various artists,
Blues for a Rotten Afternoon
(Telarc, 2000)

Not since the Blues Brothers soundtrack has there been a more complete collection of the blues -- Chicago/Detroit-style blues, to be more precise. This CD was created as "parody" of the best-selling jazz compilation, appropriately titled Jazz for a Rainy Afternoon, although you won't find much humor on this collection.

Telarc dipped into its archives and pulled together some of the best blues tracks available. While this CD only gives us a single look at some of the great talent Telarc's artists have, it serves as a great introduction to some great blues.

They start the ball rolling with the great Junior Wells and "Why are People Like That" -- it's the epitome of what the blues should be, with great lyrics, a catchy beat and some sweet harmonica. The tempo gets taken up a notch with the jaunty "Credit Card Blues" by Terry Evans, just in time for the Christmas season to roll around. You get a glimpse at the old-time burlesque lounge singer style with the sultry Maria Muldaur singing about "Misery and the Blues." Try some classic blues guitar with the appropriately named Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson on "So Mean to Me." Then take a trip back in time and remember what funky James Brown-style blues sounded like with the Debbie Davies-Kenny Neal duet, "Money." I could go on about all the different styles you'll hear on this album, but suffice to say you'll get a true blues education.

Telarc did a great job digitally working with the songs on this CD -- they sound crisp and clean, and no part ever overpowers the accompanying artists. The drums hit hard, the guitars are smooth, and the harmonicas and pianos are a joy. And while the model on the cover of the CD looks like her outfit was painted on (I had a number of co-workers stop in their tracks and ask "Who is that, and where can I get her number!?") -- you have to admit it catches your attention enough to pick up the CD and possibly throw down some dollars for it.

This CD is the blues to a T -- it's not a morose, slow, painful examination of your problems, but a true celebration in the dark places of the soul. You would think the artists were almost happy to be broke, treated poorly, cheated on and drunk out of their minds. You'll find yourself tapping your feet and snapping your fingers, and that bad day you were having just doesn't seem so rough anymore. The various styles assure that everyone will find at least one or two songs pleasing to the most discriminating ear, and it's a great introductory CD for someone wanting to immerse themselves in the blues. I would definitely rate this album a must-buy. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a phone number to look up.

[ by Timothy Keene ]

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