Album Reviews: Macrodosing Vaudeville and cheap gold by Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and Hank Williams

Browsing through my cd-shelf to dig up desperate buys from my teenage years led me to find my first Bessie Smith-record: 1990’s The Gold Collection, a cheap European double-package offering 40 of her 160 songs – that wasn’t bad before streaming technology. This reminded me that I acquired honkytonk-hero Hank Williams from the same series: His The Gold Collection is amazingly from 2004, 40 songs trying to recreate his highly praised 40 Greatest Hits, the most potent double-disc from his catalogue. Cheap and nice as these European budget releases were around the millenium, let’s be serious: The way to acquire Bessie Smith’s complete recordings is easy, so start with the first CD-effort, 1991’s The Complete Recordings Vol. 1 (of 5). And since we’re all about vaudeville blues and its complete listening history right now, I took a look at Ma Rainey’s JSP-box set Mother of the Blues (2007). There’s nothing much to say, Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith’s complete recordings just lie around for the taking, go for it. For more info about complete blues discographies, check my list Complete Blues Discographies.

Album Reviews: Macrodosing 1971 side steps by George Harrison, Leon Russell and Bob Dylan

Ooh, it’s the second entry of macrodosing: It’s about interlinked and side-stepping projects involving at least two out of three names: Harrison, Russell and Dylan. The starting point is a project involving all of them: George Harrison’s Concert for Bangla Desh (1971) which lured Dylan out of his non-performing period (with very good results), yet it’s Russell who steals the show with his gospel-soul-roots-ranting. Next up is, inevitably, Harrison’s All Things Must Pass (1970) from the year before, featuring a Dylan-song and setting him up commercially and artistically for the Bangla Desh event. What a classic. We continue with Russell’s proper solo debut Leon Russell from 1971 (before the Bangla Desh concert) – there’s a Dylan-song variant and Harrison plays on it (yet it’s hard to find anyone from 1971’s roots rock circuit not involved with this record). However, the album gets caught up in its own matted beard. We conclude with the Dylan-compilation Side Tracks from 2013, featuring the Russell-produced 1971-single „Watching the River Flow“ – apart from his appearance at the Bangla Desh Concert, this track might present Dylan’s biggest step back into business in his quiet phase between 1970 and 1973. Macrodose achieved!