Friday, June 22, 2012

198. The best of Little Walter- Who?



Album: The Best of Little Walter
Artist: Little Walter
Year: 1958
Genre: The Blues

Tracks
  1. My Babe
  2. Sad Hours
  3. You're So Fine
  4. Last Night
  5. Blues with a Feeling
  6. Can't Hold Out Much Longer
  7. Juke
  8. Mean Old World
  9. Off the Wall
  10. You Better Watch Yourself
  11. Blue Lights
  12. Tell Me Mamma 
I've said it before and I'll say it again- this list is odd. It keeps throwing me surprises but few things are more baffling than its treatment of The Blues. I'm a great believer in the blues as an artform and if I had my way there'd be a lot more of it here but it definitely wouldn't be in this order. If you're going to list the top Blues artists of all time (and I'm sure people have) John Lee Hooker would be near the top of everyone's lists, Bo Diddley would feature as would Albert King. Little Walter would appear somewhere but you would think he'd live in the shadow of Hooker, Diddley and King.

But not on this list.

On the top 500, Little Walter sits above great releases by much bigger names. Hooker, Diddley and King all appear much lower in down the countdown and don't appear above him at all while Howlin Wolf, Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters all have great releases considered less worthy than Walter's efforts.

It's baffling and even more bizarre when you consider the fact that Little Walter's biggest contribution to blues music was to revolutionize the harmonica. Now I've no doubt the harmonica was long overdue for a bit of a stylistic overhaul. It needed an inspirational force as much as any other instrument (except perhaps the Lute, the great rock lutist has yet to come forward) but there aren't really that many people out there playing it are there? I'm pretty sure almost every album on this countdown features a guitar somewhere and I can safely say there are drums on every single album- but the blues harp is a lot more limited in its scope.

So why is a guy who revolutionised an obscure instrument more highly regarded that a guy who invented an entire beat and the guy who wrote Boogie Chillen (and by extension La Grange)?

That's not to say this isn't a great album. It's classic blues with some songs that might not be instantly recognized by most but have been covered by Clapton and his contemporaries throughout the ages. They might not be blues standards but they're certainly not blues sub-standards. There's some great stuff here.

If you're a fan of blues harmonica you probably own this already. If you've got an interest in the blues then this is worth checking out, but only after you've payed your blues dues to John Lee, Bo and Albert.

Influenced by: Robert Johnson
Influenced: You know that harmonica player? Yeah him.

Highlight: You better watch yourself
Lowlight: Sad Hours

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "This is certainly the place to start, the finest single-disc Little Walter-compilation on the market."

-And you know that there are lots of others to choose from. You can only call yourself a great bluesman if your compilation count reaches a half century.

So is Little Walter bigger than Hooker? Let me know below.

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