THE CHICAGO BLUES BOX - THE MCM RECORDS STORY (8CD)
100 tracks featuring Magic Slim, Jimmy Dawkins, Jimmy Johnson, Willie Kent, Eddie Clearwater, Big Voice Odom, Big Mojo Elem, Bobby King, John Littlejohn, Luther Johnson Jr, Hip Lankcham, Joe Carter, and more
There's quite a story behind the rise and subsequent fall of MCM Records in the mid to late 1970s.
The label was started as a labour of love by a middle-aged French school teacher called Marceile Chailleux Morgantini who, years before, had been turned on to American jazz and blues by her husband Jacques Morgantini. When she came into an inheritance in the early 1970s she decided that the best way to spend the money was to buy some recording equipment and head off to Chicago to capture as many performances of her favourite Chicago blues sounds as she could. And she found pretty quickly that the only way she could retain artistic control was to start her own label - hey presto, MCM.
Marceile made four trips to Chicago during the years 1975 to 1978, aided and abetted by a be-friended Jimmy Dawkins, who acted as a guide to the city and its music. And out of the visits came these live recordings, featuring a number of artists who were at the start of their musical career and destined for greater success (such as Magic Slim and Jimmy Johnson). Most however never recorded much, if anything ,again and this is all we have as a document of their work.
Possibly more important than the individual performers, however, this wonderful collection is just about as good a document as we can expect to get of a period when the local blues club was slowly being displaced by venues in favour of (cheaper) pre-recorded musical entertainment. This collection is unusual and unique in that many of the performances have an un-edited feel to them; demonstrating to us what Chicago blues in the live bar context was really about and providing at this distance a sense of the environment for which it was really intended.
Marceile must have had a blast recording all of this material. Going to the bars and venues in Chicago that she had only previously dreamed of, recording the music that she loved, meeting and working with the musicians that made it. But, alas it couldn't last, and as the funds dried up, she was unable to do whatever was necessary to turn the recordings into a viable commercial package.
Thankfully however, and better late than never, these recordings have now received a full and proper release and are available to us in this superb package, which includes a nice 24 page booklet telling the full story and providing track by track details.
Review Date: April 2013