Masters of the Blues
Blues Band, Featuring Dizzy Gillespie
On the first set's first disc, Chicago Blues Band, John Lee Hooker delivers a superior performance. It clearly dates back a few years, for he sounds powerful and, as always, committed to an irresistible and unrelenting beat. Sunnyland Slim, Willie Dixon, Johnny Shines and Clifton James are also featured on several selections. The second disc, Blues Festival, features Cousin Joe, Lonnie Johnson, Victoria Spivey, Otis Spann and Muddy Waters, with honors going to the first two. Cousin Joe, a dedicated bluesman, was always noted for lyrics, such as the line about a meanie who wouldn't "give a crippled crab a crutch". Lonnie Johnson's voice and pretty guitar still have the attractive individuality that accounted for his early influence on T-Bone Walker, who is not at his best on the third disc, Blues Collective. Several tracks by Cleanhead Vinson, however, are splendid examples of that outstanding blues-singer-saxophonist's work.
Each of the three CDs in Masters of the Blues is devoted to one artist-B.B. King, Muddy Waters and T-Bone Walker-and each collection consists largely of big hits. King is in excellent form here, and Walker responds amusingly to an uproarious reception. At Laserlight's modest prices, these are all very good buys, although it is a shame more precise personnel and recording data could not be given. The single Muddy Waters disc is notable for several choruses by Dizzy Gillepsie on a long version of "Kansas City," where a good time is had by all. The live recording is generally praiseworthy on these discs.