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JSP (JSP77164)

Lee Brown, Jimmie Gordon, Detroit Count, John Lee Hooker, Robert Richard, Baby Boy Warren, Country Paul, Smokey Hogg, Eddie Kirkland, Memphis Slim, Ralph Willis, Robert Henry, John Lee, Johnny Wright, Kid Thomas

This latest and seriously impressive JSP box set focuses on the blues and R&B recordings of King Records, and for a brief period a sister label Queen, as conceived and run by Syd Nathan in Cincinnati. King started in the 1940s as a label intended to record and sell white hillbilly acts but Nathan quickly moved into black blues and R&B, particularly when he found it possible to quickly grow the label's roster and reach by buying up masters from other labels and contracts of  other artists. While operating out of Cincinnati therefore, operations were necessarily flexible in terms of where artists were based, where they were recorded and the amount of control and scheduling Nathan had over the careers of artists signed to King.

This  set presents many of the best recordings released by King, including 20 previously unreleased sides. The star turn of the recordings available to compiler Neil Slaven is clearly John Lee Hooker whose own titles for the label were recorded in the back room of Battle's Hasting Street record store in Detroit, and caught him early in his career when he was still seriously scary - driven, manic, committed and hungry. If you only  know John Lee Hooker from his later years, 12 of the 100 tracks in this  set are his and well worth your attention.

Other excellent rough and ragged amplified country blues sides come from other known quantities such as Smokey Hogg and Eddie Kirkland while Memphis Slim, Jimmie Gordon and Lee Brown represent a slightly more urban approach. Despite the problems with, and gaps in, the discographical  detail available to Neil Slaven, the other ‘lesser known' artists come across surprisingly well; I was particularly taken with the tracks by Robert
Henry, with his effective but eccentric singing, but the notes say 'No such problem with Robert Henry - because he's a biographical zero. He was recorded in Cincinnati and could have come from anywhere'.

Still, no matter, it's the music that counts not the finer detail of who these guys are, or were. And when it comes to the music, this is another winner from JSP-just like all the others!

Review Date: March 2013

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