Thursday, January 21, 2016
Lightnin' Hopkins Complete Aladdin and Prestige/Bluesville Recordings
Another Lightnin’ Hopkins compact disc of great note is The Complete Prestige/Bluesville Recordings. This is a seven compact disc set with a booklet by Sam Charters that collects 111 recordings on six discs along with a seventh disc containing eight spoken excerpts from an interview that Charters conducted in which Hopkins recalled his early days and his influences. Included are the contents of eleven albums and a previously unissued 1964 concert at Swarthmore College.
The earliest recordings here date from the same time as Lightnin’s Candid recordings, while the latest date from 1964, and the sessions find him in a range of settings including two solo concerts; a session with Sonny Terry, bassist Leonard Gaskin and drummer Belton Evans; sessions with longtime Houston associates Harpist Billy Bizor, barrelhouse pianist Buster Pickens, bassist Donald Cooks and drummer Spider Kirkpatrick; and sessions on which the rhythm section was overdub. There is a startling range of material here from Ain’t It Crazy (the same song as Mighty Crazy for Candid), Back to New Orleans and/or Baby Please Don’’t Go), Green Onion, Little Sister’s Boogie, Katie Mae, Take Me Back, You Is One Black Rat, My Babe, Mean Old Frisco, Me and Ray Charles, Rocky Mountain Blues, I was Standing on 75 Highway, Mojo Hand. Included are some of Lightnin’s songs where he conjured up material on current events like Happy Blues for John Glenn.
There are many very fine performances, although some of the recordings with a rhythm section sound somewhat ordinary, and I would be hard pressed to find many recordings that rank with the very best of his recordings. Yet the sheer breadth of the material here, all imbued with his personal stamp as a blues singer and guitarist, make this a most highly recommended boxed set that should hopefully still be in the better local record stores. They can always order it for you.
This review originally appeared in the December 1992 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 177) and I likely received review copies from the record companies. Both sets are available as downloads and can be obtained as used.