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Fantastic Voyage (FVDD151)

One of the most prolific and in-demand blues pianists following the folk and blues boom of the late 1950s and early 1960s, Memphis Slim recorded and released plenty of records over subsequent years.

His earlier recordings prior to this time have tended to be a little harder to find, so this 50 track compilation comes as a very welcome release. It commences with the first recordings under his name in 1946 and follows his recording career up to 1959 and his breakthrough Carnegie Hall appearance with the Muddy Waters Band.

What is most striking about these recordings is that the trademark piano that he was famed for in the 1960s wasn't always to the fore, as his distinctive musical sound and style that he later settled into had yet to be formed. This gives us plenty of surprises and variety to enjoy, from West Coast sounding cool blues under the influence of Charles Brown, proto-jump blues band numbers and tough Chicago blues, featuring the tasty guitar of his most frequent musical associate, Matt ‘Guitar' Murphy, And, as you would expect of Memphis Slim, there are of course also lots of piano-driven numbers, from frantic boogie-woogie work-outs to gentler and reflective pieces.

And then of course there are his songs. Included here are original versions of those he would forever be associated with - such as Everyday I Have The Blues, Steppin' Out (an instrumental Eric Clapton would later re-configure as a guitar workout for John Mayall's Beano album), Grinder Man Blues and the wise and reflective Mother Earth.

All in all, this is a excellent and enjoyable supplement to our understanding of Memphis Slim and compiler Neil Slaven and the Fantastic Voyage label should be congratulated for bringing us this super collection.


Review Date: October 2012

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