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Alligator (ALCD127-28)

37 tracks from Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials, Son Seals, Koko Taylor, Guitar Shorty, Jarekus Singleton, Hound Dog Taylor, Marcia Ball, Toronzo Cannon, Shemekia Copeland, Lazy Lester, Johnny Winter, Curtis Salgado, Joe Louis Walker, Rick Estrin & The Nightcats, Anders Osborne, Mavis Staples, James Cotton and more...

Any record label still going strong after 45 years in business must surely be doing something right. Set up in Chicago in 1971 by Bruce Iglauer, initially just to release an exciting album he had co-produced by the then largely unknown Hound Dog Taylor & The Houserockers, Alligator Records took its modus operandi from this first album’s title, Genuine Houserockin’ Music. And as evidence that Alligator Records has been, and is, is doing something right, here we have a testament to the label’s enduring capacity to still turn out knock-out blues and roots recordings that fully meets their own ‘genuine’ and ‘houserockin’ criteria.

This new compilation celebrates the label’s latest landmark by presenting 37 storming examples of their legacy, packaging together tracks from a stunning back catalogue. Eschewing any tracks that have previously been included in earlier anniversary milestone samplers (20 years, 25 years, 30 years, etc), this offers up a fabulous blend of tracks from Alligator’s most recent releases alongside plenty of reminders of how fine their earlier recordings were (and still are).

Of the older recordings, Hound Dog Taylor’s Houserockers are naturally represented with a typicallyragged and infectious slide guitar-led Take Five from back in 1974, while Jimmy Johnson’s taut and controlled after-hours blues, Your Turn To Cry, from 1977 is a notable delight. Other highlights from the earlier material include Koko Taylor’s funky and feisty, Voodoo Woman and Johnny Winter’s fun-filled and all-too-brief version of Elmore’s Shake Your Moneymaker.

From the more recent material it is clear just how far  Alligator’s scope has extended over the years, adding to the blues mix plenty of other influences to keep their recordings contemporary and invariably interesting. Check out the sassy soul and tasteful rock embedded into Curtis Salgado’s lovely (and recent) Walk A Mile In My Blues, or try the satisfying southern-rock influenced sounds of JJ Grey and Mofro’s 99 Shades Of Rock from 2013 and Moreland & Arbuckle’s Take Me With You (When You Go) from earlier in 2016. Best of all perhaps is Shemekia Copeland’s Afro-beat tinged 2015 version of Devil’s Hand.

Presented with a neat 24 page booklet, with notes by Bruce Iglauer, and a brief profile on each artist, this 2CD for the price of one is a superb opportunity to catch up on some fabulous music from a great label.

Review Date: June 2016

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