Best blues compilation
July 26, 2010 2:36 PM   Subscribe

What is the best blues compilation album or box-set for an aspiring aficionado?

Considering the set from Scorsese's documentary series. Is there something better out there?
posted by AceRock to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
My husband is the most knowledgeable person I've ever met about the blues, and he also has the hugest collection I've every heard about. He is always impressed by my Time Life set, Living the Blues. (I got it a long time ago on one of those endless, new CD a month subscription deals.) You can pick up most of the CDs from Amazon.
posted by bearwife at 2:45 PM on July 26, 2010

I'm rather fond of Alan Lomax: Blues Song Book. Plus, if you're interested in the blues, Alan Lomax is a good person to know about because he and his father made some amazing field recordings of Leadbelly and others.

Also, this might sound like a strange recommendation, but Pete Seeger sings a lot of old blues songs, and he generally cleans them up and makes them more obviously logical (a lot of the originals assume you know the story already and so skip around a bit, and if it's an old, fuzzy recording it can be hard to understand anyway). So if you're not familiar with John Henry, Casey Jones, Frankie and Johnnie, Stagolee, etc, it might be helpful to pick up a copy of one of the American Favorite Ballads just to get oriented.
posted by colfax at 3:10 PM on July 26, 2010

Smithsonian Folkways Classic Blues. Also Volume 2.
posted by breezeway at 3:28 PM on July 26, 2010

That Scorsese set is week, imo, as was the filmed series.

What kind of blues do you like?

This Chess Box is great.

I'd also recommend these books.

Not that you asked but my favorite blues albums are

Junior Wells - Hoodoo Man Blues
Paul Butterfield Blues Band - s/t
Howlin' Wolf's first two albums
posted by dobbs at 3:29 PM on July 26, 2010

You want "The Blues: Smithsonian Collection of Classic Blues Singers" for a century-long overview. If you want a concentration on "Chicago" blues (electric blues of the 1950s, very influential for rock, arguably the acme of the form), get the Chess Box mentioned above. Those are the best two box sets.
posted by Mr. Justice at 4:19 PM on July 26, 2010

If you're looking to build a foundation for your blues collection, you need to include the cd compilation, "Robert Johnson - The Complete Recordings."
posted by mbx at 4:43 PM on July 26, 2010

Not that you asked but make sure you hear some Blind Willie McTell. And lately, my new favorite, Charlie Patton.
posted by sully75 at 8:03 PM on July 26, 2010

The Scorsese set was my introduction to blues music and I definitely enjoyed it.

It does work well as an introduction and the 5 cds cover most styles of blues music.

Just be sure to branch out from that starting point and buy CDs of your favourite artists from the compilation.

Oh and the two main artists missed by Scorsese's set are Lightnin' Hopkins and Robert Nighthawk if I remember correctly.
posted by Erberus at 11:01 PM on July 26, 2010

The Alligator Records 20th Anniversary 2-disc set is awesome. Mostly Chicago blues, of course, since that's where the label is based, but some other styles, too -- more than the Chess boxes, I think. And it all rocks. Also, their Christmas CD from 2003 is a lot of fun.

(Hmm, looks like there's 25th and 30th anniversary collections, too. Yay!)
posted by wenestvedt at 10:11 AM on July 27, 2010

The Chess 50th Anniversary Collection cds were my introduction. Those, and the Robert Johnson King of the Delta Blues cd started me down a long, fun path.
posted by elmer benson at 1:54 PM on July 27, 2010

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