Blue(s) Notes

By Perry W. Aberli

As I was walking through the newly opened River Falls Mall in Clarksville, Ind., I stopped in the generic mall record shop and was stunned to hear Robert Johnson on the stereo. They were playing the new CD issue! And, as of this writing, this issue has sold over 150,000 copies. Not bad a little late but not bad. Incidentally, if you don't. have the two King of the Delta Blues Singers Columbia LP issues, jump on this CD. It's not any cleaner but it is nice. Ignore the liner notes though. They are mawkish, borderline racist and very self-serving. You can always look at the pictures. Unfortunately, from now until doomsday, would-be blues experts will be quoting from these notes.

Last year I started a series of articles for the KYANA Blues Society newsletter, intending to highlight aspects of the blues and provide suggested albums for listening. What do I like to listen to? What are the essential blues LPs? Well, here is a brief list for some alternatives to the contemporary scene.

Son Seals: Anything by this guy is great! None of his recorded material comes close to Son live, but all of his work is essential. And, fortunately, it's all available on the Alligator label with the exception of one "live" LP on the B.L.U.E.S. label.

Albert King: Albert's recorded material can be spotty. Try to get the earlier less-funky recordings. If possible, pick up the Albert King / Otis Rush Door to Door issue in the Chess Blues Master Series. Also, Born Under A Bad Sign on Stax and Traveling to California on King are great to hear. Albert's double "live" LP on Tomato is also a real treat. The jacket photos are from the Midwest Blues Festival, and that's my daughter on the back with Albert.'

Magic Sam: There are four Magic Sam albums on Delmark get all of them!

Big Walter Horton: Get the Alligator LP. The duets with Carey Bell with backing by Eddie Taylor are modern classics.

Sonny Boy Williamson #2 (Rice Miller): Try and get Blue Classics 9 it's all of the old Trumpet 78s, including the original' of "Eyesight to the Blind."

Junior Wells: Southside Blues Jam and Hoodoo Man Blues, both on the Delmark label, are "must have" items.

Good Rockin' Charles: This obscure harp blower from Chicago can be heard on his own album on the Mt. Blues label. It's a fine example of 'the Chicago sound.

Leroy Carr: To get a feeling for what the blues scene was like in Louisville in the Thirties, check out Blues Before Sunrise (Columbia 30496). The urbane slickness of Carr, accompanied by Scrapper Blackwell and Josh White, sounds as bright and new as if it were recorded yesterday. "Midnight Hour Blues" and "Blues Before Sunrise" are classic cuts that go a long way toward defining the pre-War city blues sound.

• I Bessie Smith: There is only one way to listen to Bessie Smith listen to all of her! Fortunately, Columbia had the foresight to reissue the entire recorded output of Bessie in a five-double-LP series. These twenty sides are designed so that each set pairs early recordings with later ones; The liner notes by Chris Albertson are excellent reading, opening up the world of the classic blues singers to us. Koko Taylor and Lady Day notwithstanding, Bessie was and is the Queen of the Blues. The five sets are: The World's Greatest Blues Singer, Any Woman's Blues, Empty Bed Blues, The Empress and Nobody's Blues But Mine. With sidemen like Eddie Lang, Fletcher Henderson, James P. Johnson and Louis Armstrong, Bessie was a lightning rod of creativity in that storm of music that was jazz and blues in the Twenties.

These selections will get you started back to the blues. Listen to the blues with your heart and soul, but think about them with your head. There's a lot more going on than meets the eye.

(The above excerpt was taken from an article written by Mr. Aberli, a member of the Board of Directors of the KYANA Blues Society, for the Society's newsletter, "Blues News. " Sounds like a good list of suggestions for ways to spend those holiday gift certificates. Editor.)