Thursday, August 07, 2014

Willie Dixon - The Chess Box

This 2-CD compilation highlights the master American songwriter, Willie Dixon, and 36 of his contributions
to the world of music, which has crossed over from the blues to rock'n'roll and even C&W. It is somewhat phenomenal that one man is responsible for all of this amazing music. A true great!

Of course, the huge hits are here - starting with Little Walter's "My Babe" and also including his "Mellow Down Easy" - though there are some that weren't quite as gigantic, such as The Big Three's swingin' "Violent Love" (later covered by Oingo Boingo!) and Eddie Boyd's sad'n'lonesome "Third Degree". Willie Mabon does a truly groovy "Seventh Son" and Dixon himself performs a few numbers here - "Crazy For my Baby", "Pain in My Heart", "29 Ways" and "Walkin' the Blues". Of course, Muddy's monsters are here - "Hootchie Coochie Man", "I'm Ready", "I Just Want To Make Love To You" as well as the lesser-known, but equally cool, "Young Fashioned Ways". Also mandatory is the Howlin' Wolf, represented on the first disc simply with the amazing "Evil". Piano man Jimmy Witherspoon sways in "When the Lights Go Out", Bo Diddley brings his beat to "Pretty Thing" (which is where the iconic British band got their name) and Lowell Fulson's T-Bone Walker vibes works on "Do Me Right" and the staccato "Tollin' Bells".

Disc 2 has lots more greatness from some of the best. The Wolf gets a number of huge hits: "Spoonful", "I Ain't Superstitious", "Little Red Rooster", "Back Door Man", "Hidden Charms", "300 Pounds of Joy" and "Built For Comfort"! Whew! Otis Rush appears with "You Know My Love" and Bo Diddley returns for "You Can't Judge a Book By Its Cover". Of course, Muddy is back, as well - "You Need Love" (sound familiar to you Led Zep fans?), "You Shook Me" (ditto) and he smolders on "Same Thing" (fantastic performance by the whole band on this live version). Little Walter does "Dead Presidents" and Sonny Boy Williamson hits with "Bring It On Home". Willie performs his own "Weak Brain, Narrow Mind", a quiet, slow blues that is as powerful as it understated and Koko Taylor is amazing on "Wang Dang Doodle" and her take on "Insane Asylum" (dueting with Muddy) is pretty damn incredible, as well. Interesting that they use Little Milton's (also great) version of "I Can't Quit You Baby" rather that Otis Rush's hit, but I guess they were trying to represent as many artists as possible.

Most blues fans will have many of these songs elsewhere, but this is a pretty terrific compilation that shows how prolific this genius was.