Includes fully illustrated booklet.
When many of these records were cut I was 4 years old and playing in the rubble of a bombed-out Hull, courtesy of the Luftwaffe. Back then, in the UK, any one of these 111 (yes, 111 even!) tracks would have given the BBC a coronary thrombosis because the nearest we got to black music was the bellowing burnt cork of Al Jolson. Following the previous R&B Anthology sets from R&B Records, I knew I’d be in for more thrills with this and I’m not disappointed, yet restricted wordage here precludes a full ecstatic overview. However – if you thought big strident in-your-face electric guitar chords arrived in the 1960s, check out 1947’s Midnight in The Barrel House by Johnny Otis. And there’s Dizzy Gillespie, Mahalia Jackson and even Hank Williams and Merle Travis. Needing wild, wanton and utterly danceable? You need Fluffy Hunter and Buddy Banks with the manic piano of Fluffy’s Debut. Disc 2 is replete with rare gems too. The sorely neglected Andrew Tibbs pre-empting Jerry Lee Lewis’s Wine Spodey-Odey by over a decade with the rousing Drinking Ink Splink. This is a magical mystery tour with Madam Ira Mae Littlejohn’s boisterous Go Devil Go and even a 1947 Muddy Waters with Gypsy Woman, contrasting nicely with the raucous front porch fiddling of Harry Choates and his Hackberry Hop. By the time you reach disc 3 you feel like you’ve drunk a half bottle of Bourbon. Amos Milburn kicks in with a rolling Chicken Shack Boogie, the sinister, dark and energetic 1948 cut of Hooker’s Boogie Chillen, Nellie Lutcher’s uplifting Fine Brown Frame and the honking saxes of The Twister by Paul Williams, the scintillating acapella harmonies of the Swan Silvertone Singers. Disc 4 boogies along just as agreeably with The Beale Street Gang’s Fat Stuff Boogie, followed by Arthur Smith’s seminal guitar hit, Guitar Boogie, there’s more 1948 Muddy Waters, a bouncy Pettin’ and Pokin’ by Louis Jordan and 20 other delights. This hefty collection curated by Nick Duckett, who also provides the entertaining liner notes, feels like stumbling into a sealed cave of musical pirate treasure; golden nuggets, jewelled crowns, dancing diamonds and rhythmic rubies. Sometimes musical history can jolt you from the terror and torpor of the present and take you to a long forgotten place of joy. That may sound like Pseud’s Corner, but these R&B Anthologies do it for me. Try it – you’ll be well rewarded. ROY BAINTON