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$18.99

Blues - Released January 1, 1995 | Geffen*

Blues with a Feeling is a two-CD, 40-track compilation which makes the perfect audio bookend to The Essential Little Walter (or the single disc The Best of Little Walter for those on a budget) by systematically combing the Chess vaults and rounding up the best stuff. No bottom-of-the-barrel scrapings here; this compilation effectively renders all '70s Euro vinyl bootlegs null and void, both from a sound and selection standpoint. While not as exhaustive as the European nine-CD retrospective (in and out of print as of this writing), there are still things on this compilation that are left off the box set on Charly. The rarities (including the low down "Tonight with a Fool," possibly the rarest Walter Checker single of all and one whose title never shows up in the lyrics) are all noteworthy by their inclusion. But the alternate takes are the real mother lode here; everyone of 'em has got some kind of major screw-up to 'em while showing Walter's penchant for putting a new spin on a tune every time the engineer hit the record button. Like Charles Brown's "Drifting Blues," where he decides to start up his solo by playing the bump and grind part from "Night Train," leaving the entire band in the dust trying to figure out what changes to play once Walter changes his mind, or "Blues with a Feeling," where halfway through his solo the chord on Walter's harp mike unexplainably shorts out, just crackling away like a bowl of Rice Krispies. Or "You're Sweet," where he mangles the first line of the vocal ("you sweet, as any apple on a fruit") thus immediately relegating it to the unissued file, regardless of how great the solo in the middle is. By far the most interesting instrumental here is the previously unissued "That's It" (formerly only a discographical sighting) where Walter honks mind-altering stuff that I've never heard him do anywhere else on record. The alternate of "My Babe" doesn't sound anything like the hit version, making it another minor revelation while the storming uptempo reading of "Going Down Slow" -- with the track fueled by a particularly nasty riff courtesy of Robert Jr. Lockwood, whose acerbic comments punctuate the liner notes throughout -- is a prime candidate for the repeat button mode on the CD player, featuring the groove from Hell that refuses to abate. Bottom line is, this is one very cool release that even I've-heard-it-all-before hardliners are gonna want to add to their collection. Little Walter was a blues genius and once you've absorbed the influential hits, here's exactly where you go next to get the rest of the story. ~ Cub Koda
$25.49

Blues - Released June 8, 1993 | Geffen

In many ways, this supplants the original single disc, Best of Little Walter, and appends it with 35 more classics of Chicago blues harp genius, although one track from the original 12-song lineup is (perhaps purposely) left off. If you want to start your Walter collection with a nice generous helping of his best, this one runs the entire gamut of his solo career, from the classic 1952 instrumental "Juke" up to the Willie Dixon-penned "Dead Presidents." 46 tracks, one dynamite booklet, nice remastering, a great value for the cash outlay involved and best of all, an album title that truly delivers the goods. ~ Cub Koda

Blues - Released October 17, 2016 | Westmill

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$12.99

Blues - Released August 7, 1969 | Geffen

Many blues fans identify this album by the scar on its front cover, and this doesn't mean that their copy got damaged lying around in the used-record pile. A larger than life black-and-white photograph of Little Walter fills the front cover with a visual impact that just cannot be matched in the petite world of compact discs. A jewel case would also be too much protection against the scar in the middle of Little Walter's forehead. Biographical information on this artist no doubt provides the explanation of where this scar came from, and it can be assumed he did not earn it with bad harmonica playing. This album was part of a reissue series that Chess launched in the early '70s, irritating most blues fans despite the quality of the grim graphic design with its superior black-and-white photography, of which the scar shot was only one example. The problem was that too much of the Chess material had been out of print for too long, and the new generations of blues fans were hardly satisfied by the stingy serving of tracks the producers served up, even if it came wrapped in film noir trappings. The series miscalculated what the public actually wanted out of record companies in terms of reissue material, which would be lavish double-album sets loaded with information and sold at a discount. This trend would begin quickly after Chess had already started its black-and-white series of single albums; the company quickly rendered them all obsolete by rushing out its own series of double-record sets. Take a good look at the song titles on this record, that is, if one can still see them. The text was printed in a small white typeface on top of a black background, and the printing over the years suffered from a kind of disappearing effect. The album consists of a combination of songs that were huge hits for this artist, such as "Mellow Down Easy," "Roller Coaste," and "Nobody But You," combined with other performances that the producers thought were especially worthwhile. It is a well-sequenced effort, mastered powerfully, but the songs might as well have been chosen at random. None of the dozens of previously unreleased Little Walter tracks the label had lying around were touched for this project; all of the material here had already seen the light of day and proved its appeal with the blues public. That Little Walter is a brilliant harmonica player and a real innovator in terms of both the amplified sound of the small harp and the use of the chromatic version in blues and R&B is a well-established fact of American musical history. The relationship he had with his fellow players hasn't gotten as much attention, but as one enjoys these tracks, it is easy to feel the strength of Little Walter as a bandleader. He comes up with inventive devices within the familiar blues structures and is, in fact, one of the music's most ingenious arrangers of the electric blues combo sound. Like the airlines are fond of saying, consumers have a lot of choices when it comes to Little Walter material. The window-seat view of the scar might be an acquired taste, but musically this is a smooth ride all the way. ~ Eugene Chadbourne
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Blues - Released January 9, 2019 | SPV

Blues - Released November 9, 1997 | LucasRecords

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Blues - Released November 9, 1997 | LucasRecords

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Soul - Released February 13, 2012 | Gralin Music

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$10.49

Blues - Released November 19, 1996 | Geffen* Records

This release is a little confusing, coming out as it does more than a year after the release of MCA-Chess' Little Walter rarities collection Blues with a Feeling, and two years after the double-CD anthology set that contains most of the best parts of this collection. Still, for those who can't afford either of those pricey sets, this disc, coupled with the two best-of volumes, and the other Walter compilations, fills in some holes that are well worth filling. Made up of songs cut between 1953 and 1959 -- none of which had ever appeared on LP before the original 1974 release of this collection -- the selection features Walter in his prime, playing alongside Robert Lockwood, Jr. and Louis Myers or Luther Tucker on guitar (with Muddy Waters present on slide on one indispensable track, "Rock Bottom"), mostly Willie Dixon on bass, and Fred Below on the drums, with Lafayette Leake or Otis Spann on piano. His harp work was never than first rate during the era covered by this collection, and there are some top flight instrumentals featured, but the material (check out "Crazy Legs," with its dazzling interplay between Walter on harp and Louis and Dave Myers on guitars) here also features some of Walter's best singing, including the romantic "One More Chance with You," the quietly raunchy "Temperature," and "Confessin' the Blues." The sound, as is usual on these MCA-Chess reissues, is superb, although certain tracks, such as "I Got to Go," seem slightly compressed. [A Japanese version released in 2004 includes bonus tracks.] ~ Bruce Eder