This 45-song, two-disc collection is subtitled "two decades of killer fretwork", and never was a set so aptly described. Chess Records was the home to seemingly every hot guitar player in the Chicago area, and many of them make their appearance here. Besides the usual label guitar hotshots (Muddy Waters, Jimmy Rogers, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy, Lowell Fulson, Earl Hooker, Otis Rush, Robert Nighthawk, Little Milton), space is given to sideman work from legends like Hubert Sumlin and Robert Jr. Lockwood and great one-offs by lesser-known artists like Jody Williams, Danny Overbea, Eddie Burns, Joe Hill Louis, Morris Pejoe, Lafayette Thomas and others. It seems as if everyone recorded for Chess at one time or another, also explaining the inclusion of tracks by John Lee Hooker, Albert King, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Lonnie Brooks, Hound Dog Taylor and Elmore James. If electric blues guitar's your thing, then look no further than this fine two-disc compilation.
The Old Grey Whistle Test was a music performance television series on BBC 2, and over the years the show has featured an amazing variety of artists, from Gram Parsons to Jethro Tull, including several who fell to the blues side of the pop spectrum. This set collects some of those blues tracks, including songs from R.L. Burnside ("Bad Luck City"), Roy Buchanan ("Sweet Dreams"), and Freddie King ("Going Down"), among others. There's also a track by Elmore James here, "The Sky Is Crying," which is a little confusing, since James never appeared on the program. Apparently the selector here, Bob Harris, wanted to include sides from musicians who should have or could have appeared on the program…
The Mississippi Delta has some of the most fertile soil in the world and became one of the richest cotton growing areas in the world which, before the American Civil War, was worker exclusively by black slaves brought over from Africa. The blues was forged on the anvil of poverty and hardship the black sharecroppers and tenant farmers had to endure. Born of the harsh, brutal conditions of life in the South, and full of pain, frustration and anger, the passionate, soulful sounds of the Delta revolutionised the sound of 20th-century music. This compilation celebrates some of its greatest exponents.
Chester Arthur Burnett, known as Howlin' Wolf, was a Chicago blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player, originally from Mississippi. With a booming voice and looming physical presence, he is one of the best-known Chicago blues artists. Musician and critic Cub Koda noted, "no one could match Howlin' Wolf for the singular ability to rock the house down to the foundation while simultaneously scaring its patrons out of its wits." Producer Sam Phillips recalled, "When I heard Howlin' Wolf, I said, 'This is for me. This is where the soul of man never dies'". Several of his songs, including "Smokestack Lightnin'", "Back Door Man", "Killing Floor" and "Spoonful", have become blues and blues rock standards. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him number 51 on its list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time."