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JSP (JSP77122)

Lowell Fulson, Turner Willis, Jimmy McCracklin, Johnny Ingram, Jimmy Nelson, Bob Geddins, Windy Morgan, Roy Hawkins, KC Douglas, Willie B Huff, Mercy Dee Walton, Joe Hill Louis, Que Martyn, James Reed, Frank Motley/Angel Face, King Solomon Trio, Little Caesar, Fats Gaines, Johnny Fuller, Emery Franklin, Ulysses James, Sidney Maiden, West Side Trio, Big Mama Thornton, Juke Boy Bonner.

Bob Geddins was a man with a big heart; a true music lover who persevered with his recording and distribution business even though he was repeatedly ripped off by partners and let down by artists who broke their contracts.

He is responsible for developing the Bay Area blues sound of the late 1940s and 1950s in his Oakland studios and some of the best loved vintage recordings from the West Coast were made for his Big Town, Cava-Tone and Rhythm labels.

For all the usual reasons, musicians were leaving their home states and moving to California and Geddins attracted some of the most popular into his recording studio. Lowell Fulson, Roy Hawkins, Johnny Fuller and Jimmy McCracklin are all included in this box set as well as some pretty obscure names like pianist Fats Gaines and Johnny Ingram whose Rhythm Czars featured Jimmy Nelson on vocals and John Patterson on some pretty swingin' sax. Johnny Fuller, whose down-home Mississippi blues with a beat, laid back vocals and versatile guitar wrangling reminds me of early Muddy Waters, has sixteen stellar tracks; his ringing guitar clanging away on ‘How Long?', ‘Too Late To Change' and ‘The Roughest Place In Town' which is a virile version of ‘Tin Pan Alley'.

Fuller appears again later with some superb down-home blues guitar on Willie B Huff's four sides. This girl has one deep bluesy voice and it's perfectly suited to her big song ‘Operator 209' (her version of Lightnin's ‘Hello Central') but then she's just as good when she hits a higher register on ‘I've Been Thinkin'And Thinkin' which has Lafayette Thomas on guitar.

KC Douglas, another Mississippian transplanted to California, is here roaring out his greatest song ‘Mercury Boogie'. This version leaves all others, bar none, doodlin' in the dirt! Juke Boy Bonner's rural style comes direct from Texas and although usually a one-man-band, he adds guitarist Lafayette Thomas on ‘Well Baby' and ‘Rock With Me Baby' with pretty good results. Big Mama Thornton really rocks with the thumping ‘Don't Talk Back', a fabulous gospel singed screamer she made with The Hi-Tones (better known as James Brown's second set of Famous Flames). Roy Hawkins and Jimmy McCracklin supply the early R&B jump while Little Caesar forsakes his usual rockin' R&B groove on ‘Big Eyes' a Coasters-type spoofy tune before sailing into a big blues ballad that Big Joe Turner would be proud of.

There are 107 tracks on this wonderful set and not a dud among ‘em, compiler Neil Slaven supplies his usual informative sleeve notes and the presentation is snazzy with all those vintage colour photos of the Bay area.

Excellent, highly recommended, top class, five stars.


Review Date: July 2009

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