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December 2002

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T-Bone Walker
The Original Source
Proper Records

T-Bone WalkerHo Ho Ho! Time to figure out what gift to buy for the blues fan in your family (and of course, as no one knows you better than yourself, you’re entitled to treat yourself to a nice Christmas gift too…). Thinking of boxed sets? Read on. 

In England, Proper Records is specializing in low-priced four-CD sets called Properboxes; the company has, at last count, over 40 such box sets, mostly jazz, but some blues too. 

T-Bone Walker is one bluesman represented in this series. The Original Source collects his recordings from 1929 through 1951. The record company doesn’t state that this box in any way includes “complete recordings” from these years, and it doesn’t. But it comes close enough for all blues fans except the staunchest completists (who already have everything Walker recorded and don’t need this anyway). 

In detail, The Original Source includes every “official take” on The Complete Capitol / Black & White Recordings, but none of the alternate takes. In fact, it includes one song omitted from the Capitol three-CD set, “I’m in an Awful Mood,” recorded in December 1946. The absence of the alternate takes actually makes this Properbox more fun to listen to than the Capitol boxed set. 

The Original Source also includes roughly half of The Complete Imperial Recordings, 1950-54 (the first 28 tracks of that EMI two-CD release), plus Walker’s first two sides (as Oak Cliff T-Bone) on Columbia, in 1929, the original recording of “T-Bone Blues” by the Les Hite Orchestra (with Walker as featured vocalist), the six released sides on the short-lived Rhumboogie label that Walker recorded in May 1945, and three songs recorded for Mercury Records in December 1945; everything is chronologically presented, with 22 or 23 tracks per disc. 

So, if this is not the “complete recordings” of T-Bone Walker from the time period represented, does it at least include one take of every song during 1929-1951? Close, but no cigar. There’s a fourth Mercury side from December 1945 that was omitted for some reason (“I can’t Stand Being Away from You,” which you can find on Capitol’s Texas Guitar Killers, issued in 1995). 

So, now that you know what is and what isn’t on The Original Source, you want to know if it’s worth buying? Consider this rhetorical question: what blues collection can afford NOT to have as many records as possible from the single-most important electric guitarist to have come before BB King?

--- Benoît Brière

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