Blues and Popular Catelogue M to Z

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Mary Black - Babes In The Wood Mary Black - Babes In The Wood
Babes in the Wood is Mary Black’s finest, most consistently pleasing album. There is no filler here, and her song selection, culled from new songwriters such as Noel Brazil and classic folkies such as Richard Thompson, is impeccable. The acoustic arrangements (including guitar, piano, mandolin, Dobro and accordion) are carried out by her longtime backing musicians, although the music has a decidedly more pop than Celtic flavor on this album.
Mary Black - Full Tide Mary Black - Full Tide
As an album, Full Tide most closely resembles Shine in its breadth and depth. Yeah, that is a good thing. It's not the shiny production as much as the material itself. Recorded in Ireland and Australia, the album contains some stellar, perhaps career-defining performances of a number of tunes: her readings of Bob Dylan's "Lay Down Your Weary Tune" and "To Make You Feel My Love" completely reinvent them. The emotion in her voice is a warm fire for the battered soul to rest in. As moving and convincing as these performances are, they are not the true gems in the body of this album. In fact, her version of Sandy Denny's "Full Moon," with a pianist, a bassist and a string quartet, blows them away. Her voice, full and dark, yearns across time and space for the absent one. It's an elegy to a love, but also to love itself and friendship as well. This is key in that there are a total of four songs here by the late Noel Brazil - Black's longtime collaborator and favorite songwriter - who passed away in 2001.
Memphis Slim - USA Memphis Slim - USA
For the most part, this is a 1961 session wherein the blues raconteur and pianist Memphis Slim runs through a good chunk of his repertoire, the songs that came to mind that afternoon. As such, it's relaxed entertainment, rather than a fixed recording for a larger audience. Which is not to say an audience can't enjoy this music. Slim's piano playing is dynamically rich, delicate at times, and pounding when necessary. His vocals are strong, too, but just as capable of dropping down to just above a whisper to make a point. They just don't make records like this anymore, documents of an artist at work without any attempt to be outside the moment. A quote from Nat Hentoff's liner notes: "Aside from the usual hyperbole of record liners, I do think that engineer Bob d'Orleans has caught the full sonic impact of Slim more accurately than on any previous recordings by the Chicago-based wanderer. The best description I know of the sound of Memphis Slim is Stanley Dance's in the British Jazz Journal: 'It's an outdoors voice with a hard strength that suggests inflexibility, but it bends at the right times. It has a somber gravity, dignity, shyness, and a shade of melancholy. As he sings, he often seems to withdraw into memories, fond and sad, of other days, other places and other faces.'" Beautifully remastered from the original analog tapes by Graeme Durham at The Exchange. This is another in Pure Pleasure's Candid Series, featuring reissues from an incredible label that met its demise some 40 years ago. The American Candid label has achieved a near legendary status among the critics and the International jazz and blues public. The series was born in 1960 when Archie Bleyer, owner of the Cadence label decided to indulge his love of jazz and blues and create his own line - called Candid. Archie approached Nat Hentoff - a likeable and knowledgeable critic, author and journalist active in New York at the time. Hentoff accepted the challenge of producing the albums and history was made. However, the label went out of business in 1961 and remained that way for a quarter of a century. Then Alan Bates acquired the masters and renamed his Black Lion Productions company Candid. Bates made the Candid titles available again on CD. These Candid titles were very well recorded and the performances generally are stunning. Great sound and music.
Mississippi John Hurt - Today Mississippi John Hurt - Today
Another outstanding record that's the result of the Folk Blues Revival of the 1960s when, generally-speaking, young White Americans began to appreciate and search for the blues of older Black Americans. One of the most famous "rediscoveries" that came of this movement was that of Mississippi John Hurt, who before this 1966 release, had not recorded since 1928.

Hurt was a supremely-skilled guitarist with a warm, inviting voice. Typical of the Vanguard releases from this period, the recording is excellent – perfectly sparse, ambient and true. The material is comprised of standards and originals, including his famous "Candy Man." This is another essential record in any blues collection.
Motorhead - 1916 Motorhead - 1916
Rock 'n' Roll! If ever there was one single album that summed up the Motorhead philosophy of "We are Motorhead, and we play Rock 'n' Roll Music," it was 1916. The real "swangsong" of the dreamteam/dreamtime line up of Lemmy, Phil Campbell, Wurzel and Philthy Animal Taylor, 1916 raised the bar for Motor albums to follow with its "all killer, no filler" approach, not a duff track to be had.
Muddy Waters - I'm Ready Muddy Waters - I'm Ready
For the middle album of his Johnny Winter-produced, late-'70s music trilogy, blues giant Muddy Waters brought a new spirit to some familiar material. Starting with members of Waters' touring band – Pinetop Perkins, Bob Margolin, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith – Winter added underrated guitarist (and longtime Waters foil) Jimmy Rogers and extraordinary harp player Big Walter Horton to the mix. The songs recorded for I'm Ready offer a mix of new material and vintage hit singles like the title cut, the mid-'60s jewel "Screamin' and Cryin'," or the Willie Dixon-penned "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man."
Otis Spann - Portraits in Blues Vol 3. Otis Spann - Portraits in Blues Vol 3.
In October 1963, Spann toured Europe as part of that year's Folk Blues Festival and recorded some superb solo, contemplative blues in a broken, husky voice for Storyville Records in Copehagen. Accompanied by Lonnie Johnson on guitar and Little Willie Smith on drums.
Otis Spann - The Biggest Thing Since Colossus Otis Spann - The Biggest Thing Since Colossus
Remastered by Ray Staff from the original quarter-inch analog master tapes and pressed at Pallas in Germany. During the sixties, there was the British blues boom containing many blues bands, one of the finest being Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. In January of 1969, Fleetwood Mac were at Chess Studios, Chicago, jamming with the likes of Willie Dixon, Honeyboy Edwards, S.P. Leary, J.T. Brown and longtime Muddy Waters pianist Otis Spann. The end result of those sessions was the classic double album Blues Jam At Chess. The rapport between Mac and Otis Spann was such that they recorded another whole album together, The Biggest Thing Since Colossus. Otis Spann is his usual emotive and exciting self, feeling totally relaxed alongside his regular drummer, S.P. Leary. This coupled with Peter Green’s guitar playing, which is probably at its peak on these recordings, makes for a blue album of substance. The Biggest Thing Since Colossus is probably one of the most underrated blues albums. Long out of print.
Otis Spann and Robert Lockwood Jr. - Otis Spann Is The Blues Otis Spann and  Robert Lockwood Jr. - Otis Spann Is The Blues
Recorded August 23, 1960 at Fine Recording Studios in New York by George Piros, the same recording engineer who did many of the great Mercury Living Presence releases. Excellent recording. Highly recommended. Another absolute gem from Alan Bates' Candid label, this may be Otis Spann's finest piece of work on wax. He may not have been the blues, but he was sure close to being the blues pianist. Spann provided wonderful, imaginative, tasty piano solos and better-than-average vocals. He was arguably the best player whose style was more restrained than animated. Not that he couldn't rock the house, but Spann's forte was making you think as well as making you dance. This is another in Pure Pleasure's Candid Series, featuring reissues from an incredible label that met its demise some 40 years ago. The American Candid label has achieved a near legendary status among the critics and the International jazz and blues public. The series was born in 1960 when Archie Bleyer, owner of the Cadence label decided to indulge his love of jazz and blues and create his own line - called Candid. Archie approached Nat Hentoff - a likeable and knowledgeable critic, author and journalist active in New York at the time. Hentoff accepted the challenge of producing the albums and history was made. However, the label went out of business in 1961 and remained that way for a quarter of a century. Then Alan Bates acquired the masters and renamed his Black Lion Productions company Candid. Bates made the Candid titles available again on CD. These Candid titles were very well recorded and the performances generally are stunning. Great sound and music.
Quicksilver Messenger Service - Happy Trails Quicksilver Messenger Service  - Happy Trails
Without question, this follow-up to Quicksilver Messenger Service's self-titled debut release is the most accurate in portraying the band on vinyl in the same light as the group's critically and enthusiastically acclaimed live performances. The album is essentially centered around the extended reworkings of Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love?" and "Mona", as well as the lesser lauded — yet no less intense — contribution of Gary Duncan's (guitar/vocals) "Calvary". This album is the last to feature the original quartet incarnation of QMS. The collective efforts of John Cipollina (guitar/vocals), Greg Elmore (percussion), David Freiberg (bass/vocals), and the aforementioned Duncan retain the uncanny ability to perform with a psychedelic looseness of spirit, without becoming boring or in the least bit pretentious. The side-long epic "Who Do You Love?" suite is split into an ensemble introduction and coda as well as four distinct sections for the respective bandmembers. The perpetually inventive chops of QMS are what is truly on display here. The musicians' unmitigated instrumental prowess and practically psychic interaction allow them to seamlessly weave into and back out of the main theme. Yet all the while, each player takes center stage for uncompromising solos. "Mona" and its companion, "Calvary", continue in much the same fashion. Here the members of QMS play off each other to form a cohesive unit. This track also contains some of Cipollina's finest and most memorable fretwork. He is able to summon sonic spirits from his guitar in a way that is unlike any of his Bay Area contemporaries. A prime example of his individuality is the frenetic "Maiden Of The Cancer Moon" — ascending from the remnants of "Mona". The angst and energy in Cipollina's guitar work and line upon line of technical phrasing could easily be considered the equal of a Frank Zappa guitar solo.
Robert Pete Williams with Big Joe Williams

Real blues…he took the pain in his soul and the dirt on his hands and made songs out of them…Robert Pete Williams…the most avant-garde blues performer ever recorded. No punk rock band has ever matched the jagged, acerbic fury of the riffs Williams played 35 years ago. No rapper has approached his ability to evoke the torment of life in prison or bend language to cast an eerie spell over a chance encounter with a seductive woman. His blues was extremely original, sometimes even hard to understand. No other performer has captured the emotional effect of a desperate situation like he did. He had never been recorded when he was discovered in Angola Penitentiary in Louisiana, convicted of murder.
Skip James - Today Skip James - Today
As far as we at Acoustic Sounds are concerned, this is the most anticipated and exciting reissue we can remember. Seriously! That's how awesome this record is!

Acoustic Sounds owner Chad Kassem has tried for years to convince someone to reissue this stunningly incredible-sounding album. The opening track, "Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues" is one of Kassem's absolute go-to tunes when he's trying to "really freak someone out about vinyl and Hi-Fi." That track alone is worth this purchase – there's absolutely no disputing that guarantee! A more spooky, haunting, emotional song does not exist.

You might not know anything about this record. You may never have heard of Skip James. You might not think you like blues. You might not normally listen to recommendations. But if ever you're going to take some advice, now's the time – BUY THIS RECORD. You can't miss.

Nehemiah "Skip" James is one of the Delta Blues giants and one of the genre's earliest recording artists. He was born in Bentonia, Mississippi in 1902 and began his recording career in 1931 for the Paramount Records label – the same Grafton, Wisconsin-based company that cut the ultra-famous sides by Robert Johnson, Son House, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charley Patton, Blind Blake and pretty much every other pre-war blues artist that's still remembered today.

After that Paramount session and its resulting 26 sides, James went relatively unheard for the next 33 years. He followed in his father's footsteps and became a Baptist minister. But in 1964, three record collectors went in search of Skip James and found him. The three booked him at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival, and James' comeback was born. Thank God for that! This record was recorded shortly after the rediscovery. Amazingly, James' musicianship was still utterly remarkable, even though his health had begun to fail and he would die just five years later. What sets Skip James' talent apart, aside from his equal mastery of both the guitar and piano, is his haunting falsetto singing. You've got to hear it for yourself. This record allows us a glimpse into a long-gone world.
Son House - Father Of The Delta Blues: The Complete 1965 Sessions Son House - Father Of The Delta Blues: The Complete 1965 Sessions
After being rediscovered by the folk-blues community in the early '60s, Son House rose to the occasion and recorded this magnificent set of performances. Allowed to stretch out past the shorter running time of the original 78s, House turns in wonderful, steaming performances of some of his best-known material. On some tracks, House is supplemented by folk-blues researcher/musician Alan Wilson, who would later become a member of the blues-rock group Canned Heat and here plays some nice second guitar and harmonica on several cuts.
Stevie Ray Vaughan - Couldn't Stand The Weather Stevie Ray Vaughan - Couldn't Stand The Weather
"Before you go 'ho-hum, this has been re-issued before', let me tell you that what you may have thought you heard, is nothing compared to what is on these two, that's right, two records. Tony Hickmott of PPR has mined the Epic vaults and has found for us previously unreleased material. Ray Staff at Alchemy has, once again, delivered a brilliant sounding all analogue release. This is the finest sounding Stevie Ray Vaughan album you will ever hear!…It's shockingly good sonically and certainly does cement my feelings about just how good Vaughan really was. This was his second album for Epic and it certainly solidified his place in electric blues history. Not to be missed. Sheer magic." Recording = 8.5/10; Music = 9.5/10 – Richard Foster, Hi-Fi+, Issue 42

This is classic Stevie Ray Vaughan, now lovingly remastered from the analog tapes by cutting engineer Ray Staff in his Alchemy Mastering Soho studio.

With his astonishingly accomplished guitar playing, Stevie Ray Vaughan ignited the blues revival of the '80s. Vaughan drew equally from bluesmen like Albert King, Otis Rush and Hubert Sumlin and rock & roll players like Jimi Hendrix and Lonnie Mack, as well as the stray jazz guitarist like Kenny Burrell, developing a uniquely eclectic and fiery style that sounded like no other guitarist, regardless of genre. Vaughan bridged the gap between blues and rock like no other artist had since the late '60s. For about seven years, Stevie Ray Vaughan was the leading light in American blues, consistently selling out concerts while his albums regularly went gold. His tragic death in 1990 only emphasized his influence in blues and American rock & roll.

From 1978 and for the next few years, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble played the Austin area, becoming one of the most popular bands in Texas. In 1982, the band played the Montreux Festival and their performance caught the attention of David Bowie and Jackson Browne. After Double Trouble's performance, Bowie asked Vaughan to play on his forthcoming album, while Browne offered the group free recording time at his Los Angeles studio, Downtown. Both offers were accepted. Stevie Ray laid down the lead guitar tracks for what became Bowie's Let's Dance album in 1982. Shortly afterward, John Hammond Sr. landed Vaughan and Double Trouble a record contract with Epic, and the band recorded its debut album, Texas Flood, in less than a week at Downtown. Bowie offered Vaughan the lead guitarist role for his 1983 stadium tour, but he turned him down, preferring to play with Double Trouble. Vaughan and Double Trouble set off on a successful tour and quickly recorded their second album, Couldn't Stand The Weather, which was released in May of 1984. The album was more successful than its predecessor, reaching number 31 on the charts; by the end of 1985, the album went gold. From the blistering licks of "Scuttle Buttin'" to the bitchin' blues of "Tin Pan Alley" and the cover classic that is "Voodoo Chile," SRV really delivers on this 1984 recording. (2 LPs)
Stevie Ray Vaughan - Texas Flood Stevie Ray Vaughan - Texas Flood

Stevie Ray Vaughan's 1983 debut album, Texas Flood, was a phenomenal success, climbing into the Top 40 and spending over half a year on the charts, which was practically unheard of for a blues recording. The record plays like a dynamite club show, filled with crowd-pleasing originals and covers, all performed with unbridled enthusiasm. Certified Gold on August 13, 1990; certified Platinum on January 22, 1992. (2 LPs)
Taj Mahal - Recycling The Blues & Other Related Stuff Taj Mahal - Recycling The Blues & Other Related Stuff

One of the most prominent figures in late 20th century blues, singer/multi-instrumentalist Taj Mahal played an enormous role in revitalizing and preserving traditional acoustic blues. Not content to stay within the realm, Mahal soon broadened his approach, taking a musicologist's interest in a multitude of folk and roots music from around the world. Beautifully remastered from the analog master tapes by Ray Staff at Alchemy Soho.

Taj Mahal - The Natch'l Blues Taj Mahal - The Natch'l Blues
Re-mastering by: Ray Staff at Air Mastering, Lyndhurst Hall, London Includes 3 bonus tracks not on the original release: The Cuckoo (alternate version), New Stranger Blues & Things Are Gonna Work Out Fine. Taj Mahal's second album, recorded in the spring and fall of 1968, opens with more stripped-down Delta-style blues in the manner of his debut, but adds a little more amplification (partly courtesy of Al Kooper on organ) before moving into wholly bigger sound on numbers like "She Caught the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride" and "The Cuckoo" -- the latter, in particular, features crunchy electric and acoustic guitars and Gary Gilmore playing his bass almost like a lead instrument, like a bluesman's answer to John Entwistle. Most notable, however, may be the two original closing numbers, "You Don't Miss Your Water ('Til Your Well Runs Dry)" and "Ain't That a Lot of Love," which offer Taj Mahal working in the realm of soul and treading onto Otis Redding territory. This is particularly notable on "You Don't Miss Your Water," which achieves the intensity of a gospel performance and comes complete with a Stax/Volt-style horn arrangement by Jesse Ed Davis that sounds more like the real thing than the real thing. "Ain't That a Lot of Love," by contrast, is driven by a hard electric guitar sound and a relentless bass part that sounds like a more urgent version of the bassline from the Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Lovin'." This LP reissue includes a trio of bonus tracks: a faster-paced rendition of "The Cuckoo" with a more prominent lead guitar, the slow electric lament "New Stranger Blues" featuring some good mandolin-style playing on the guitar, and the rocking instrumental "Things Are Gonna Work Out Fine," which is a killer showcase for Davis' lead electric guitar and Taj Mahal's virtuosity on the harmonica. Bruce Eder/AMG Personnel: Taj Mahal, Harp(Harmonica) and Miss “National” Steel-bodied guitar. Jesse Edwin Davis, Guitar, Piano and Brass arrangements. Gary Gilmore, Bass. Chuck Blackwell, Drums & also Al Kooper, Piano. Earl Palmer, Drums.
T-Bone Walker - Sings The Blues T-Bone Walker - Sings The Blues
T-Bone Walker is one of the all-time greats, an innovator and significant influence on just about every blues guitarist who followed. But his musical legacy is also incredibly enjoyable, full of humor as well as invention. A man who played the blues with flair, sophistication, technical brilliance and a sense of humor. Walker pioneered the electric guitar sound that helped create the blues and thus influenced all popular music that followed. He played one of the first electric guitars in the mid-'30s, recording with it in 1939. His single-string solos influenced blues players like B.B. King and such rockers as Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
The Only Ones - The Only Ones The Only Ones - The Only Ones
Their superb eponymous 1978 debut, now reissued in all of its glory on audiophile-quality 180-gram vinyl, remastered from the original tapes by "Mr. Golden Ears" Ray Staff, pressed at Europe's greatest pressing plant and now in a gatefold sleeve featuring the original inner artwork!! Always more than "just another punk/new wave" band, the Only Ones came from a prog/pub rock linear heritage, including Spooky Tooth, Beatstalkers and of course Perrett's Dylan-meets-Velvet-esque "England's Glory." What set the Only Ones apart was that not only did they have the audacity to be able to play their instruments, but they had captivating songs to boot.
Top Topham - Ascension Heights Top Topham - Ascension Heights
At the pimply age of 15, Surrey-born Anthony "Top" Topham stepped onto stage in May 1963 at the Eel Pie Island Club in Twickenham with his new blues-wailing band - The Yardbirds. A few months later he was replaced with Eric Clapton and after that a certain Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page also joined that volatile crew. When you consider what a staggering influence, Clapton, Beck and Page have had on everything in rock then and now, it's a damn shame that Top Topham got musically lost in the mix somehow and has never been given the catalyst credit he so deserves. The album Ascension Heights has always been a vinyl rarity, so its reissue here is to be welcomed. It's a varied album, daring in its choices and remember - most are original songs by Topham. Ascension Heights is a grower that bears repeated listening.

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