R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

Thinking Inside The Box


While I was looking around the site here for my last post, I was reminded of all the great box sets Concord Music Group has in its vaults. To give you an idea of what's available, I picked a few of my favorites to tell you about -- Lightnin' Hopkins' Complete Prestige/Bluesville Recordings, Art Pepper's Complete Village Vanguard Sessions and Sam Cooke & The Soul Stirrers' Complete Specialty Records Recordings.

First off, the Lightnin' Hopkins. This comprehensive, 7-disc set covers the legendary bluesman's entire output from 1960 -1964, including 13 previously unreleased tracks from a 1963 concert. Also included are some interviews in which Lightnin' discusses his childhood and what makes him so damn bluesy. Anybody who calls themselves a fan of gritty, dirty blues who does not have The Complete Prestige/Bluesville Recordings in their library is clearly lying and should be slapped. Until they have the blues.

Next up, the Art Pepper. This 9-disc set (yes, nine) covers a series of shows at New York's Village Vanguard in 1971, in which the West Coast jazz icon was staging one of his many post-rehab comebacks. On these discs, the shows are presented uninterrupted and unedited. Pepper always had swing, even when others were venturing into stranger territory, and The Complete Village Vanguard Sessions showcases his skills as a swinging bandleader.

Finally, the Sam Cooke. The Complete Specialty Record Recordings spans the six years he spent at Hollywood's Specialty label, home to gospel-based rockers such as Little Richard and Percy Mayfield. Among the many cuts are numerous alternate takes and some live tracks from a 1955 date at L.A.'s Shrine Auditorium. With liner notes by Daniel Wolff, author of You Send Me: The Life and Times of Sam Cooke, this set offers a raw look at the quintessential gospel group.