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Today a guy can go into a studio and make a record, just any guy. Today you are judged by your records. You make a record overnight. A guy makes a record and overnight he's a big recording star and you can't say anything to him. And most of the time he can't even carry his instrument - Sam Price, to Paul Oliver, 1960

Author Topic: Penguin Guide To Blues Recordings  (Read 7136 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Penguin Guide To Blues Recordings
« on: April 26, 2006, 09:58:04 AM »
Given the authors some may regard this as an essential, if expensive, purchase. ::)
There are 752 pages of it, though http://tinyurl.com/ckeoh

Offline uncle bud

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Penguin Guide To Blues Recordings
« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2006, 12:18:58 PM »
Not very expensive, at least at Amazon.ca. They have a slightly different page count as well at 1008 pages, also a later release date (August). I look forward to seeing this.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Penguin Guide To Blues Recordings
« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2006, 01:44:44 PM »
This monster volume arrived today from Amazon UK (?14+postage) published price ?30/$30/$39Can. 925pps. Compiled and annotated by Tony Russell and Chris Smith. I've only had a chance to skim read selected entries and those I have seem to be informative and intelligently written with candour and, at times, tongue-in-cheek humour. These guys obviously did one hell of a lot of listening and it shows in what they have to say. The writer of each topic/entry is identified. Apparently it won't be available USA/Canada until October. Here's the contents page:

Musicians A-Z p1-735
 
Compilations
Alabama 
Basic Blues 
Boogie Woogie 
Chicago I (Prewar) 
Chicago II (Postwar) 
Concerts & Festivals 
Detroit 
Downhome 
East Coast 
Field Recordings 
Guitar 
Harmonica 
Hillbilly Blues 
Humour & Erotica 
Jugbands 
Label Histories & Showcases 
Louisiana 
Mandolin 
Memphis 
Miscellaneous I (Prewar) 
Miscellaneous II (Postwar) 
Mississippi 
New Orleans 
New York 
Piano 
Roots 
Slide Guitar 
St Louis 
Stringbands 
Texas
Topical & Documentary 
Tributes & Songbooks
West Coast
Women
Zydeco

There are many artsts entries that I'll never refer to - Eric Clapton, Johnny Winter, Walter Trout - but that's my problem not the compilers.
 ;D

Offline Stuart

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Re: Penguin Guide To Blues Recordings
« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2006, 04:49:12 PM »
For those of us stateside, here's the link to the Amazon.com page:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0140513841/ref=nosim/002-0357355-5527247?n=283155

Added by Uncle Bud: "And if you go through the Juke links to Amazon, Weenie gets a small cut.

http://www.weeniecampbell.com/juke

Links available for US, UK, and Canada."
« Last Edit: July 26, 2006, 07:14:33 PM by Stuart »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Penguin Guide To Blues Recordings
« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2006, 07:00:09 PM »
And if you go through the Juke links to Amazon, Weenie gets a small cut.

http://www.weeniecampbell.com/juke

Links available for US, UK, and Canada.

Looking forward to this. It looks great.

Offline dave stott

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Re: Penguin Guide To Blues Recordings
« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2006, 04:47:55 AM »
hi,

I have used the amazon.com link to purchase CD's, by clicking on the "buy" option next to a CD on weenie campbell.

I am confused as to how to use the link to order a book...


Dave

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Penguin Guide To Blues Recordings
« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2006, 09:50:14 AM »
I could probably get shot for this but I've extracted entries for two female singers who are great favouties of mine and virtually ignored by blues fans. IMHO I consider these entries as very well observed. Should anybody ask these didn't come via me......

Wee Bea Booze (1920-75)
VOCAL, GUITAR
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Muriel Nicholls was born in Baltimore and began to make her name in Harlem and on record in the early '40s. She toured extensively in the '40s, often billed as 'The See See Rider Blues Girl' after her success with that song. She had left the business by the mid-'50s.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
**(*) Sammy Price & The Blues Singers - Vol. 2 (1939-1949)
Document DOCD-5668 Booze; Sam Price (p); Abe Bolar, unknown (b); Hal West, unknown (d). 3/42 3/44

Initially employed by Decca to cover the songs and style of Lil Green, who was then making a good deal of money for Bluebird, Booze came into her own with a couple of revivals of blues first recorded in the '20s, 'See See Rider Blues, first cut by Ma Rainey (and subsequently re-covered even more profitably by Chuck Willis), and 'Mr Freddie Blues'. A plain, straightforward singer with no hip mannerisms, she also played guitar and is presumed to do so on most of her recordings; the evidence is almost inaudible. Her ten tracks on this CD have a postscript on Female Blues: The Remaining Titles Vol. 2 (1938-1949) (RST Jazz Perspectives JPCD-1528). Of her three tides 'These Young Men Blues' and 'So Good' are with a Price-led trio while a 1946 remake of 'See See Rider' is with a quintet featuring electric guitarist Jimmy Shirley. Taking the song more briskly then she did in '42, Booze turns in an excellent swing vocal.

** Don't You Feel My Leg
Delmark DE-684 Booze; George Kelly (ts); Larry Johnson (o, p); Chris Power (b); Panama Francis (d). 5/50.

Booze has five tracks on this CD of blues women who recorded for Apollo. (The others are by Blu Lu Barker and Baby Dee.) She has moved away from her Lil Green style a little, but finds no opportunity to match the perkiness of her '46 'See See Rider' in these slow tunes with their sludgy organ playing. TR

Priscilla Stewart
VOCAL
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
All Stewart's recordings were made in Chicago, and most of them have piano by Jimmy Blythe. She co-wrote 'Delta Bottom Blues' with him, but it's not known whether 'I was born in Arkansas, raised in Memphis, Tennessee is autobiography
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
** (*) Priscilla Stewart (1924 1928)
Document DOCD-5476 Stewart; Tommy Ladnier, Shirley Clay (c); Jimmy O'Bryant (cl); Stump Evans (Cms); Jimmy Blythe, 1. H. Shayne, Lovie Austin, Clarence 'Jelly' Johnson, proh Myrtle Jenkins, prob. Tiny Parham (p); W E. Burton (d). c. 5/24-c.I2/28.

Stewart starts off well, her voice nasally sulky, her attitude hard-boiled and cynical. Blythe is splendid throughout, playing grumbling, propulsive bass figures and right-hand ornaments that are both tough and pretty. Most of the pianists who occasionally take his place maintain the standard, although Tiny Parham (if it is him on the last two tracks) is disconnected from the vocal line. The trouble is that Stewart doesn't maintain the consistently high quality of her earlier recordings. Sometimes the material is to blame, most obviously when she tries to sing sweet on the pop songs 'Someday, Sweetheart' and 'A Little Bit Closer' 'Charleston Mad' and 'Charleston, South Carolina' are uninspired, too, mostly because of Ladnier and O'Bryant's evident boredom. There are strong, swinging performances all through the disc, like 'Switch It Miss Mitchell' (another dance tune, with the Charleston mentioned in passing), 'Biscuit Roller' with Shirley Clay's imperious cornet, and two fine readings of J. H. Shayne's 'Mr. Freddie Blues'; but they shine an unforgiving light on the weaker efforts. CS

Offline dj

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Re: Penguin Guide To Blues Recordings
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2006, 10:17:11 AM »
Thanks for posting the Table of Contents and sample entries, BH.  I can't believe we here in the States have to wait 3 more months for this.  They probably have to hire someone to "dumb it down" for the Americas.   ;D

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Penguin Guide To Blues Recordings
« Reply #8 on: August 07, 2006, 08:50:37 AM »
hi,

I have used the amazon.com link to purchase CD's, by clicking on the "buy" option next to a CD on weenie campbell.

I am confused as to how to use the link to order a book...


Just visiting Amazon through one of the Weenie links (the Buy or Search options) is all you need to do. Proceed as per usual. Shopping cart contents remain Weenie friendly for a day I think.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Penguin Guide To Blues Recordings
« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2006, 11:40:56 PM »
As a reminder that this is due for publication Stateside this month here's a "review" from latest Roots & Rhythm newsletter

PENGUIN GUIDE TO BLUES RECORDS by Tony Russell & Chris Smith with Others
Penguin Books   $29.95
923 tracks, paperback, essential
Counts as 14 CDs for shipping
Due end of month. The most comprehensive guide yet to available blues recordings compiled by two of Britain's leading blues scholars Tony Russell & Chris Smith with the assistance of Neil Slaven, Ricky Russell and Joe Faulkner. More than 1000 blues artists are covered with brief biographies, reviews of their releases with personnel, dates and a critical evaluation from one star (negligible) to a crown for a truly exceptional release. There is also an extensive section of hundreds of compilations organized by style or region. Altogether, more than 6,000 blues CDs are covered - and almost all of them are available from Roots & Rhythm - except for those that may have gone out of print since this book went to the printer. There is also an extensive and invaluable index to all performers mentioned in the text. Even if you don't plan on buying any blues CDs the breadth of the information presented almost puts this book into the realm of an encyclopedia. I don't necessarily agree with all the reviews I have looked at but I am impressed with the even handedness which the authors bring to the table - most of them have been listening to and studying the blues for more than 40 years and know the music inside out. This is not a hastily thrown together production - the authors have been working on this project for years and their diligence is evident throughout. It's possibly a little overwhelming for the beginning collector but for those who have some knowledge of the music it will be indispensable. (FS)

Offline jharris

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Re: Penguin Guide To Blues Recordings
« Reply #10 on: October 17, 2006, 06:17:09 PM »
I received an advance copy two weeks ago and would certainly reccomend this behemoth. As 'Roots & Rhythm' says, this may be a bit daunting for the more casual listener. The quality of the writing is exceptionally high, often quite humorous, keenly insightful, unafraid to make bold assertions and backed by decades of serious research by the main writers. I disagree with many of the reviews - part of the fun in a book like this - but I do respect their opinions as they have obviously done a staggering amount of serious listening. They are particularly good on covering pre-war blues, especially the more obscure artists, and the Document catalog is well covered. I do wish they had at least consistently listed out of print records (they occasionally do make mention) as this book will undoubtedly attract collectors who will be searching for just those sort of items. I suppose this is unrealistic as the book is already 900+ pages!

-Jeff H

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Penguin Guide To Blues Recordings
« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2006, 11:36:18 AM »
Jeff, Charlie Gillett may have come up with a sort of solution (copied from his Sound Of The World Web Site):

You wake up one morning and you say to yourself, 'today?s the day I?m going to get myself an album by one of them Johnsons.'

So you go down to HMV and you whistle softly, 'Lawdy, Miss Clawdy, how many blues singers called Johnson were there? Do I want Lonnie, Robert, Tommy or Blind Willie? And if I can figure out which one to go for, how do I decide which of his reissues is the best? '

Well here?s the book that should provide the answer to your question.

The format is to present all the currently available CDs of every blues singer from the earliest to the most recent, rate them with stars, and recommend the best.

Tony Russell is one of the world?s most knowledgeable writers about the blues, with a knack for pithy comments that invariably nail his subject to the wall. His cohorts are well qualified too.

My main problem with the book is that there are too many albums listed that are not really worth investigating, since we are told that they duplicate selections on other recommended albums. So we wade knee deep through dismissals of albums that we should avoid, and after a while the experience feels both daunting and exhausting.

I wonder if they could be persuaded to do an edited version, which would simply list a few of the very best albums by each singer. Everything else could be parked somewhere on an associated website, with deletions and new releases noted as they arise.

As it is, this is a heavy tome to take with you as you prowl those shelves at HMV. But there is nothing else like it, and I?m sure it will quickly establish itself as the bible of the blues.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Penguin Guide To Blues Recordings
« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2006, 12:45:29 PM »
Bunker Hill cites an obviously deranged person:

I wonder if they could be persuaded to do an edited version, which would simply list a few of the very best albums by each singer. Everything else could be parked somewhere on an associated website, with deletions and new releases noted as they arise.

As it is, this is a heavy tome to take with you as you prowl those shelves at HMV. But there is nothing else like it, and I?m sure it will quickly establish itself as the bible of the blues.

Bigger is definitely better in these cases! What do they want, a podcast version?  :P The Penguin classical guides were huge too (hell, even the updates were the size of Bleak House).  Looking forward to picking this up after hearing all these details.

The Guide is already available in Canada (we get British editions usually), so Northern Weenies have no excuse.

Mike Moran

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Re: Penguin Guide To Blues Recordings
« Reply #13 on: October 22, 2006, 06:16:21 AM »
I pre-ordered my copy.   

I have wanted to buy "Blues & gospel records, 1890-1943" by  Godrich & Dixon, but I can't justify spending over $130 on a book, however valuable.   I missed an e-bay auction where a UK used copy sold for about $30.   I will continue to keep my eye out for a reasonable Blues & Gospel copy.   In the meantime the Penguin reference will have to do.

Enjoy,
Mike

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Penguin Guide To Blues Recordings
« Reply #14 on: January 09, 2007, 09:19:48 AM »
I finally got around to picking this up (was putting it off, thinking surely Santa would bring it, but I didn't make his Nice list apparently). I'm glad I waited until after Xmas or I would have blown my shopping budget buying CDs for myself.

I'll add to the kudos already posted and say that it's hard to imagine all the work that went into this tome. As someone who has written the occasional CD review, the prospect of filling close to 1000 pages with thoughtful, detailed analysis of thousands of CDs would drive me to drink. I can only assume this has been years in the making. How else could they get the thing done and not end up in the hospital or Betty Ford Clinic?

As others note, prewar material is generously covered. There is no reason to worry that you'll be plodding through pages of SRV et al just to find the country blues nuggets. This is pretty comprehensive coverage, with the exception of material not in print (which means, for example, that the wonderful Pete Lowry material on Trix is not covered).

If you got into a tug of war with another blues fanatic over this book and came away with only the Compilations section, you'd still have one of the most valuable references around. This section is fascinating (see Bunker Hill's contents page above for the categories covered, from instruments to regional material to label collections etc) and will no doubt be doing some damage to my wallet soon enough. The section on Field Recordings, for example, provides an invaluable tour through what can be a bit of a minefield, IMO, given the complete obscurity of many of the performers on these collections. Again, huge consideration is given in this Compilations section to prewar and "non-electric" blues, to the point where it makes up the majority of the section I'd venture to guess. Another aspect of this book that will be of particular interest to me is the listings for the many prewar women singers I've only started to explore. It's great to be able to read about Lil Johnson or Hattie Burleson material on CD, or sort out which Bessie Smith discs to purchase. It's also tremendous to have comments on the quality of remastering throughout, with some surprises (e.g., Document coming out ahead at times).

Throughout the book, there are a limited number of CDs marked with a crown symbol, indicating an exceptional record. This is not necessarily meant to create a kind of blues basics/essentials list, though can certainly serve as such -- it's quirkier than that, and there's an entire evening's entertainment in poking through and seeing some of the choices that merit a crown (Frank Hovington's Gone With the Wind, for example).

I was surprised at the number of revivalists and contemporary country blues artists covered -- not an enormous number, but most of them. The authors tend to cast a stern eye on these records, and while I'd disagree with a number of their assessments, they are not merely dismissive and have clearly listened to everything carefully and with a mostly discerning ear, weighing all newcomers against the standards set throughout blues history. A fair, hardline approach.

While the book purports to cover only material that is in print, there are a number of CDs cited throughout that to my knowledge have been out of print for quite awhile now. Many of the old Yazoo compilations are discussed, for instance, and I can only guess that, while they are in fact out of print, they are still available on the market somewhere until stock runs out everywhere. It's worthwhile having these in there anyway, since they are always good starting points for discussion, IMO, and I'd have argued for including more deleted but classic titles. (In fact, an entire section of classic, out-of-print material would have been hugely interesting, but obviously a pipe dream.) Likewise, there are a number of Catfish CDs referred to that I'm not certain are available anymore either.

As noted in previous posts, the book also serves to a certain degree as a kind of poor man's Dixon and Godrich, by including recording dates and personnel. There are also brief but eminently readable biographies for every artist, often managing to fit in obscure details (who knew that Frankie Jaxon worked at the Pentagon in 1941).

As Jeff said, one may not agree with all of the reviews, but there's enormous fun in that as well.

At $30 US, $39 Canadian, you should have no fear buying this book, unless you are in the UK and paying full price (the UK price on my copy is ?30! What's with that?). Do look for the older and thinner but excellent New Blackwell Guide to Recorded Blues by John Cowley and Paul Oliver (out-of-print?), which makes a tremendous complementary guide. 

« Last Edit: January 09, 2007, 09:34:07 AM by uncle bud »

 


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