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Bobby Bland, who is up there among the Soul Singer all-time greats, recorded from 1952 to 1969 (when the label was sold to ABC) for the Duke/Peacock label out of Houston, Texas. In the eyes of many commentators, self included, his best work was produced during this timeframe. Those geat people at Ace have produced two best-of sets, the first of which, "Bobby "Blue" Bland: The "3B" Blues Boy: The Blues Years 1952-1959" covers the period up to 1959, and the second, "The Voice: Duke Recordings 1959-1969", up to the end of the Duke sojourne. Broadly these split between the more traditional guitar-led and horns driven, Texas blues, on the first, and his, probably more familiar, soul material, on the second. I should add that the usual excellent Ace Notes are included.

This is the first of those albums. While showing considerably less variation than his later recordings, it's is as good a set of Texas blues as you are likely to find anywhere. T-Bone Walker was the original inspiration for much of the electric Texas Blues but there were others such as Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and Pee Wee Crayton who contributed. Bland's very first recordings (prior to Duke) were made for the Modern label which utilised artists from Memphis, Tennessee, which was where Bland spent his formative years. He mixed with BB King and Johnny Ace in the Memphis-based Beale Streeters so it's very likely that King was also a major influence on the sound that Duke produced with Bland.

None of these tracks are likely to be familiar to the casual fan other than possibly, "Further on up the Road" which several blues and rock guitarists, not least of whom is Eric Clapton, have recorded. However they are uniformly excellent. Small band with stinging electric guitar lead. Most medium to fast tempo though towards the end of the set, signs of the more orchestrated style appear.

It's this material that the likes of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan (and his brother) grew up with before he forged his individualistic style.

In my view if you want to really get into Bland then it's this set and its companion that you should be starting with. By all means then move on to the ABC material.
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