Saturday, December 7, 2013

Alligator Records - 40th Anniversary Collection

I recently visited Racer at the Ripple offices.  As I sat down in his office amongst the jewel cases, vinyl and the odd bobblehead or two, Racer excitedly exclaimed, "I think you hit the mother lode," and handed me a cardboard shipping box the size of a nice bottle of wine.

He was right. Inside was an amazing variety of CDs by, and DVDs about, some of the best blues players to ever walk this Earth, an Alligator Records Mail Order Catalog, and a Men’s medium Alligator Records logo T-shirt.  Alligator Records has been releasing the best of the best in blues since 1971, about a year after Bruce Iglauer walked in on a six fingered Hound Dog Taylor tearing it up in a little neighborhood bar on the South Side of Chicago.

Alligator Records filled the box with amazing titles:

The DVD's, "Devil Got My Woman Blues at Newport 1966" featuring Skip James, Howlin' Wolf, Rev. Pearly Brown, Son House and Bukka White; and J.J. Grey and MoFro's live concert film "Brighter Days."  

The CD's, Hound Dog Taylor's Release The Hound; Hound Dog Taylor and The Houserockers' Deluxe Edition; A Tribute to Hound Dog Taylor including, among others, Luther Allison, Elvin Bishop, Ronnie Earl, Government Mule, Sonny Landreth, L'il Ed & The Blues Imperials, Magic Slim, Son Seals and George Thorogood; Anders Osborne's Peace; Jimmy Johnson's Bar Room Preacher; Albert Collins' Ice Pickin', Alligator Records' sampler Crucial Chicago Blues which features blues legends Koko Taylor, Junior Wells, James Cotton, Lonnie Brooks, Pinetop Perkins and others; and an Alligator Records 2 CD 40th Anniversary Collection.

I could write a column on each of these releases.  It is all killer stuff.  However, here, let's just focus on the Alligator Records 2 CD 40th Anniversary Collection, as it provides a cross-section of artists that record for, and that have recorded with, the label.  It also provides a historical retrospective on Alligator Records' phenomenal past 40+ years. Besides, it is smoking hot!

The two CD's contain 38 monumental blues performances.  Here are just a few of the tracks - Koko Taylor sings "I'm A Woman"; Albert Collins' jumps through the tongue in gin "I Ain't Drunk"; Buddy Guy & Junior Wells present "Give Me My Coat And Shoes"; Johnny Winter rocks "Mojo Boogie"; Lonnie Mack and Stevie Ray Vaughan do "Double Whammy"; Albert Collins, Robert Cray & Johnny Copeland show off the "T-Bone Shuffle"; Hound Dog Taylor slides through "Sitting At Home Alone"; Elvin Bishop stuffs "Roll Your Moneymaker"; Shemekia Copeland croons "It's My Own Tears"; Professor Longhair cranks out "Red Beans"; Charlie Musselwhite blows "Where Hwy 61 Runs"; Tinsley Ellis fingers "Speak No Evil"; Eric Lindell belts "It's A Drag."  That is just about one-third of what is contained in this collection.  The remaining two-thirds are as good as, or may even surpass, this notable list of notables.

It is not just the quality of the music that makes this Collection attractive; it is the complete 2 CD package.  It comes in a double jewel case with a 32 page pamphlet which explains the history of Alligator Records and the making of each recording. The collection of talent alone will make you pull it off the shelf as your "go-to" blues compilation.  The packaging will have you contemplating that smokey, little out of the way South Side of Chicago neighborhood bar into which Bruce Iglaur wandered in 1970 to be overwhelmed by a six fingered slide steel guitar player. It will make you marvel at how that one experience was turned into one of today's finest blues labels.

The T-shirt, on the other hand, is all wrong for me and Alligator Records.  Medium, really? We both clearly cut an extra, extra large profile.

- Old School


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