April 2nd, 2012
Label: Fantastic Voyage
Catalog No.: FVDY095
Format: 3-CD set
Release Date: February 15, 2011
We are in a golden age of excellent blues and soul reissues, priced very reasonably, coming out of the U.K. Perhaps taking advantage of Europe’s shorter copyright terms, these reissue companies are able to span many decades and many different original-issue labels in their intelligently-compiled anthologies, which usually include excellent booklet texts. Sound quality varies, but is usually good to excellent, depending on what source material was available to the compilation engineers.
Fantastic Voyage has put out a series called “Let Me Tell You About the Blues” with each set focusing on a U.S. geographic area; sets have focused on Chicago, Memphis, New York, Texas, the West Coast and Detroit. The focus of this review is the 3-CD set covering New Orleans.
The first recording, “James Alley” by Richard (Rabbit) Brown, was made on March 11, 1927. The last two songs on the third disc were made in 1960. All of the songs were recorded in New Orleans, either by the city’s native musicians or acts who were regionally or nationally known and laid down a side or few in a New Orleans studio (in those cases, usually the recording venue was Cosimo Matassa’s studio). The “recorded in NOLA” theme works for the chosen tunes. There is a distinctive jump to many tunes, Zydeco instrumentation to others and particularly randy lyrics present throughout. All in all, a very NOLA flavor pervades.
Highlights include the original versions of “Good Rockin’ Tonight” (Roy Brown), “Mardi Gras In New Orleans” (Professor Longhair) and “The Things That I Used To Do” (Guitar Slim), plus early work by Fats Domino, Ray Charles and Snooks Eaglin.
Another plus for these Fantastic Voyage sets is that producers use a wide net to cast their “blues” category. This means a nice variety of artists and cuts, and in the case of this set, a generous smattering of early rhythm and blues.
There is also a logical order at work. Disc 1 covers the time period from what the booklet claims is the first blues recording native to NOLA (Rabbit Brown’s Victor sides) to the last pre-war blues recordings, by Little Brother Montgomery in 1936. The booklet states that no further blues-recording ventures took place in New Orleans until after WWII. Disc 2 begins with Roy Brown’s “Good Rockin’ Tonight” from 1947 and runs through Ray Charles’ August, 1953 session for Atlantic. Disc 3 picks up with Guitar Slim’s October, 1953 session and ends in 1960, with tunes from Snooks Eaglin and Sammy Myers.
So many good tunes are included in this set that it’s a no-brainer to highly recommend it. Add in a nicely illustrated booklet with recording dates (when available) and notes by Neil Slaven, and that’s just icing on the cake. Final recommendation point: it can be found for under $15 at Amazon associated sellers, an incredible value.
Reviewed by Tom Fine
Review Genre(s): Blues