THE MEMPHIS CUTS 1953-1956 (2CD)
Dr Ross CDs are like the proverbial buses - you wait ages for one to come out that features his raucous Sun sides of the 1950s and then two come at the same time. Prior to this fine collection arriving, Bear Family had only a matter of a month before put out their own perfectly splendid version of much the same material (see BCD16939AH-Juke Box Boogie - The Sun Years, Plus).
Whichever set you go for, you really owe it to yourself to get one. Housed within both are loads of great sides from Isaiah Ross, born on a farm in Tunica, Mississippi to parents of Native American origin and who became one of the best recorded practitioners of what we now refer to as a ‘one-man band.' His ability to sound like a whole rockin' rhythm & blues band must have been unsettling, playing guitar and harmonica on a rack and adding a chunk of a drum set to his body without adversely affecting the ability to play the other instruments, sing and stay upright at the same time. If this sounds like the kind of behaviour of a nut job, you just might be right in respect of Dr Ross. Neil Slaven's enjoyable sleeve notes to this set quotes the English blues critic Derrick Stewart-Baxter as saying of Dr Ross that ‘he was a nice guy but a strange guy, a bit of a space cadet but a good musician'.
And being a good musician is right on the money and, on this set, you get the very best of him. 55 tracks across 2 CDs featuring just about everything he cut for Sun, both as a solo musician and as part of Dr Ross And His Jump And Jive Boys (the unit he put together as and when he didn't want or need to play all instruments himself). Classics include Dr Ross Boogie, Boogie Disease, Cat Squirrel, Chicago Breakdown, That Ain't Right, Shake ‘Em On Down and many others plus lots of alternate takes, incomplete demos and more.
So do you go for the JSP set or get the Bear Family CD instead? The JSP certainly has more tracks and is a fair bit cheaper. On the other hand, Bear Family are hardly being stingy with 32 tracks and they don't spend too much time on alternate takes, choosing instead to include some later singles cut in Michigan for DIR, Fortune and HiQ. And it also has a 44 page booklet.
Either way, of course, you can't go wrong as both will treat you to enough great 1950s blues to treasure for years.
Review Date: October 2013