The Definitive Blues Collection
Rhino/Atlantic presents Big Joe Turner's The Definitive Blues Collection, a double-CD sampler containing 30 singles and EPs recorded between April 1951 and September 1959, during Turner's second decade of recording activity. Ideally, this would have been a companion volume to Atlantic's chronologically scrambled 2005 compilation The Rhythm & Blues Years, and yet the two issues have 17 titles in common. Considered by itself, this Definitive Collection is a triumphant accomplishment. Here the songs are doled out in chronological order, with locations (New York, New Orleans and Chicago), recording and release dates neatly indicated along with Atlantic serial numbers and composer credits. This was Turner's early to middle period, during which he brought his Kansas City sensibilities before a wider public as pop music and the youth market began emulating all that was most exciting in blues based African-American dance music. The basis for rock & roll is mighty important but it's only one dimension of a much bigger picture. Big Joe Turner was the great interpreter of everybody's innermost feelings. His gift was the honest working person's art of expressing the truth in a large, full voice. When he rocks and rolls, everything on the living earth wants to jump and shout with him. When he sings something meaningful as if to serenade a slowly unfolding magnolia blossom, the heart of humanity is open and the blues moves like blood through the veins of the song. The only flaw in this issue is a marvelous but entirely out of place snapshot inserted by Rhino's photo researcher Alessandra Quaranta on page two of the CD booklet. This is a photograph of the other Joe Turner (1907-1990), an accomplished stride and swing pianist from Baltimore. The two Joe Turners continue to be mistaken for one another, and this mistake won't exactly resolve that problem.