Rhythm & Blues has become one of the most identifiable musical art-forms of the 20th Century, with an enormous influence on the development of both the sound and attitude of modern music. The History of Rhythm and Blues series of CDs investigates the accidental synthesis of jazz, gospel, blues, ragtime, latin, country, and pop into a definable form of black music, which in turn would influence pretty well all popular music from the 1950s to the present.
This condensed single disc version of the 4CD box set contains 25 of the most representative tracks with an analysis of relevant stylistic and musical innovations. It is the first attempt to chronicle from a historical perspective, the rise of Rhythm & Blues by showcasing its most important and influential records.
The end of the 19th century was a period of major social upheaval for the black population of the southern states. One of the initial by-products of the abolition of slavery was a huge number of itinerant workers. Musicians who had previously been maintained on plantations were no longer required. Furthermore, the restrictions brought about by the introduction of segregation in 1896 and the ensuing Jim Crow laws, indirectly led to a cultural revolution within Afro-American society. New forms of music all arose at this time: spirituals, ragtime, barrelhouse, jazz, black ballad form. Over the years, these distinctive sounds would come to merge into a recognisably new musical style.
From its humble rural beginnings in the early 1900s as a method of self-expression in the southern states, the blues gradually became a form of public entertainment, initially for workers and drinkers, in lumber camps, informal picnics, barbeques and juke joints, picking up dance rhythms along the way. The blues, originally a slow dance, only evolved into the form we know today after the introduction of sound recording - the first blues record, Mamie Smith’s Crazy Blues, was released in 1921.
Between 1910 and 1970, nearly five million African Americans left the South, looking for higher wages and a better life. The route they took was determined largely by the price of the cheapest rail ticket. Chicago was the favoured destination from Mississippi, while those from the Eastern Seaboard left for New York. Attracted by the expansion of industrial production during and after World War II, they moved to California from Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. It was the move to the city, which brought the increase in popularity for the blues, and it was the technology of sound recording, which helped define its structure. Wider dissemination came with the development of radio and the jukebox, but also through touring bands playing dance halls and ballrooms.
These dramatic social and economic upheavals were reflected in a new musical style that became recognisable both in terms of sound and marketing. Old songs were turned into new. Cow Cow Blues mutated into Ray Charles’ Mess Around. Little Richard appropriated Keep a Knockin’ from an old hillbilly tune via Louis Jordan. A new form of commercial dance music was born from these many disparate sources, few of which survived in its original form. This disc takes the story up to the eve of the American entry into the Second World War. It will appeal to anyone interested in the evolution of the blues, or simply curious as to how the sounds of today continue to be shaped and forged by the aural fusions and experiments of the early decades of the C20th.
'This exhilarating compilation …is a distillation of a four-CD set; as such, it’s an exceptionally strong collection, each of the 25 tracks a discovery, a joy. The liner notes are worth the price in themselves: Well-written and entertaining, they detail not only the history of each artist, but the context of each song…The most recent song on the album was recorded more than 65 years ago, but this is no dusty exercise in musicology. This is creative, vibrant music. Even today, it quickens the pulse. M.D.Spenser
Anyone looking for a great sampler to hear some of the classic early rhythm and blues could do worse than to check out this 25-track release…As an introduction to early blues and more this compilation takes some beating – and to anyone doing research or a historian – I would imagine pretty essential, well done to compiler, Nick Duckett and to all concerned. GRAHAME RHODES
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1. My Soul Is A Witness, Austin Coleman, 1934
2. It's Nobody's Fault But Mine, Blind Willie Johnson, 1927
3. Train Whistle Blues, Jimmie Rodgers, 1928
4. Roll And Tumble Blues , Hambone Willie Newbern, 1929
5. Backwater Blues, Bessie Smith, 1927
6. Cow Cow Blues, Cow Cow Davenport, 1928
7. Sweet Miss Stella Blues, Rufus & Ben Quillian , 1929
8. Minnie The Moocher, Cab Calloway & His Orchestra, 1931
9. Midnight Hour Blues, Leroy Carr, 1932
10. Press My Button , Lil Johnson, 1936
11. Teasin' Brown Blues, Louie Lasky, 1935
12. Lead Pencil Blues, Johnnie Temple, 1935
13. Holy Mountain, Elder Otis Jones, 1936
14. Preachin' Blues , Robert Johnson, 1936
15. Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, 1937
16. Don't You Lie To Me, Tampa Red, 1940
17. Rockin' Chair Blues, Big Bill Broonzy, 1940
18. Mean Ol' Frisco, Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, 1942
19. Ain't No Business We Can Do, Doctor Clayton , 1942
20. Boogie-Woogie, Count Basie , 1936
21. Roll'em Pete, Big Joe Turner & Pete Johnson, 1938
22. I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water, The Cats & The Fiddle, 1939
23. Confessin' The Blues, Jay McShann, 1941
24. Flying Home, Lionel Hampton Orchestra, 1942
25. Mean Old World, T-Bone Walker, 1942
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