Blues Bytes


October/November 2010

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Various Artists
Antone's Tenth Anniversary Anthology, Volume 1
Antone's Records

Antone's 10th Anniversary Anthology

Many years ago, one of the first purchases I made as a blues neophyte was a cassette of the Antone’s Tenth Anniversary Anthology, Volume 1. As a newcomer to the blues, I had heard many of these names before, but had never actually heard them perform. Blues records, at least in cassette format, were not readily available and I sort of had to make do with what I could find. It was one of my favorite collections and remained a regular part of my listening for many years.

The set itself was recorded in July of 1985 and featured an all-star list of blues performers. When Clifford Antone opened the club in Austin, TX in the mid-70s, it soon became a major draw for blues fans due to the influx of blues musicians who actually had difficulty getting work anywhere else at the time. Austin was rapidly becoming a musical mecca for not just blues musicians but other genres as well. I had heard artists like the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Stevie Ray Vaughan, who were based in the Austin area, so naturally I was curious to hear something from a club based in Austin.

For the most part, I had no idea about what I was about to hear or who most of them were. I think the only names I was really familiar with were Buddy Guy, James Cotton, Albert Collins, and Otis Rush. The rest were just names that I had heard, so imagine my surprise at the eight-minute tour de force that opened the set, with Snooky Pryor having a ball performing his own “How’d You Learn To Shake It Like That,” with Eddie Taylor and Jimmy Rogers on guitar, along with Pinetop Perkins on piano. It was an incredible performance that caught me flatfooted. I didn’t know where exactly Antone’s was, but that song made me want to be there worse than anything else in the world.

There were other songs, too. Eddie Taylor did a song (“If You Don’t Want Me Baby”), James Cotton performed “Cotton Crop Blues” (with Luther Tucker joining Rogers on guitar), and Sunnyland Slim did one of his tunes (“Built Up From The Ground”). These were all well done and great for me to hear for the first time, but then I heard the great Albert Collins sing “Cold Cold Feeling.” The first blues record I ever bought had Collins on it, so I knew what to expect, but this was fantastic because Jimmie Vaughan also played on the song. Like the original version that I later heard from T-Bone Walker, this song slowly builds in intensity with Collins’ piercing icy licks meshing perfectly with Vaughan’s short, tasteful bursts and those wonderful horns. To me, this is as good a blues song as you will ever hear….just a masterful performance by both men. It was one of the first songs I put on my iPod.

Next up was Buddy Guy, who ripped through “Look On Yonders Wall,” and an equally fierce “Things I Used To Do,” with basically the same band that backed Collins. Now, Buddy Guy was an artist that I was familiar with, but while his songs were top notch, I actually liked the earlier songs I had heard from other artists even more than I liked his tracks. One of the most fun tracks on the disc, next to Snooky Pryor’s joyous opener, was the great piano man Pinetop Perkins’ rollicking version of “Caldonia.” Perkins has a grand time singing and playing on the track, with Cotton on harmonica, and Luther Tucker and Jimmy Rogers on guitar.

In the time since I’ve heard this collection, I’ve had the opportunity to hear several live albums by Otis Rush. I have to say that this version of “Double Trouble” is THE best performance I’ve heard from him. This track features Rush at his very best, playing some amazing guitar and offering one of his most intense vocals. If anyone ever claimed that he performed this song better in another place at another time, I would have to hear it to believe it. I guarantee that this performance was send chills down your spine.

Jimmy Rogers closes the set with his own track, “You’re Sweet,” a pleasant tune with Jimmie Vaughan and James Cotton supporting. Rogers also appears on one of the three bonus tracks included when the set was released on compact disc, “Walkin’ By Myself.” The other two bonus cuts are Eddie Taylor’s “Bad Boy,” and Cotton performing Muddy Waters’ “Sad Letter Blues,” with Hubert Sumlin on guitar.

Over 20 years have passed and I played the original cassette tape until it started making that awful squeaking noise that cassettes usually end up making. Fortunately, I was able to track it down on CD a couple of years later and it still finds a regular spot in my stereo rotation. There was a Volume 2 released a few years later and while it was good, it will never top Volume 1 for sheer listening pleasure. Sadly, it’s out of print now, but if you’re able to find it somewhere, it’s a fantastic set of live blues for fans new and old, from a group of musicians who knew what they were doing and did it incredibly well.

--- Graham Clarke
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