Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of the late Koko Taylor holding forth righteously on I ‘m A Woman.
Alligator Records : 40th Anniversary Collection, 2 CD set, various artists, Alligator Records, 2011
My old friend from the 1960s great American hitchhike highway, Peter Paul Markin (then consciously carrying the moniker of Be-Bop Benny), really was the first person who tuned me into the world of blues, old time country blues (driven by the Saturday juke joints), and the later post-World War II electrification of the blues as blacks headed north to the cities- and electricity. He got me, a small city Maine boy, hip to the likes of Son House, Skip James, Bessie Smith, Memphis Minnie, Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf. All unabashedly raw talent, and all out front down deep blues, country or city.
Of course that was over forty years ago and almost all of those who he hipped me too have now passed on, although not their musical influence and that is what brings me to this review, Alligator Records: 40th Anniversary Collection 2 CD set. Since the blues are still very much with us, although that genre, like rock and roll, has it up and down periods of popularity it is necessary to take a peek at who has carried on the traditions that Be-Bop Benny started me out on when we travelled those West Coast highways seeking the great American West night.
And that is where the Alligator Record label comes in. In earlier times certain record companies were known, and well-known, for certain kinds of music. Chess Record sin Chicago comes readily to for electric blues. As does Sun Records for early rock (and rockabilly). And Vanguard Records for folk stuff. Well Alligator has filled a certain niche for those who wished to carry on the electric blues tradition and this 38 performance collection set is testimony to those efforts for the last forty –something years.
While they may have recoded for other recoding companies or had other label arrangements (not uncommon in the helter-skelter world of record production) the artists list here constitute something of “who’s who” of post-1960s electric blues. A small roll call of names like Koko Taylor, Albert Collins, Guitar Shorty, Marcia Ball, Son Seal, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Johnny Winter, Lonnie Brooks, Hound Dog Taylor, James Cotton and the rest make my case. The only question that I have is who will produce the next generation of blues material? Alligator Records efforts here are the new benchmark.