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FOXY R&B - RICHARD STAMZ CHICAGO BLUES

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Ace (CDCHD1375)

Harold Burrage, Lee ‘Shot' Williams, Mary Johnson, Flora D, Ze-Majestics, Robert & The Rockin' Robins, Freddy Robinson, Willie Williams (With The Howlin' Wolf Band), Tony Gideon, The Ideals, Detroit Junior, Loretta Branch and more.

A blistering set of rare blues, rhythm & blues and early soul that has emerged as a consequence of more sterling work from the superb team of musical archivists employed and encouraged by Ace Records. Just how they keep finding new and previously-unavailable stonkers such as the 25 tracks on offer here is simply beyond my comprehension.

This particular set comes from the archives of Richard Stamz, a wheeling-dealing, gift-of-the-gab hustler who successfully incorporated a genuine enthusiasm for post-war Chicago music with a background in advertising and politics. His ability to ingratiate himself among those who could help him prosper, along with a capability to talk his way through any situation, helped him to find a role as radio DJ and record promoter. And, when Cobra Records was left adrift in 1959 with the sudden and suspicious drowning of its owner, Eli Toscano, Stamz was ideally positioned to pick up the label and branch out by forming a wider stable of labels and imprints such as Paso and Foxy.

It is from the archives of such labels dating between 1960 to 1962 that these sides have been selected. As a way into this collection, the Cobra link is the obvious starting point. If you enjoyed the recent Cobra Records Story 2CD set (One Day DAY2CD204), there is plenty for you here, including Lee 'Shot' Williams' Bobby Bland-style vocals over stunning guitar lines from Freddy Robinson, and top-notch sides from blues singer Harold Burrage who followed Stamz from Cobra. But elsewhere highlights are plentiful and everywhere you turn - such as tracks recorded under the name of Willie Williams And The Howlin' Wolf Band. It is speculated in the notes that, as well as Williams (Wolf's one-time drummer) the band probably had Hubert Sumlin on guitar and Johnny Jones on piano. On the instrumental Gittin' Along (an early version of Green Onions), this certainly seems plausible. Either way, the track is a peach.

The big drawback in writing a review of this truly wonderful CD is that the more time I spend writing it, the more I want to stop in favour of returning for another listen. With this in mind therefore it is time that I not so much finish this review as abandon it to retire again to the darkened room with the ultra-large speakers. Whatever you are doing, I can only urge you to get this CD and take a similar course of action.

Review Date: August 2013

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