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4.0 out of 5 stars "...Blues Done Called Me...Pack My Things And Go..." - The History Of Rhythm And Blues 1925-1942 (2008 4CD Box Set), 5 Jan. 2010
This review is from: The History of Rhythm & Blues (Audio CD)
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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Review Details

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Reviewer

Mark Barry
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   

Location: London

Top Reviewer Ranking: 10