VEE-JAY RECORDS PRESENTS THE BLUES (2CD)
Disc One: PRISCILLA BOWMAN & JAY McSHANN'S ORCHESTRA: Hands Off, JIMMY REED: You Don't Have To Go, Ain't That Lovin' You Baby, ROSCO GORDON: Just A Little Bit, JOHN LEE HOOKER: Dimples, GENE ALLISON: You Can Make It If You Try, BILLY BOY ARNOLD: I Wish You Would, MEMPHIS SLIM: Messin' Around, JB LENOIR: Do What I Say, HAROLD BURRAGE: Crying For My Baby, ELMORE JAMES & HIS BROOMDUSTERS: Coming Home, JIMMY WITHERSPOON: Kansas City.
Disc Two contains twenty two more Vee-Jay monsters from Billy The Kid Emerson, Eddie Taylor, Jimmy Reed, Elmore James, John Lee Hooker, Rosco Gordon, Bobby Parker and Billy Boy Arnold
In 1961, there wasn't a record shop in the land that didn't deal with EMI Distribution which meant that this LP on EMI's Columbia imprint was probably the first easily available blues compilation issued in the UK.
Its influence was phenomenal as hungry-for-blues Brits lapped it up and, as blues expert Bob Fisher implies in his sleeve notes, ‘Vee-Jay Records Presents The Blues', along with a few treasured Chess and Vee-Jay imports, may well have been the foundation for the British blues boom of the early sixties. One look at the track listing suggests he is probably correct. You can imagine Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Eric Burdon, Van Morrison and Eric Clapton devouring this stuff - not just as blues mad fans but as a useful source of material for their bands. This was the first time they'd heard the might of Elmore James' guitar playing on Coming Home, JB Lenoir's peculiar way of slamming out his version of Ray Charles' What'd I Say and John Lee Hooker's classic Dimples. Is it just coincidence that Billie Davis regularly performed Priscilla Bowman's Hands Off into the Hamburg beat clubs, The Rolling Stones and Duster Bennett sopped up every influence Jimmy Reed had to offer, the Undertakers took Roscoe Gordon's Just A Little Bit into the pop charts, The Yardbirds recorded Billy Boy Arnold's I Wish You Would, every beat group in the country, including the Stones and The Beatles, had a bash at Witherspoon's Kansas City while the Spencer Davis Group, The Animals and Long John Baldry all recorded tunes on this set? I think not!
Charly Records has done the right thing by issuing the entire original album on just one of the CDs with no extras or bonuses to ruin the feel. It has copious notes from Bob Fisher and the original jottings from Alexis Korner and it's packaged to perfection with its original cover artwork. I have a feeling this will be treasured by long-term blues fans as much as you lucky people who have yet to hear what all the fuss was about!
Disc two contains all the bonus tracks you could wish for including such tremendous recordings as Eddie Taylor's Big Town Playboy, Billy Boy Arnold's I Ain't Got You, Memphis Slim's Steppin' Out, Billy The Kid Emerson's Every Woman I Know Crazy ‘Bout Automobiles, Bobby Parker's Blues Get Off My Shoulder, John Lee Hooker's Maudie, Jimmy Reed's Bright Lights Big City and the very best version of Elmore James' monumental It Hurts Me Too.
This is seriously wonderful music programmed and presented to perfection and obviously a labour of love from the folks at Charly Records who should be very proud of themselves.
Review Date: August 2011