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THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF THE BLUES 1920-1962 (4CD)

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Proper (PROPERBOX191)

100 tracks featuring Bertha ‘Chippie’ Hill, Blind Willie McTell, Blind Blake, Luke Jordan, Tommy Johnson, Frank Stokes, Charley Patton, Kokomo Arnold, Tampa Red, Big Maceo, Big Joe Williams, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Magic Sam, Albert King and many, many more…

I start this review by assuming that we are all mature and reasonable people who take any attempt (not just this one) to claim something as a ‘Complete History Of The Blues’ as a clear ‘tongue in cheek’ exercise in irony.

With life being too short to be picky over the meaning of the blues and what might constitute ‘completeness’, we should perhaps simply just celebrate the reasons why this new set should be welcomed, embraced and cherished. For sure, most card-carrying blues nuts of many years standing will undoubtedly already have many, if not most, of the titles and artists presented here somewhere in their collections. But, this set is arguably directed more at the casual blues fan or those new to the blues; that is, those who want some kind of guide or context to frame what they are embracing and developing an interest in. And, in this context, this is pretty much as good an introduction as you could hope for and makes an ideal gift for family or friends who need a little help starting off with the ‘right stuff’.

Taking the story of the blues from the earliest days of recorded ‘classic’ blues in the early 1920s (represented by  sides from Mamie Smith and Bessie Smith), right up to the appearance of soul blues as the 1950s became the 1960s (as represented by tracks at the end of the set from Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland and Johnny Copeland), the real strength of this set is just how many of the 100 tracks included can be viewed as the ‘crown jewels’ of recorded blues. My view is that the proportion of titles included in this category is impressively high; not just among the obvious titans of the blues such as Charley Patton, Son House, Robert Johnson, Muddy, Wolf, B.B. King, etc but also among the obscurer and little-recorded artists - for example, un-improvable gems such as Richard ‘Rabbit’ Brown’s exemplary James Alley Blues, Hambone Willie Newbern’s masterful Roll And Tumble Blues and Geeshie Wiley’s jaunty Last Kind Words Blues.

This inclusion of such high quality obscurer artists in amongst the bigger names is indicative that the compiler’s of this set ‘know their onions’ and have made their selections based on a considered approach, context and commitment to quality and worth in creating this set.

Furthermore, this set has been released just at the time that we are offering campaign discounts on all available titles in the Properbox range. Normally going for £13.95, Properbox titles are currently on offer until the end of April at just £10.00 plus p&p -  see Page 13 of this catalogue for more information and take advantage while you can. 

So buy yourself a copy of this now, and one for a loved one who needs help to find the path to enlightenment!

Review Date: March 2015

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