor, but then again Skip James' recordings have the some problem and he is included, (although the track included is probably the best quality one we have).

The booklet is detailed and informative with extensive notes for each track explaining how each track chosen helped influence and shape the future direction of R&B. As some other reviewers have noted the contrast of black lettering on a grey background doesn't make for the easiest read. The booklet is also attached to the case making if difficult to read. There were also a few layout issues with lines being repeated and diagrams overlapping text. (All these issues were addressed for future volumes). The information in the booklet can be accessed and read on the Rhythm & Blues Records website though. There appeared to have been a mastering issue with disc three so a replacement is provided within the case. Also not all the tracks were listed originally so it now comes with a slipcase which does list all four discs. This is a nice touch and shows that Rhythm & Blues Records listen to comments/ criticism and respond promptly for the benefit of the customer. (How we wish that some of the majors could be bothered!!)

Considering the age and provence of some of these tracks the mastering is superb and really brings out the warmth, complexity, and sometimes rawness of the music. (Be warned there is surface noise on some of these tracks but as John Peel once said "Life is surface noise"). Overall this is an extraordinary labour of love and a great introduction to what has become one of the best series released that documents the growth and evolution of R&B. For this price you really can't go wrong and I cannot strongly recommend enough that you purchase this now.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 March 2008
This set is everything and more that the reviews above say. It is obviously a labour of love and is intelligently programmed. The sound quality is as good as one could hope for and it's far more than "a beginners guide".
Volume 2 is to be wished for asap.
Slight problem getting the discs out of the box and returning them so then stay put. This set will doubtless be bought by over, rather than under 50s (although, of course it should be purchased by anyone with any taste), so arthritic fingers will be tested. Perhaps Vol 2 could be a complete long box as opposed to this three quarter size one where the discs overlap - but this does in no way take away from the magnificence of this set.
Cool pics of artistes and original labels in the book which should be housed in a pocket rather than glued in, as it soon becomes detatched.
Never underestimate the power of the independent record label and producer. They recorded some of the greatest music ever and now new compilers are making them available to one and all.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 April 2014
I bought this for my neighbour who I know to be an aficionado of this blues era. He loved the information given with each track and ranks it highly in his collection!
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on 25 January 2015
The first of four box sets dedicated to the History of R&B. I love it!
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