On the third of five volumes (the first four are double-CD box sets) that reissue all of her recordings, the great Bessie Smith is greatly assisted on some of the 38 selections by a few of her favorite sidemen: cornetist Joe Smith, trombonist Charlie Green, and clarinetist Buster Bailey. But the most important of her occasional musicians was pianist James P. Johnson, who makes his first appearance in 1927 and can be heard on four duets with Bessie, including the monumental "Backwater Blues." Other highlights of this highly recommended set (all five volumes are essential) include "After You've Gone," "Muddy Water," "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight," "Trombone Cholly," "Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair," and "Mean Old Bed Bug Blues." The power and intensity of Bessie Smith's recordings should be considered required listening; even 80 years later they still communicate.
Before No Doubt made ska suitable for new millennium pop kids, Fishbone was first to mess things up with its reggae-tinged, punk-inspired rambunctious rock sound. This Los Angeles-based six-piece spent the 1980s composing a healthy, funkdafied beat that was part metal and part pop. The college scene found the band highly amusing years later, not to mention an infectious live act, so naturally Fishbone cemented a place in what would become "alternative rock" in the decade to come. The Essential Fishbone (The Best Of) is a look back at band's rowdy rock party, a definitive selection of classics for the casual fan, but also a decent collection for Fishbone loyalists.
Nicknamed The Empress of the Blues, Smith was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s. She is often regarded as one of the greatest singers of her era and, along with Louis Armstrong, a major influence on other jazz vocalists.