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-   -   Give me a blues primer. (https://forum.dvdtalk.com/music-talk/380513-give-me-blues-primer.html)

Tommy Ceez 08-17-04 02:10 PM

Give me a blues primer.
I love the blues, yet know nothing about it...my exposure is limited to Jimi Hendrix Blues and some modern blues rock acts. That and whoever's playing when I go to Terra Blues in the village.

What are the essential artists/albums to kick off my long delayed quest to true blues afficianato status?

Also a rundown on the different styles and thier best examples would be appreciated.

Brain Stew 08-17-04 02:34 PM

Chicago Blue is IMO the essential blues as it was the basis of many of the rock bands in the 60s (Stones, Cream, etc.)

The premiere blues label was Chess. At Chess, there were two VERY notable performers: Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters. IMO, these two are the Miles Davis and John Coltrane of blues.

Tommy Ceez 08-17-04 04:11 PM

Anything I can find with MW and HW or are thier specific watershead albums?

C_Fletch 08-17-04 06:07 PM

I'd recommend Muddy "Mississippi" Waters - Live off of Epic records released in 2003.

I'd also recommend Eric Clapton - Blues - that's the name of the CD. Great all around.

Stevie Ray Vaughn - great texas blues leaning towards blues rock. He's excellent!!!

BB King - Dueces Wild is a great CD with other artists. Don't know which CD to start with there?

Johnnie Johnson - By far on of the best blues piano. Johnnie B. Bad is the best CD.

John Lee Hooker - old school blues.

Essential Blues CDs have a compilation of different artists if you just want to get a feel for the different artists.

Hope that helps :)


WillieTheShakes 08-17-04 09:10 PM

For Muddy and Wolf, you can't go wrong with the Chess "The Real Folk Blues" albums. For Muddy, you should also get The Plantation Recordings, Hard Again and Folk Singer.
Willie Dixon's I Am The Blues is essential.
And you must, MUST have the Robert Johnson tracks - spring for the two cd Complete Recordings.

Gil Jawetz 08-17-04 09:26 PM

Originally posted by Brain Stew
[B]Chicago Blue is IMO the essential blues as it was the basis of many of the rock bands in the 60s (Stones, Cream, etc.)
I find Chicago blues watered down compared to Delta blues. Robert Johnson, Son House, Charley Patton, Memphis Minnie, Sonny Terry, Honeyboy Edwards... I don't know if they all fall exaclty into the delta region, but that extra raw sound is the best. Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf bridged the gap the best. And Leadbelly did a weird blue/folk mix that's really amazing.

Tommy Ceez 08-18-04 12:48 AM

Also, how many of these older recordings are up to current standards, and how many sound really old?

King Jaspo 08-18-04 09:47 AM

John Lee Hooker - Live At The Cafe Au Go-Go (And Soledad Prison)

Gil Jawetz 08-18-04 10:16 AM

Originally posted by Tommy Ceez
Also, how many of these older recordings are up to current standards, and how many sound really old?
What standards? With blues you don't go for some technical standard of fidelity. A field recording or a delta blues recording in some hotel room will not sound like Rush. But the sound quality and the performance blend together.

The starting point for most of the influence of the blues is Robert Johnson. Get King of the Delta Blues, which can be got cheap. And read up on his legend. That's archetypal stuff. Then move on from there.

Randy Miller III 08-18-04 10:51 AM

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. ;)

Lokimok 08-18-04 02:14 PM

Most of the best blues is not album-oriented -the recordings predate the lp- so the majority of the cds you'll buy will probably be collections of singles or maybe even previously unissued recordings.

I think the best place to start is Muddy Waters. He's easily 1 of the top 5 bluesmen & also very accessible. I think Chess has put out single, double, & 3 disc Best Of collections. Depending on how much you want to spend, any of these would be excellent. These recordings are from the late 40s to the late 60s or maybe early 70s. If you want something a bit more modern, the 1977 Hard Again album is the best of his later work with a killer version of Mannish Boy. I first heard that song on the Risky Business soundtrack & it's also been used recently in a commercial or 2.

Once you've heard Muddy, you can go backwards & check out older acoustic blues like Robert Johnson, Son House, Leadbelly, Mississippi John Hurt; or sideways & check out Muddy's contemporaries like Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Mississippi Fred McDowell; or forward with Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal, etc.

You might have to adjust your ears some when you listen to some of the early stuff. There are plenty of modern recordings with excellent sound. They are technically good, but they just don't have the feel.

Tommy Ceez 08-18-04 02:32 PM

I also should mention that I tend to enjoy guitar work, longer the solos the better...piano and harmonica/horns are a step down for me...basically just like the Jimi Hendrix album....

...but thanks for all the suggestions, Im gonna check them out, AND KEEP EM COMING!

Anyone current that I should look out for live here in NYC?

Gil Jawetz 08-18-04 02:37 PM

If it's guitar work that you love then Chicago blues might be more to you taste than delta blues, but check out both. And for guitar solos immediately familiarize yourself with BB King. He's the McDonald's of the blues, but that shouldn't take away from his finest work, which is incredible. And don't forget that he plays his own Times Square club at least once a year. He won't be around much longer! I've seen him twice, some years ago, and he was brilliant both times.

Nick Danger 08-18-04 03:43 PM

For Chicago blues, start with the Chess Willie Dixon box set. He wrote for most of the Chess artists, so you can hear the greatest. It has Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Milton, and Koko Taylor. It also makes crystal clear the originality of early Led Zepplin. :p

Key artists are Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Son House, and Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller). You won't hear a lot of long guitar solos in the blues. A lot of the old recording technologies ran out of recording media at 3 minutes. I understand what you mean about horn sections, but don't shortchange harmonica players.

Lokimok 08-18-04 04:11 PM

For more modern sounding electric guitar, try Buddy Guy & Albert Collins. If you like Eric Clapton, try Albert King. Unfortunately, I don't really know any of these guys well enough to recommend albums.

If you want to go back further, try T-Bone Walker & Elmore James.

A good thing to do is take the modern albums you like, look up which songs are covers, & find out who did the originals. Another is to go to www.allmusic.com or a similar site & look up someone you like & find out who influenced them or who they say has a similar style.

I'd think that Buddy Guy & John Hammond would both be amazing live if they come around.

db27 08-18-04 10:16 PM

I like....

SRV (best guitar player ever)
Corey Harris (deltaish blues)
BB King (classic less is more guitarist, awesome)
John Lee Hooker (fun groove)
Taj Mahal (chill)
Kenny Wayne Sheperd (wants to be SRV, is good but can never be SRV)
Jonny Lang (killer player, even better singer)

Mr. M 08-19-04 12:16 AM

My take on the essential bluesmen:

Robert Johnson
Charley Patton
Son House
Bukka White
Sonny Boy Williamson
Howlin' Wolf
Muddy Waters
Willie Dixon
John Lee Hooker
BB King
Buddy Guy
Jimi Hendrix
Eric Clapton

As Lokimok said, you'll be better served starting out with compilations rather than albums. I'd recommend the John Lee Hooker Ultimate Collection and Chess Boxes for both Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. Blues Classics '27 to '69 is an outstanding 3 disc slice of blues.

WillieTheShakes 08-19-04 02:43 PM

Originally posted by Tommy Ceez
Also, how many of these older recordings are up to current standards, and how many sound really old?
Production standards?
The latest Clapton (Me and Mr Johnson) is one of the best-produced blues albums ever. Perhaps not coincidentally, it sucks donkey-dicks -- completely devoid of authentic emotion, sterile and dead.
Listen to the original Johnson tracks, in all of their digitally-transferrred 78 rpm glory and they'll scare the hell out of you, and break your heart.
It's not about how it sounds -- it's about how it feels.

nodeerforamonth 08-19-04 03:10 PM

"The blues isn't about feeling better. It's about making other people feel worse and making a few bucks while you're at it." -- Bleeding Gums Murphy

Tommy Ceez 08-19-04 03:37 PM

I see alot of Chicago and Delta represented...who are the reps. of the other sub-catagories and how would you describe the different sounds?

Nick Danger 08-19-04 07:48 PM

British Blues: John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, early Cream
Electric Blues: BB King, Little Milton, SRV, Buddy Guy
Blues rock: you already know them

There are other categories, but I'm drawing a blank right now. They all descend from the two main sources of Delta and Chicago blues.

Gil Jawetz 08-19-04 08:10 PM

Chicago is the baby of Delta. It sprang up when the sharecroppers and transients who had travelled the Delta playing juke joints started flooding up to Chicago. Access to nightclubs and electricity helped them create Chicago blues. But Delta blues, which sprang from negro spirituals, slave songs and African chants, is the original. On a side note, during slavery when the masters saw the slaves singing while they worked they often thought that they sang because they were happy. But they actually sang to make themselves happy, a sort of spiritual therapy session. That's what the blues came from.

If you can find it, the published screenplay "Love In Vain" is really amazing. It's the Robert Johnson story, although it hasn't been produced. But it's a great read. The blues is a tremendously rich and deep subject. That's why I cringe when people talk about Mayall and Clapton. Those guys ain't the blues and they'd be the first ones to tell you that.

Nick Danger 08-19-04 09:15 PM

Cringeworthy: I recently heard a cover of Hellhound on My Trail. Middle class kids who've never missed a meal singing about the bad things in life. It really bothered me.

However, does this mean that only the hard, old blues qualify? Son House sang about his world. Does "Oreo Cookie Blues" not make the cut because it's about diabetes instead of trains?

Gil Jawetz 08-20-04 10:10 AM

Well, we're talking about personal taste. I haven't heard Oreo Cookie Blues but would sure give it a shot (I'm hunting for a sample of it right now.) But I dare you to find a more emotionally haunting and raw blues than Son House's "Death Letter Blues."

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