Various Artists

Various Artists
Alligator Records 40th Anniversary Collection

Alligator Records

By David Hayward
June 2011

For the last four decades, Alligator Records’ founder Bruce Iqlauer has been America’s blues evangelist, broadcasting the genre to unacquainted ears and aficionados alike; giving some careers a boost and building others ground-up.

As Iqlauer explains in boxed set’s bio- and photo-packed 14-page booklet, “the hardest decisions were…who would not make the final cut.” And he goes on to list the more than 40 who didn’t. Of all those who didn’t make it, I lament Sony Terry, Otis Rush and Luther ‘Guitar’ Johnson the most.

That leaves 38 who made the A-list. Most of them get a thumbs-up for living up to Alligator’s motto -- “Genuine Houserockin’ Music” -- which by Iqlauer’s definition is music steeped in tradition, honed through intimate performances and guaranteed to move your feet, your body and/or soul.

Iqlauer and the Alligator crew are master builders, and the 40th Anniversary Collection is a sturdy house with all the right amenities: the foundation (Koko Taylor, Hound Dog Taylor, Albert Collins, Buddy Guy, James Cotton, Professor Longhair), the first floor (Johnny Winter, Elvin Bishop, Charlie Musselwhite, Luther Allison, Lonnie Mack, Roy Buchanan, Mavis Staples), and the top floor (Janiva Magness, Shemekia Copeland, Marcia Ball, Robert Cray, Eric Lindell, JJ Grey). And 18 more running up and down the stairs.

Here are some of the “heavy” tunes that deserve an enthusiastic thumbs-up:

You can invite your neighbors over, serve the beer and chips and clear out the living room to dance with these cuts:

Life is imperfect, and the Collection has a few downers:

But, the great stuff on this huge boxed set far outweighs the boners. There’s a delight on every floor in the house that Alligator built:

Worth displaying on your shelf and uploading to your iTunes, this boxed set is packed with in-the-pocket grooves, killer guitar solos and tasty vocals to make any blues lover happy. And the fidelity is superb.

Let’s hope that Alligator issues another 40Th Anniversary Collection with the 40 artists that didn’t make the cut this time.

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