DOUBLE TROUBLE - THE COBRA RECORDS STORY 1956-59 (2CD)
One Day (DAY2CD204)
Otis Rush, Shakey Horton, Magic Sam, Sunnyland Slim, Betty Everett, Ike Turner, Harold Burrage, Lee Jackson, Little Willie Foster, Clarence Jolly, The Clouds, etc.
Cobra Records was started in Chicago's West Side in 1956 by Eli Toscano, a record store owner, jealous of the success the Chess Brothers were having with blues and R&B records and wanting to compete with and emulate them.
When he managed to lure a dissatisfied Willie Dixon from Chess (albeit temporarily) and score an early hit with Otis Rush's soon-to-be classic Chicago blues I Can't Quit You Baby, he must have thought the future was rosy. It didn't turn out so well however and the label folded in 1959.
What's left behind however is a highly impressive musical legacy. Not just the astonishing early blues sides of Otis Rush and Magic Sam (both represented here by four each of their best tracks) but many more gems, as evidenced by the 40 tracks on offer. The overall quality is consistently high, from stunning down-home blues as represented by Lee Jackson's Keep On Walking, Little Willie Foster's Crying The Blues and Sunnyland Slim's Highway 61 to sax-driven R&B as delivered by Betty Everett on Ain't Gonna Cry and even dance-craze and teen novelties like Mambo Fiesta by The Calvaes. And, the closing track on the collection is the R&B perfection of I Need A Man by Gloria Irving; this is almost permanently on repeat in the car these days,
It is also a bonus that the quality of the musicianship is so uniformly high throughout, but as it was invariably Willie Dixon or Ike Turner pulling the strings and controlling the arrangements, this should be no great surprise.
This is a massively illuminating and thoroughly enjoyable set worth getting at any price, but £5.95? It's a no-brainer!
Review Date: April 2013