Various Artists

LIVING BLUES #164 July/August 2002

Blues fans have long assembled compilation tapes of their favorite obscure sides for their own enjoyment. Toronto deejay Eddy B (Eddy Brake) takes it one important step further here, gathering 27 45’s from his vast collection and transforming them into one fascinating CD.

Precisely dating some of these dusties is impossible, but a general time frame for the disc would be 1956 (Chicago harpist Birmingham Junior and his Lover Boy’s ultra rare house rocker "You’re Too Bad" for Mayo Williams’ Ebony imprint) to 1969 (Thomas East and the Fabulous Playboys’ slinky "You’re What’s Happening" penned and produced by Andre Williams for the Windy City’s Toddlin’ Town label). Up-tempo numbers dominate, gruff voiced Don Hollinger’s "I Had a Nightmare" and Jay Lewis’ harrowing "Darling Let Me Know" being notable exceptions. Everything sounds dubbed from clean 45’s out of necessity: most of these labels likely didn’t persevere for more than a handful of releases.

Unknown gems from virtually every leading blues capital are on display. New Orleans guitarist Roy Montrell wrote Junior Gordon’s " zesty charmer "Call the Doctor"; king-sized Chicago belter Baby Huey & the Babysitters give Junior Wells’ "Messin’ with the Kid" a high energy soul slant (it originally appeared on both Satellite and USA); guitarist Clarence Nelson’s roller "You Make Me Feel So Good" was done in Memphis; saxman Rollie McGill’s storming "People are Talking" was out on Philly deejay Kae Williams’ Kaiser logo, and big voiced Detroiter Buddy Lamp’s revival of the Dominoes "Have Mercy Baby" swings like crazy.

Little Joe Hinton’s surging ’61 outing for L.A. based Arvee records predates his hits for Don Robey’s Back Beat imprint. Bobby Long’s George Kerr produced "Don’t Leave Me", Willie Jone’s pounding "Where’s My Money?, and Al Garris’ "That’s All" hail from the New York scene.

These humble efforts sting and glide with a hungry spark seldom encountered in today’s sluggish contemporary blues arena, where marathon guitar solos and shopworn covers all too often predominate; each track was tailored from scratch with the express intent of scoring an R & B hit, even if those dreams didn’t come to fruition. Let’s hope Mr. Brake is up for a second pass through his 45 collection-and a third and fourth after that!

- Bill Dahl