J. Daily | Fort Worth, Tx United States | 06/25/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you are into blues and blues harmonica,this is it. A real deal bluesman who lived the life(see fabulous biographical insert). Part of Muddy Waters band and the electric "revolution." Feel the raw power from his newly developed crunchy, eery back alley, plugged in amplifier sound. Hear the beginnings of modern electric rock & roll. His voice even sounds harplike. Waters and his bandmate Jimmy Rogers play on some tracks,as well as Willie Dixon, Bo Diddly and Otis Spann. From his famous #1 R&B hit instrumental "Juke" to the well known "Boom, Boom out go the lights" every track is a winner. Many tracks recognizable as modern bands have covered some of these. One of my desert island picks."
****1/2. The best place to start, for sure
Docendo Discimus | Vita scholae | 06/25/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is the best available single-disc overview of Little Walter Jacobs' career.
The highly renowned blues harmonica player was not a singer of the caliber of Muddy Waters, or a songwriter to rival Sonny Boy Williamson (II), but his recording career spanned some 20 years, and there are more than enough gems in his catalogue to fill this disc to the point of overflowing.
"His Best" has the best sound currently available, and excellent liner notes, and while the double-disc "The Essential Little Walter" is more thorough, this is all that most listeners will need. A couple of great songs are missing, most notably Walter's gritty rendition of Willie Dixon's "Dead Presidents", but that's a minor quibble...almost all of Walter's best is here, and if you own MCA/Chess' excellent Willie Dixon-box set you already have "Dead Presidents".
1997's "His Best" takes the place of MCA/Chess' original 12-track LP "The Best Of Little Walter", a landmark blues album which had remained in print for over three decades. Here is his first hit single, the instrumental hit "Juke", as well as Walter's versions of Big Bill Broonzy's "Key To The Highway", Dixon's "My Babe", and T-Bone Walker's "Mean Old World" (shamelessly credited to Jacobs himself). And virtually all of Walter's best self-penned songs are here..."Blues With A Feeling", "Boom Boom, Out Goes The Light", "Tell Me Mama", and numerous often masterful instrumentals.
This is certainly the place to start, the finest single-disc Little Walter-compilation on the market."
Docendo Discimus | 08/28/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Marion Walter Jacobs (b. May 1, 1930 in Alexandria, Louisiana), and influenced by the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson (No. 1) and Louis Jordan and his jump saxophone arrangements, quite simply revolutionized the blues harmonica technique when he showed up at Chicago's famed Maxwell Street market in 1947.
Among the hundreds of artists plying their trade in that environment he stood out to the point where he attracted the interest of the small Chicago labels Ora Nelle and Regal where he cut several sides. His big break came in 1951 when the Chess brothers, Leonard and Phil, hired him to back Muddy Waters and Jimmy Rogers, and it was as much his amplified harmonica that made hits out of Mannish Boy, I'm Ready, and Standing Around Crying [by Waters), and That's All Right and The World Is In A Tangle (Rogers).
By 1952 he was assigned to the Checker subsidiary, and by that September he literally burst into prominence when the instrumental Juke streaked to # 1 R&B and remained there for eight solid weeks [the flip was Can't Hold On Much Longer and is erroneously listed in this compilation as "Can't Hold Out ..."). This single was billed to Little Walter and His Night Cats.
The follow-up Sad Hours (instrumental) didn't quite repeat that success, settling for # 2 early in 1953, while the vocal flipside, Mean Old World, reached # 6 as by Little Walter and His Night Caps. Fittingly, Muddy Waters played guitar on each of these first three hits.
When his next hit reached the charts later that spring (Off The Wall, # 8 as an instrumental, and Tell Me Mama, # 10 as a vocal, he was billed as Little Walter and His Jukes in order to capitalize on his debut smash hit. The Jukes consisted of Chess sessionmen Louis and David Myers on guitar and Fred Belows on drums.
From there to 1959 he would add 10 more hit singles to his credit, his last coming in 1959 when Everything Gonna Be Alright (erroneously listed as "Everything's") reached # 25 (his lowest charter) as simply by Little Walter. These included the seminal My Babe, written by Willie Dixon and based upon the old spiritual This Train, which became his only other # 1 hit, staying at that position for five weeks early in 1955.
It would have been nice if, in putting this tribute together, producer Andy McKaie had found room for the three hits omitted - Oh Baby which made it to # 8 in May 1954 b/w Rocker, You'd Better Watch Yourself which reached the same position that September b/w Blue Light, and Who, which reached # 7 in April 1956 b/w It Ain't Right. You can find You'd Better Watch Yourself on The Best Of Little Walter from MCA/Chess, also listed by Amazon.
Adding to this CD's worth are the six pages of liner notes written by the noted music historian Billy Altman, which includes a wonderful story behind Juke, several nice photographs, and a complete discography of the contents. To quote from Mr. Altman "By 1968 he was gone, leaving behind a legacy that harmonica players everywhere regard as, quite simply, the holy grail." That much was recognized by the Blues Hall Of Fame in 1982 when they inducted him among the 20 honoured in their first year of existence. You'd think those pompous ciphers at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame would wake up and at least recognize him in their Early Influence category.
Just a superb collection."