Release Date: 08.20.02
Record label: RCA
Genre(s): Movies, Film Scores, Musicals, Etc.
Rock Started Here. Any Questions?
by: matt cibula
Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is how rock and roll began. It doesn't really matter, ultimately, because rock came from everywhere, and Memphis, and Texas, and New York, and every form of American popular music, etc. But all you need to do is hear this disc one time to understand the momentum of all forms of blues music and where they were going in the 1940s and early 1950s, and how that all led to Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry and all those other cats who get all the credit. But if you care about the path, here it is for you, in 73 minutes.
Some of this stuff is hardcore blues by the numbers: Doctor Clayton checks in with "Pearl Harbor Blues" and "Angels in Harlem"; Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup represents with his "That's All Right," which is mostly well-known as Elvis Presley's first excursion into hardcore "race" music in his Sun sessions; Washboard Sam and Tampa Red and Memphis Slim all make appearances to argue for their importance in musical history. You could get hung up on the historical aspect of it all, especially when you realize that the hyper young dude screaming away on the last jump-blues track is Little Richard his own pretty self…and he sounds pretty great (and much more conventional) back in 1951.
But forget all that "importance" jazz and get with the tunes. Damned if "My Buddy Blues" by the Five Breezes doesn't sound like the perfect soundtrack to driving around town with the windows down, even if you don't know that it's about how the military draft sucks, and even if you don't care one of these Breezes is the great Willie Dixon. If you're one of the many people who don't exactly care that Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee were two of the greatest bluesmen of the century, then just forget all that rockist stuff and play track 24, "Ride and Roll"—you'll be too busy dancing to care about much of anything. These songs were getting slicker and smoother and tighter, and this is the most modern-sounding of the four discs.
"Look on Yonder Wall" is a great standout paranoid blues by Jazz Gillum (kickin' name, by the way); it captures perfectly the sense of worry about getting caught cheating with another man's woman …uh, not that I would know or anything. We get the semi-famous jump "Get the Mop," which is usually known as " Mop"—this piece by Henry "Red" Allen was ripped off by white country artist Johnnie Lee Wills, and Allen got the judgment, one of the rare instances where there was justice for victimized black musicians.
And someone needs to give me a book advance so I can adequately discuss "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water" in this version by the r&b group The Cats and a Fiddle. It's country, it's blues, it's doo-wop, it's jazz, it's folk, it's pop crooning—shit, man, it's perfect rock and roll. From 1939. It's my new favorite song of all time. It's going to be yours, too, when you finally hear it. And you will. 18-Sep-2002 7:45 PM