VA - Electric Blues 1939-2005 - 12CD-BOX 2011

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Blues historian and musicologist, Bill Dahl from Chicago, has produced the most comprehensive history of electric blues ... ever! With nearly 300 tracks, Bear Family Records is telling the story from the beginning into the new millennium. In the 1930s, the invention of Gibson's ES-150 - the first electric guitar - changed popular music forever. The first generation of blues pioneers played acoustic instruments, but with the invention of amplification, guitar and harmonica players could be heard over the piano, drums and horns. Music was revolutionized!

The 12 generously full CDs are in four sets of three CDs in elegant digipaks. On more than 650 pages in four lavishly illustrated booklets, Bill Dahl writes authoritatively about the history of electric blues, and how it influenced rock music during the 1960s and beyond. Here's the complete story from jazz-inspired jump numbers in the late 1930s to hard-driving blues/rock from the States and Great Britain in the 1960s, '70s, and beyond. The journey closes with today's contemporary blues. This is it! Truly definitive! Done as only Bear Family can do it! (

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VA - Electric Blues 1939-2005
(12CD Bear Family 2011)

VA - Electric Blues 1939-2005  Part 1- Beginnings 1939-1954 (Disc 1-3)
VA - Electric Blues 1939-2005  Part 2- 1954-1967 (Disc 4-6)
VA - Electric Blues 1939-2005  Part 3- 1960-1969 (Disc 7-9)
VA - Electric Blues 1939-2005  Part 4- 1970-2005 (Disc 10-12)

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Part one takes us from the beginnings in 1939 through 1954. The honor of the first example of electric blues guitar on record goes to Andy Kirk and His Twelve Clouds of Joy for Floyd Guitar Blues, recorded March 16, 1939 (Decca 2483). Close on their heels was T-Bone Walker, universally considered the father of electric blues, with his Mean Old World from July 1942. Over the course of this volume are more examples from Johnny Moores Three Blazers, Louis Jordan, Lightnin Hopkins, Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin Wolf and many other luminaries, as well as regional phenoms such as Louisianas Bon Ton Clarence Garlow, and blues women including Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Big Mama Thornton, and Memphis Minnie.  For many blues enthusiasts, or those eager to learn about the roots of electric blues and rock, this volume will likely be a favorite.

Part two, featuring post-war recordings from 1954-1967, covers an era when blues had become electric, loud, and in-your-face while lonesome southern bluesmen stroking acoustic axes were a dying breed.  This era also saw the rise in manufacturing of electric guitars, the amplification of harmonicas, and of course the dominance of rock n roll.  Dahl refers to this period as the golden age, with blues recordings emanating from all corners of the country.  Major figures included in this set are B.B. King, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Sonny Boy Williamson, Jackie Brenston, Hank Ballard, Jimmy Reed, Little Milton, Earl Hooker, Memphis Slim, Ike Turner, Albert Collins, plus many more.

Part three covers 1960-1969, notable for the concept of the blues guitar hero and the emergence of a new generation of bluesmen and women, including British groups who pioneered a new form of blues-rock.  Dahl attempts to showcase that tumultuous decades electric blues highlights over the course of the next three CDs in the series. Featured musicians on the first two discs include Buddy Guy, Freddie King, Junior Wells, Elmore James, Aretha Franklin, Mable John, Etta James, Koko Taylor, Albert King and Taj Mahal, while disc three is devoted to blues-rock with Johnny Winter, The Animals, Fleetwood Mac, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, among others.

Part four features recordings from 1970-2005. According to Dahl, blues music was at a crossroads by 1970, a victim of the natural ebb and flow of musical tastes.  Likewise, out of the four volumes, this one is the most likely to cause enthusiasts to quibble over the content.  The first two discs span the 1970s, beginning with Ted Taylor, Al Green, B.B. King, Otis Rush, and Hound Dog Taylor, and slowly branching out to explore various permutations of folk-blues, blues-rock, and R&B through artists such as Ann Peebles, Denise LaSalle, Syl Johnson, Betty Lavette, ZZ Top, and Bonnie Rait. The final disc covers the 80s and early 90s through performers such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lonnie Brooks, Robert Cray and Buddy Guy. The final track fast forwards to a 2005 recording by Nick Moss, who Dahl hails as a savior of traditional Chicago blues, fully conversant on guitar, harmonica and bass, and capable of changing up his sound at regular intervals to keep things interesting, and to keep the blues alive for another generation.

This set is highly recommended for college and conservatory libraries, and would serve as a fine resource for courses on the blues.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss (
VA - Electric Blues 1939-2005 - 12CD-BOX 2011/Scans/VA - Electric Blues 1939-2005 - CD1-CD3 - back.jpg 1.466 MB
VA - Electric Blues 1939-2005 - 12CD-BOX 2011/Scans/VA - Electric Blues 1939-2005 - CD1-CD3 - booklet.pdf 40.356 MB
VA - Electric Blues 1939-2005 - 12CD-BOX 2011/Scans/VA - Electric Blues 1939-2005 - CD1-CD3 - front.jpg 58.275 KB
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