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Can anyone suggest me some good Blues albums?

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Thought I'd ask this here..

I'd like to get (or at least dip my feet) into 'classic' blues, preferably stuff from the 60s and before, the real deal. The thing is, I hate compilation albums unless they are of rare tracks that can't be found anywhere else..

So, can anyone suggest any good blues studio albums? And, can anyone suggest any compilations of really rare (like 20s-40s) Blues artist recordings that aren't available anywhere else?

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Robert Johnsons king of Delta Blues singers is indispensable

Why limit yourself only to studio albums? Blues artists seem to catch Fire on stage

Great albums:

-BB King live at the Regal

- Muddy Waters at Newport

These three are essential

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Try giving these a listen

T-Bone Walker - The Complete Imperial Recordings

Bukka White-The Complete Sessions 1930-1940

Champion Jack Dupree From New Orleans To Chicago

Jimmy Reed - Rockin' With Reed

Big Bill Broonzy - Mississippi River Blues

Sonny Boy Williamson - Clownin' With The World

Blind Boy Fuller - Heart Ease Blues

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Not already mentioned:

Howlin' Wolf - Moanin' in the Moonlight (His best but anything is good)

For blues guitar you simply can't beat Roy Buchanan. His first album was released in 1971 so he misses your criteria slightly but still worth checking out.

For your early (20s-40s) compilation go with The Complete Recordings of Robert Johnson.

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Let's start with the basic building blocks of any good blues collection. These are the essential blues albums that will give you a good start, a solid foundation upon which to further explore the blues. And when you say the "real deal", I go back way before the 60s.

1. Robert Johnson "King of the Delta Blues Singers"


Robert Johnson is mentioned so often and so reflexively on every blues list that it's sort of become a cliche. But cliches usually have an underpinning of truth about them...that's how they got popular to begin with. So it is with Robert Johnson. The reason he is mentioned by everyone and his mother is that he really was that good...and he was one of the first of the old blues guys to get recorded. Of course, some contrarian will soon pop in here to say he is overrated and blah, blah, blah. Just know this...he probably was an influence on every band and musician you like. Page, Clapton, Beck, the Stones, etc., etc. This is where you start your blues journey.

Now, there are several options available for Robert Johnson...the original vinyl album, the remastered and expanded CD release with bonus tracks. Or, you can go with the box set "The Complete Recordings", available in cd, cassette, or vinyl:


2. Leadbelly "The Definitive Leadbelly" box set


Another perennial when discussing Legends of the Blues, Leadbelly got a big boost with the younger generation when Nirvana covered his "In the Pines" aka "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" on their MTV Unplugged in New York performance. If a three disc box set is too much for you to start with, I suggest these more concise and cheaper alternatives: Smithsonian Folkways' "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?: Leadbelly Legacy Vol. 1" and Sony's "Leadbelly: King of the 12-string Guitar".

3. Howlin' Wolf "Howlin' Wolf/Moanin' in the Moonlight" and "Real Folk Blues/More Real Folk Blues"

He was a huge influence on Robert Plant, so enough said. A galvanizing force. Of course, if price is no object you will splurge on Hip-O Select's "SMOKESTACK LIGHTNING: The Complete Chess Masters 1951-1960", a wonderful 4-disc box set.

4. Bessie Smith "The Essential Bessie Smith"

Women get the blues, too, as Bessie righteously demonstrates on this tasty 2-disc introduction to her artistry. If this makes you hungry for more, you can further explore Sony's 5 Volume The Complete Recordings set.

5. Skip James "Vanguard Sessions: Blues from the Delta"; Yazoo's "The Complete Early Recordings"; and Vanguard's "Studio Sessions: Rare & Unreleased"


While Robert Johnson, Son House, Muddy Waters, Leadbelly and Howlin' Wolf get most of the attention, Skip James deserves to get his share, and is definitely one of my favourite blues singers. I find I listen to his albums more often than a lot of those other guys. Yes, I am recommending all three albums...they are all worth having, as they are each distinct in their own way. Once you listen to him, his voice will haunt your soul. His guitar playing was pretty good and unique, too.

6. Charley(or Charlie) Patton "The Definitive Charley Patton" Catfish UK box set

Another guy who gets lost in the shuffle and forgotten sometimes...yes, you need all three discs of this superlative box set put out by the UK's Catfish label.

7. Son House "FATHER OF THE DELTA BLUES: The Complete 1965 Sessions"

Forget the single disc version, go for Sony's 2-cd remaster. Son House is the real deal.

8. Blind Willie McTell "The Definitive Blind Willie McTell"

This Sony 2-disc set is a fine introduction to this 12-string master from Georgia. Like the Allman Brothers "Statesboro Blues"? This is the guy who wrote the song. Bob Dylan loved him so much he named a song after him.

9. John Lee Hooker "The Ultimate Collection 1948-1990"

Moving into the later years and the electric blues, this Rhino Records set is a winner with me for simply having one of the best renditions of the classic song "I Cover the Waterfront" I have ever heard.

10. Muddy Waters "Folk Singer" and "At Newport 1960"

If you're a Led Zeppelin fan, then you know about Muddy Waters...or at least, you should. Just about all the early stuff is essential, and these two albums are a great way to start. As a bonus, on "Folk Singer" Willie Dixon and a young Buddy Guy were part of his band. Of course, Muddy Waters is such a blues giant, that you really should splurge and get every volume of the Complete Chess Masters set.

There are plenty more blues artists to recommend...Mississippi John Hurt, Memphis Minnie & Kansas City Joe, Elmore James, Slim Harpo, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Buddy Guy, BB King, Sonny Boy Williamson, Bukka White, Otis Rush, Albert King, Lonnie Johnson, RL Burnside, and on and on...but I didn't want to overwhelm you with too much at once. In my humble opinion, the 10 artists I listed are the backbone of any great blues collection and will suffice on getting you started.

As for compilations of various blues artists, there are some good ones put out by Yazoo, the UK label Proper Box, and Smithsonian Folkways(who have access to the famous Alan Lomax field recordings). But there are two compilations that are ESSENTIAL, and I recommend getting them along with the albums I recommended above.

The first is Smithsonian Folkways "Anthology of American Folk Music", edited by Harry Smith.

Absolutely a must-have in anyone's music collection.

The second is RCA/Bluebird's "When the Sun Goes Down: The Secret History of Rock and Roll", an often stunning 10 (or more?) volume series that compiles some great and rare blues, gospel, country-blues, and more from the early 1900s. Each volume is a single disc and focused on an artist or theme. My favourite of the series might be Volume 6: "Poor Man's Heaven: Blues and Tales of the Great Depression".

Here is the track listing:

1. Eddie Cantor's Tips on the Stock Market - Eddie Cantor
2. A Tale of the Ticker - Frank Crumit
3. Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? - Leo Reisman And His Orchestra
4. Remember My Forgotten Man {Gold Diggers} - George Hall
5. It Must Be Swell - Alex Bartha And His Hotel Traymore Orchestra
6. Raisin' the Rent - Ramona & Roy Bargy
7. Sittin' on a Rubbish Can - Julia Gerity And Her Boys
8. Ten Cents a Dance {Simple Simon} - High Hatters
9. Poor Man's Heaven - Carson Robison & Bud Billings
10. The Rich Man and the Poor Man - Bob Miller
11. Hallelujah, I'm a Bum - Harry McClintock
12. All In, Down and Out Blues - Uncle Dave Macon
13. Taxes on the Farmer Feeds Them All - Fiddlin' John Carson
14. How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live? - Blind Alfred Reed
15. The Farmer Relief Song - Vernon Dalhart
16. Dusty Old Dust (So Long It's Been Good to Know Yuh) - Woody Guthrie
17. 35 Depression - Mississippi Sarah & Daddy Stovepipe
18. California Desert Blues - Lane Hardin
19. It's Hard Time - Joe Stone
20. President Roosevelt Is Everybody's Friend - Rev. J.M. Gates
21. CWA Blues - Joe Pullum
22. Jimmy Shut His Store Doors - Cedar Creek Sheik
23. Welfare Store Blues - Sonny Boy Williamson
24. Poor But Ambitious - Wilmoth Houdini

The Lane Hardin song was one I had never heard...in fact, I had never heard of Lane Hardin and it seems he only recorded one single. Too bad, as it's a killer and I wish he had recorded more.

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If the Delta country blues has a convenient source point, it would probably be Charley Patton, its first great star. His hoarse, impassioned singing style, fluid guitar playing, and unrelenting beat made him the original king of the Delta blues. Much more than your average itinerant musician, Patton was an acknowledged celebrity and a seminal influence on musicians throughout the Delta. Rather than bumming his way from town to town, Patton would be called up to play at plantation dances, juke joints, and the like. He'd pack them in like sardines everywhere he went, and the emotional sway he held over his audiences caused him to be tossed off of more than one plantation by the ownership, simply because workers would leave crops unattended to listen to him play any time he picked up a guitar. He epitomized the image of a '20s "sport" blues singer: rakish, raffish, easy to provoke, capable of downing massive quantities of food and liquor, a woman on each arm, with a flashy, expensive-looking guitar fitted with a strap and kept in a traveling case by his side, only to be opened up when there was money or good times involved. His records -- especially his first and biggest hit, "Pony Blues" -- could be heard on phonographs throughout the South. Although he was certainly not the first Delta bluesman to record, he quickly became one of the genre's most popular. By late-'20s Mississippi plantation standards, Charley Patton was a star, a genuine celebrity.

More here,scroll down for available albums:http://www.allmusic.com/artist/charley-patton-mn0000166058

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  • 3 weeks later...

Sweet Tea - Buddy Guy: Buddy Guy jams throughout this outing. His playing, jaming and riffs are similar to what Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix did. If any of you don't have this recording, I suggest you buy or download it ASAP.

Live At The Cafe Au Go-Go (Soledad Prison) - John Lee Hooker: Half the album is played in a low key manner, but when the Soledad Prison recording kicks on half way through, what John Lee Hooker plays with his band is hard and heavy - stunning! The song "What's The Matter Baby" alone is worth the price of admission.

Burnside On Burnside - R. L. Burnside: Recorded live in 2001, at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Oregon. I like my blues heavy and fast, with attitude. That is exactly what you'll get when you listen to this great live recording. Great slide guitar throughout. The drumming is supplied by Cedric Burnside - grandson of the blues great.

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