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Alligator Records 40th Anniversary Collection

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  • Posted May 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    40 Years Of Lively Blues (And Proud Of It)

    While many record labels began to stop recording blues artists as the 1970's progressed, Alligator Records has been making them steadily over the years. Formed in 1971, the Chicago-based label was personally funded by Bruce Iglauer who produced Hound Dog Taylor & The House Rockers. It has since become the home of Koko Taylor, Albert Collins, Son Seals, Marcia Ball, Charles Musselwaite and many others. While their 20th and 25th anniversary compilations were less than spectacular, their 40th anniversary collection is truly just that. The reason for that is because Alligator's roster has gotten better in the last decade alone. Another reason is that these recordings are not overproduced and have a clear, audacious sound with very few overdubs, giving these recordings are truly live sound. Among the up and coming artists are Tommy Castro ("Backup Plan"), Shemekia Copeland ("It's My Own Tears") and Coco Montoya ("Last Dirty Deal"). Meanwhile, it has also been the repository of past greats who still had a few more good recordings in them, such as Johnny Winter, Mavis Staples, James Cotton and Professor Longhair. The collection begins with Koko Taylor (who recorded with the label for 25 years) doing her smoldering take on Muddy Waters' "Mannish Boy" and turns it into "I'm A Woman". There are also updated versions of classic blues such as Roomful of Blues take on "That's A Pretty Good Love". Buckwheat Zydeco appears here as well with a little bit of cajun music on "When The Levee Breaks" (not to be confused with Led Zepellin's song of the same name). However, the truly remarkable songs here are the ones by the unknowns. These include Guitar Shorty's triumphantly defiant "We The People" and Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials' grossly hilarious "Icicles In My Meatloaf". My personal favorite is a faster, louder and arguably better rendition of Lonnie Mack's "Wham!" done by Lonnie himself and guest Stevie Ray Vaughan. Alligator has often prided itself on "Original Houserocking Music". The 40th anniversary collection proves that and demands that you turn the volume all the way up.

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