Daily Archives: July 24, 2009

148. Various Artists – “Chess Classics”

I’ve dived into the compilations so as to avoid a Cave overload.

Here’s another of these fortuitous acquisitions via a magazine purchase. This collection accompanied Mojo back in mid-2005.

Album Cover Chess Classics Mojo Howling WolfIt showcases the output of Chicago label Chess. And what a damn fine label it was, spanning blues, soul and jazz.

It is the blues that stands out here. The selections from Muddy Waters (Tom Cat), Chuck Berry (the jazzy instrumental Night Beat) and Sonny Boy Williamson (the supergroovy Fattening Frogs For Snakes) are all in that fun, party-inducing, not-feeling-too-sorry-for-myself end of the blues spectrum. Waters’ effort is particularly sexy with tumultuous horns pushing it along.

The standout track is Howlin’ Wolf‘s Spoonful showcasing one of the truly captivating blues voices and deceptively simple riffing. Alas he preceded the world of music vids, but here’s the song with a gallery of pics:

Chess wasn’t just about blues, so we also hear a collection of jazzier numbers and doo-woppy stuff. There is a certain gravity to even the poppiest tracks here. Nothing seems too disposable. A premium is placed on strong vocals and a driving groove.

This album does exactly what a sampler should. It generates a strong appetite for more. I see some shopping in my future…

File under: Grandmasters at Play