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Fantastic Voyage (FVTD176)

A very welcome issue given that, while Fulson's extensive recording career has been re-issued many times on CD over the years, not enough of this is currently still in print or readily available today. Certainly not as a carefully programmed and compiled set such as this. And the fact is that our Lowell is simply too good, important and darned enjoyable not to get the recognition he deserves.

Over the course of the 75 tracks here, we start off with his first recordings laid down just a year after leaving the US Navy in 1945. These are variously split between having just his brother Martin's rhythm guitar as support and in front of small band combos. Whatever the context, his impassioned vocals and excellent guitar fills always thrill. Pretty soon however it was clear that these early recordings represented a transitional period from the down-home blues stylings that he had grown up with in Oklahoma and Texas to the urban, up-tempo blues sounds that were evolving in his adopted home of California. That notwithstanding, these initial sides remain classics, including the exquisite original version of Three O'Clock Blues (later adopted by B.B. King), River Blues Part 1 and Western Union Blues.

If nothing else though, Lowell was a quick learner and moved effortlessly to a modern sound favoured and popularised by the likes of T-Bone Walker, B.B. King and, later, Albert Collins. His distinctive singing voice, personalised guitar technique, and seeming ability to easily craft and adapt songs at will, meant he was never out of work.

This compilation takes us on to his recordings into the 1950s and early 1960s for an array of labels from Down Beat, Swing Time, Trilon, Aladdin, Cava-Tone and more, with classics that just kept a-coming, including Everyday I Have The Blues (another that soon found its way into B.B. King repertoire), Blue Shadows (adopted at some time by most blues guitarists) and eventually of course his killer, Reconsider Baby, recorded by Elvis and everyone this side of Uncle Tom Cobley. And when not introducing originals, he also had a way of bending songs of others to his own style - such as Ain't Nobody's Business and That's All Right.

The set concludes with some fine examples of where Lowell was heading into the 1960s, with the lovely, plaintiff soul singing on So Many Tears (his guitar was notable by its absence) followed by the tremendous blues of Hung Down Head, demonstrating neat interplay between guitar and sultry horn charts. A fantastic end to a storming compilation.

Review Date: October 2013

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