Chicago Is Just That Way

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Chicago Is Just That Way

Postby blueswriter » Mon May 16, 2005 11:15 pm

[updated:LAST EDITED ON May-16-05 AT 09:22 PM (EST)]Chicago Is Just That Way
Various Artists
JSP (2005) 7744

http://cover6.cduniverse.com/MuzeAudioA ... 550439.jpg

4 CD Box - 112 Tracks - 315 Minutes. Essential. While a large portion of this 4-disc box set has previously been issued on a wide selection of labels since the dawn of compact discs, putting together the 112 tracks present makes for some superb listening - in total - just shy of five hours. The immediate Post-war years in the Windy City saw blues going through a period of defining change; the city was ever-growing in its populationon and on the way out were the often pedestrian (as well as somewhat mundane) recordings from the catalogs of RCA Victor/Bluebird and other labels, and on the way in was amplification, reflecting Chicago's growth and expansion. With thousands upon thousands of former Southern itinerant African-American farmhands making the move North for better jobs, better wages, and the respect they were never afforded while residents of the South, as the cities grew larger and louder, so did blues. Chicago Is Just That Way proves to be a riveting view as to how blues forged ahead from the late 1940s into the early '50s.

Disc one (80 minutes) is devoted completely to Tampa Red and covers the years 1949 to 1953, and although Tampa is perhaps more noted for his Pre-war recordings, in the Post-war years, when many who had recorded far earlier found it difficult to keep up with the changing musical climate, Hudson (Woodbridge) Whittaker made it a point to weather these changes. His vocal and guitar style hadn't been altered much at all (other than now being amplified), and behind him, a full band of rocking Chicago bluesmen solidified his efforts showing just how well he fit in with what was going on in Chicago. Joining Tampa over eleven sessions are Little Johnny Jones on piano, Ransom Knowling providing thumping upright bass, Odie Payne's rock-solid drumming, L.C. McKinley or Willie Lacey on guitar (in addition to Red's own acidic slide), and Sonny Boy Williamson II or Big Walter Horton's harp on a handful, in addition to the occasional saxophone (courtesy of Sugarman Penigar and Bill Casimir) or Tampa's quickly recognized zoot horn (kazoo) excursions. 1950 Blues, When Things Go Wrong With You, She's Dynamite, Please Mr. Doctor, Rambler's Blues, Evelena, Sweet Little Angel, Big Stars Falling Blues, and Love Her With A Feelin' along with plenty more prove that Tampa Red wasn't content to be, nor would he, be left behind as these efforts consistently prove.

Disc two (80 minutes) combines a wide cross-section of big names and a number of artists that never quite managed to capture the attention they deserved. Big Maceo Merriweather's rollicking piano charges Kid Man Blues (with Tampa Red's clanging electric guitar and Melvin Draper's in-the-pocket drumming), and while a few more examples of the teamwork of Maceo and Tampa would have been welcomed on this disc, Merriweather's music is currently available on other imprints and he does appear later on disc four. The Columbia label offered Johnny Shines his first chance at recording in 1946 and his four sides (although they remained unissued for years) are simply breathtaking examples of gritty blues. He hands in pure brilliance on Tennessee Woman Blues, Delta Pine Blues, Ride Ride Mama and Evil Hearted Woman Blues with nothing more than his deep and booming voice, acoustic guitar, and simple support from acoustic bass and drums. Muddy Waters' initial sessions in Chicago also came in 1946 for Columbia (and 20th Century as James "Sweet Lucy" Carter), and like those of Shines, they remained unreleased for far too long. Muddy would later revisit the themes in Hard Day Blues, Burying Ground Blues, and Mean Red Spider once with the Chess brothers, while Jitterbug Blues was thankfully left behind when Muddy dove even deeper into amplified blues a few years after these sides were cut. Lee Brown delivers two jumping items from behind the piano in Horse Shoe Boogie and Round The World Boogie and also hands in Ruby Moore Blues and Lowland Blues with Big Crawford and Baby Face Leroy Foster in tow. Rounding out the disc are Sippie Wallace, Memphis Slim, Big Boy Crudup, St. Louis Jimmy, Floyd Jones, and Jimmie Gordon.

Disc three (78 minutes) begins with a four-cut Sunnyland Slim session from June of 1947 in the company of an unidentified, but fairly versatile, guitarist on Jivin' Boogie, Brown Skin Woman, 5 Foot 4 Gal, and I've Done You Wrong - Slim ran from label to label recording with a wide cast of characters and he shows up with some regularity on a number of recording dates in this set. Johnny Williams' Worried Man Blues, Johnny Young's Money Taking Woman, Let Me Ride Your Mule, and My Baby Walked Out, or Snooky & Moody's Boogie and Telephone Blues are all prime Chicago Blues efforts from the later 1940s. From Young's muscular mandolin work, to the out-of-tune but driving guitar of Williams, and Snooky Pryor's effortless harp playing, there's plenty of evidence that a large number of Chicago players were keen on updating their music to reflect progress. Although issued on Tempo-Tone under Sunnyland Slim's name, Little Walter takes the helm on the two-sided Blue Baby/I Want My Baby from 1948 finding Walter joined by Muddy, Slim, and Baby Face Leroy for this pair of driving tracks, while another standout comes from Jimmy Rogers in Little Store Blues with aid from Walter's highly rhythmic, unamplified harp. Two more tracks from Floyd Jones, three from Roosevelt Sykes, a pair from John Lee Williamson (Sonny Boy #1), as well as efforts from Lily Mae & The Houserockers, Big Bill Broonzy, Eddie Boyd and St. Louis Jimmy driving along making the third disc another gem.

Disc four (77 minutes) is as good as the previous three with another goldmine of Post-war Blues. Jazz Gillum's Look What You Are Today and A Lie Is Dangerous stem from early in 1949, and although Gillum's harp is forceful, his work is overshadowed by a driving band consisting of Guitar Pete Franklin's slicing six-string, Ransom Knowling's bass, and Judge Riley's masterful drumming. Big Maceo returns with four tracks from the Spring of 1949, and while his own piano efforts from earlier periods were always fully satisfying, a stroke disabled him in 1946, and for these cuts, he's joined by Tampa Red's band with Maceo's pupil, Little Johnny Jones at the keys. Big City Blues, Do You Remember, Just Tell Me Baby, and One Sunday Morning all feature Maceo's gruff voice with the band shuffling along in fine fashion. Willie Mabon hands in a pair sounding finely relaxed on It Keeps On Rainin' and Boogie Man, and Memphis Minnie has two, Why Did I Make You Cry and Kidman Blues. Tony Hollins is stunning on Wine-O Woman and Crawlin' Kingsnake, and Big Bill gets back into the mix with Leavin' Day and Southbound Train but there's plenty more from Jimmy Rogers with another three tracks predating his work with Muddy Waters and the Chess label (all date from 1949); That's All Right and I'm In Love find Jimmy accompanied by Sunnyland Slim's piano and Andrew Harris' bass while Ludella has him in the company of Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Sunnyland Slim, Ernest "Big" Crawford and a drummer. In addition, Baby Face Leroy Foster's Boll Weevil and Red Headed Woman are solid, but the cream shows in his 1950 Parkway recording of the old Delta anthem, Rollin' And Tumblin' (parts 1 & 2). Regardless of how many times these two diamonds are reissued, they easily drive home the point of where Chicago Blues was heading - into a highly-amplified state that would change the shape of modern music forever. Little Walter, Big Boy Crudup, Robert Lockwood, and Snooky Pryor also appear on the fourth and final disc.

As stated in the opening, a large percentage of this material has appeared on numerous compilations before now, but put together in this particular way, it makes for a truly exceptional experience. With the artists mostly scattered across the four discs in near chronological order (aside from Tampa Red being given a full CD), the picture comes clearly into focus as to how these musicians changed with the times. A couple of minor points should be discussed... the cover lists this material as being recorded between 1938 and 1954 - the earliest track present appears to be Big Maceo's Kidman Blues from February of 1945. Another point... rumors still abound as to who does JSP's mastering on their boxed sets but the 112 tracks presented sound as good (and often far better) as anywhere else they may be available. For future reference, the label should give credit where credit is due for remastering. And finally, while full session details round out Chicago Is Just That Way, the informative liner notes go uncredited (perhaps Neil Slaven's fine work again). In closing, listeners can, and should, be forever grateful that these artists were captured on record by the countless shoestring independent record labels that peppered Chicago's many neighborhoods during the boon years of amplified Post-war Chicago Blues.

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© 2005 by Craig Ruskey
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RE: Chicago Is Just That Way

Postby jeffl » Tue May 17, 2005 12:11 am

Thanks, once again, B-Dub, for your continued efforts to keep us informed.
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RE: Chicago Is Just That Way

Postby blueswriter » Tue May 17, 2005 12:53 am

And thank you once again for reading and commenting. Plenty more will be coming along this week.
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RE: Chicago Is Just That Way

Postby nizer » Tue May 17, 2005 3:26 pm

Thanks for your insightful reviews Blueswriter. You give this board a lot of class. I'll defintely be on the lookout for that set.
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RE: Chicago Is Just That Way

Postby blueswriter » Tue May 17, 2005 8:56 pm

Thanks for your insightful reviews Blueswriter. You give this board a lot of class.

I think that's the first time I've been accused of that on the Big Road. Thanks, Nizer... glad you enjoy the reviews.
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RE: Chicago Is Just That Way

Postby ricochet » Tue May 17, 2005 9:15 pm

He didn't say whether it was high class. ;-)

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."
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