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Ace (CDTOP2 1124)

Love Is Like Rain, Rose Get Your Clothes, Wynonie’s Boogie, Grandma Plays The Numbers, I Feel That Old Age Coming On, Sittin’ On It All The Time, Oh Babe!, Good Rockin’ Tonight, Good Morning Mr Blues, I Want My Fanny Brown and many more…

If such things had any meaning and we had to definitively choose the best ever blues shouter from the 1940s and 1950s, I don’t know if Wynonie Harris would win the vote but he would certainly get my nomination. I’m sure I have ‘pulled on your coat’ before in these pages about my fondness for his never-changing, always-winning formula of up-tempo songs about wine, women and whiskey so I don’t intend to go overboard on this again here. But, with this fabulous new collection spinning away on the CD player, I fear that I just may not be able to prevent myself (once again).

What we have here is a beautifully packaged and presented 2CD set (well, it is from Ace, what did you expect?) which includes, on the first disc, 23 of his seminal sides for King Records, full of great numbers including Rose Get Your Clothes, Bite Again, Bite Again, Blowin' To California, Sittin' On It All The Time and many more killers. Confirmed fans will already have these but, once again, Ace trump previous issues of these sides by delivering to us the best sound quality around - having re-mastered all of these tracks from fresh transfers from the original acetates.

Of most interest to the already committed are the further 25 tracks on the second disc which include alternate takes of many of his favourite sides and a healthy number of previously un-heard (or rarely heard) recordings. While Wynonie is unlikely to be anyone’s idea of a flexible and varied performer (he knew what he did better than most and tended to stick with it), there is sufficient difference in these alternate takes to the better known hits and official releases to make this exercise valid, interesting and thoroughly enjoyable. While Wynonie himself may not have attempted too much in the way of variety between takes, the various bands that backed him were clearly not averse to trying out different arrangements and solos for songs. This may have been because, while at King, Wynonie could afford the best musicians money could hire and these guys would no doubt have been keen to ‘push the envelope’ from time to time to squeeze out a new or better (or just plain more interesting to them) version of an arrangement. To my mind, this is best evidenced here on the rather remarkable version of Oh Babe!where the band chart a joyous and riotous musical journey that I don't recall featuring on the rather more restrained official release.

As well as the fabulous music contained in this set, the 16 page booklet is well up to Ace’s exacting standards of discographical detail and narrative essay to contextualise matters.  All in all, another splendid set from a label that can do no wrong.

Review Date: June 2015

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