Eli Toscano founded the Cobra label in 1956. The label was important for launching the recording careers of Chicago blues artists Otis Rush, Magic Sam and Buddy Guy and signalled the arrival of a new generation of blues artists and a new sound to be called and known as the West Side Sound. First to record for Cobra was Otis Rush. His single "I Can't Quit You Baby" CD1/16 became a hit, spending six weeks in the Billboard R&B chart, where it reached number 6 in 1956.Rush recorded another seven singles for Cobra often described as defining moments of Chicago blues. In 1957 Magic Sam recorded his signature song "All Your Love" CD2/14 and released four singles on Cobra. Buddy Guy released two singles in 1958 on Cobra's Artistic Records subsidiary. From 1956–1958 Cobra issued singles by a variety of acts, including Ike Turner CD1/6; CD2/9 and several blues veterans. However by 1959 financial troubles overtook the company and it went out of business. Eli Toscano died in 1967.
Excellent sound transfers and liner notes by One Day Music regular Michael Heatley. Check out this label for more 1950s label retrospective collections. Excellent value.
Listing of Cobra Records:
5000 Otis Rush "I Can't Quit You Baby" / "Sit Down Baby" CD1/16
5001 The Clouds "Rock and Roll Boogie" / "I Do"...CD1/15 &CD2/11
5002 Shakey Horton "Have a Good Time" / "Need My Baby" CD1/2 & CD2/18
5003 The Calvaes "Fine Girl" / "Mambo Fiesta" CD1/8 & CD2/17
5004 Harold Burrage & His Combo "One More Dance" / "You Eat Too Much"
5005 Otis Rush & His Band "Violent Love" / "My Love Will Never Die"
5006 Sunnyland Slim "It's You Baby" / "Highway 61" CD1/19 & CD2/19
5007 Lee Jackson "Fishin' in My Pond" / "I'll Just Keep Walkin'" CD1/13 & CD2/10
5008 Gloria Irving "I Need a Man" / "For You and Only You" CD2/20
5009 Duke Jenkins Orchestra "Something Else" / "The Duke Walks" CD1/17 & CD2/4
5010 Otis Rush "Groaning the Blues" / "If You Were Mine"
5011 Willie Foster "Crying the Blues" / "Little Girl" CD2/12 & CD1/10
5012 Harold Burrage "Messed Up" / "I Don't Care Who Knows" CD1/4
5013 Magic Sam "All Your Love" / "Love Me with a Feeling" CD2/14
5014 The Calvaes "Born with Rhythm" / "Lonely Lonely Village" CD2/8
5015 Otis Rush "Love That Woman" / "Jump Sister Bessie"
5016 Clarence Jolly "Changing Love" / "Don't Leave Me" CD1/11 & CD2/3
5017 Guitar Shorty "You Don't Treat Me Right" / "Irma Lee" CD1/14 & CD2/6
5018 Harold Burrage "Stop for the Red Light" / "Satisfied" CD2/13
5019 Betty Everett "My Life Depends on You" / "My Love" CD1/5
5020 Duke Jenkins Orchestra "Where Can My Loved One Be" / "Shake It" CD1/9
5021 Magic Sam "Everything Gonna Be Alright" / "Look Whatcha Done" CD1/3
5022 Harold Burrage, Willie Dixon Band "She Knocks Me Out" / "A Heart (Filled with Pain)"
5023 Otis Rush with Willie Dixon Orchestra "Three Times a Fool" / "She's a Good 'Un"
5024 Betty Everett "Ain't Gonna Cry" / "Killer Diller" CD2/5
5025 Magic Sam "All Night Long" / "All My Whole Life" CD2/14 & CD2/7
5026 Harold Burrage & His Band "I Cry for You" / "Betty Jean" CD1/12
5027 Otis Rush "It Takes Time" / "Checking on My Baby" CD2/2
5028 Jimmy & Kelly The Rock-a-Beats "Little Chickie" / "Bonnie" CD1/7
5029 Magic Sam "Easy Baby" / "21 Days in Jail" CD1/18
5030 Otis Rush & His Band "Double Trouble" / "Keep on Loving Me, Baby" CD1/1
5031 Betty Everett & Willie Dixon Band "I'll Weep No More" / "Tell Me, Darling" CD1/20
5032 Otis Rush & His Band "All Your Love (I Miss Loving)" / "My Baby's a Good 'Un"
5033 Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm "Walking Down the Aisle" / "Box Top" CD1/6 & CD2/9
on 16 February 2016
The Cobra label was founded on Chicago’s West Side in 1956 by Eli Toscano. As a record-shop owner he had his finger on the pulse of what was selling. Chicago is , historically, the hub of the blues. The signings of Otis Rush, Magic Sam and Buddy Guy fired a warning shot across the bows of established Chicago labels Chess and Vee-Jay.
The arrival of the mass-produced solid-bodied electric guitar in 1950 in the shape of Fender’s Telecaster rewrote the rulebook, and country blues became an urban, electric music. Cobra’s sound may have had an impact, but its shelf life was to be brief. Willie Dixon returned to Chess after the label encountered financial problems and folded in 1959. Eli Toscano died in 1967. But the influence of Cobra Records was far in excess of its 34-single output, as evidenced here.
This is a 2 CD set with 40 songs. I have compiled a detailed listing (with chart position, year and my personal comments), which is as follows:
01 Double Trouble – Otis Rush (uncharted, 1958)*rare gem; 4 Otis Rush songs in this compilation.
02 Have A Good Time – Shakey Horton (uncharted, 1956)
03 Look Whatcha Done – Magic Sam (uncharted, 1957)*rare gem; 4 songs of Magic Sam in this compilation.
04 Messed Up – Harold Burrage (uncharted, 1957)*rare gem; his only charted it Got To Find A Way (R&B 31/1965)
05 My Love – Betty Everett (uncharted, 1957)*rare gem; her first charted hit You’re No Good was in 1963.
06 Walking Down The Aisle – Ike Turner’s Kings Of Rhythm (uncharted, 1958)
07 Little Chickie – Jimmy Kelly & The Rock-A-Beats (uncharted, 1958)
08 Fine Girl – The Calvaes (uncharted, 1956)
09 Shake It – Duke Jenkins Orchestra (uncharted, 1957)
10 Little Girl – Little Willie Foster (uncharted, 1957)
11 Changing Love – Clarence Jolly (uncharted, 1957)
12 Betty Jean – Harold Burrage (uncharted, 1958)
13 Fishin’ In My Pond – Lee Jackson (uncharted, 1956)
14 You Don’t Treat Me Right – Guitar Shorty (uncharted, 1957)
15 Rock And Roll Boogie – The Clouds (uncharted, 1956)
16 I Can’t Quit You Baby - Otis Rush (R&B 6/1956)*rare gem; his only charted hit.
17 Something Else – Duke Jenkins Orchestra (uncharted, 1957)
18 Easy Baby – Magic Sam (uncharted, 1958)
19 It’s You Baby – Sunnyland Slim (uncharted, 1956)
20 I’ll Weep No More – Betty Everett & The Willie Dixon Band (uncharted, 1958)
01 He Knocks Me Out – Harold Burrage & The Willie Dixon Band (uncharted, 1957)
02 It Takes Time – Otis Rush (uncharted, 1958)
03 Don’t Leave Me – Clarence Jolly (uncharted, 1956)(b-side to Changing Love)
04 The Duke Walks – Duke Jenkins Orchestra (uncharted, 1957)(b-side to Something Else)
05 Ain’t Gonna Cry – Betty Everett (uncharted, 1957)
06 Irma Lee – Guitar Shorty (uncharted, 1957)(b-side to You Don’t Treat Me Right)
07 All My Whole Life – Magic Sam (uncharted, 1958)
08 Lonely Lonely Village – The Calvaes (uncharted, 1957)
09 Box Top – Ike Turner’s Kings Of Rhythm (uncharted, 1958)(b-side to Walking Down The Aisle)
10 I’ll Just Keep Walkin’ – Lee Jackson (uncharted, 1956)(b-side to Fishin’ In My Pond)
11 I Do – The Clouds (uncharted, 1956)(b-side to Rock And Roll Boogie)
12 Crying The Blues – Little Willie Foster (uncharted, 1957)(b-side to Little Girl)
13 Stop For The Red Light- Harold Burrage (uncharted, 1957)
14 All Your Love – Magic Sam (uncharted, 1957)
15 Three Times A Fool – Otis Rush & The Willie Dixon Band (uncharted, 1957)
16 Tell me Darling – Betty Everett & The Willie Dixon Band (uncharted, 1958)(b-side to I’ll Weep No More)
17 Mambo Fiesta – The Calvaes (uncharted, 1956)(b-side to Fine Girl)
18 Need My Baby - Shakey Horton (uncharted, 1956)(b-side to Have A Good Time)
19 Highway 61 – Sunnyland Slim (uncharted, 1961)
20 I Need A Man – Gloria Irving (uncharted, 1957)
The sound is well remastered with no hiss.
If you like the blues and sound of electric guitar, this set is for you. This set is recommended for blues lovers.
Cobra Records operated out of Chicago for four years only, from 1956 to 1959. The period may have been brief but the flame burned very brightly during that timeframe. The first release from the label, "I can't quit you baby" from Otis Rush, is an acknowledged classic and a statement of intent for the music that generally gets classified as West Side Chicago Blues. Whilst using much of the same instrumentation as the then recognised Chicago greats, the performance is differentiated by strident guitar work and an "impassioned" vocal from Rush. That adjective is the one that most critics use and I'm not in dispute. Others like fervent, intense or agonised work equally well. Rush would sometimes use minor keys on his mood pieces in order to deepen the gloom.
Otis' co-founders of West Side blues were Buddy Guy and Magic Sam. All three owed a debt to B.B. King particularly in their guitar pyrotechnics but they brought added emotion to the party. The former's first couple of singles were recorded for Cobra's Artistic (their name not a description) subsidiary and are not included here. Magic Sam, however gets three tracks, one of which "All your love" is NOT the same track as the one with that name recorded by Otis Rush - though both are excellent examples of the West Side sound. All three of the West Side gents utilised their guitars to great effect - Magic Sam can usually be distinguished via his usage of tremolo.
Several others here including Guitar Shorty, Clarence Jolly, Little Willie Foster and Lee Jackson show aspects of the West Side sound on these selections. Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm, who get a couple here, supplied backing for some of the artists. Walter "Shakey" Horton was a different kind of artist, an expert on blues harmonica who could give Little Walter a run for his money. We get both sides of his fine Cobra single.
There's R&B present from Harrold Burrage (near rock'n'roll), Jimmy Kelly and others. And last but far from least, Betty Everett, yes she of the "Shoop Shoop Song", weighs in with four early but very nice tracks, which show a good grasp of blues as well as gospel.
A splendid selection of music from a far from prolific label whose entire output (not counting subsidiaries) numbered 34 records. The fact that all round blues hero Willie Dixon was involved in numerous capacities is undoubtedly no coincidence.