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Various Artists: Electric Blues

These recent additions to The Life Times & Music Series each consist of a CD and an attractively illustrated 64-page book. The recordings are drawn from a variety of labels. The choice of material on the blues disc is generally commendable, the 14 artists represented being Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, T-Bone Walker, Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, B.B.King, Albert King, Magic Sam, Otis Rush, Junior Wells, Albert Collins and Lightnin’ Hopkins. Given his popularity, Reed’s inclusion is understandable and perhaps excusable. Unfortunately, precise discographical data is not provided, so it isn’t always easy to determine which version you’re getting. T-Bone Walker’s Capitol “Call It Stormy Monday” is listed as “Stormy Monday Blues” and credited-you guessed?-to Hines, Eckstine and Crowder!

The duets disc is somewhat ghastly, but commercially probably a good idea. You get Cab and the Mills Bros., Bing and Connee Boswell, Bing and the Andrews Sisters, Jo Stafford three times, which isn’t too many except when partnered by Frankie Laine; Pearl Bailey sings first with Lips Page and then with Tony Pastor; Satchmo and Velma Middleton do the “No Potatoes” number; then Dinah Washington with Brook Benton, Cleo Laine with Mel Torme, and Rosemary Clooney with John Pizzarelli complete the program. Oh, the infinite elasticity of that word “jazz”!) Armstrong excepted, the ladies win this match easily.

The books are written by freelancers Erikka Haa and Andrew Hager, both of whom did homework, the former more effectively. Hager seems to specialize in country music and Elvis. Why the publishers would not use any of the numerous starving specialists in blues and jazz is for anyone to guess.

Originally Published