It is no exaggeration to call Little Walter the Jimi Hendrix of the electric harp: he redefined what the instrument was and what it could do, pushing the instrument so far into the future that his music still sounds modern decades after it was recorded. Little Walter wasn't the first musician to amplify the harmonica but he arguably was the first to make the harp sound electric, twisting twitching, vibrant runs out of his instrument; nearly stealing the show from Muddy Waters on his earliest Chess recordings; and so impressing Leonard Chess that he made Muddy keep Walter as his harpist even after Waters broke up his band. Chess also made Walter into his studio's house harpist and started to release Little Walter solo records with the instrumental "Juke" in 1952. "Juke" became a smash hit and turned Little Walter into a star, making him a steady presence on the '50s R&B charts.
John Lee Hooker, as anyone with a decent-sized blues collection knows, recorded for a virtual parade of labels early in his career, including Chess, although his stays with the company were fairly brief. Hooker's best early recordings, most would agree, were issued on Modern and Vee-Jay, not Chess.
Starkly printed in black and white with washed-out, grainy photographs, this is one heavy slab of blues by a player who is not as well-known as he should be. Guitarist Jimmy Rogers was usually overshadowed by the leaders he worked for, Muddy Waters particularly. He was also sometimes confused with the hillbilly singer Jimmie Rodgers, and although they might have sounded good together, they don't have anything in common. This reissue collection grabs 14 tracks done at various times in the mostly early '50s which involve practically a who's who of performers associated with the most intense and driving Chicago blues. This includes the aforementioned Waters, leaving behind his role as leader for a few numbers to add some stinging guitar parts. There is also a pair of harmonica players, each of whom could melt vinyl siding with their playing. These are the Walters, big and little, as in Big Walter Horton and Little Walter. Pianist Otis Spann, bassist Willie Dixon, and drummer Fred Belew are also on hand, meaning the rhythm section action is first class.
Here's everything that fleet-fingered Buddy Guy waxed for Chess from 1960 to 1966, including numerous unissued-at-the-time masters, offering the most in-depth peek at his formative years imaginable. Stone Chicago blues classics ("Ten Years Ago," "My Time After Awhile," "Let Me Love You Baby," "Stone Crazy"), rockin' oddities ("American Bandstand," "$100 Bill," "Slop Around"), even a cut that features guitarist Lacy Gibson's vocal rather than Guy's ("My Love Is Real") – some 47 sizzling songs in all.