Being America’s original art form, it should be easy to list the 10 best blues albums. Unfortunately, the medium isn’t as popular as it once was and most people’s familiarity with the blues extends to maybe one or two songs. Hopefully this list has the capacity to convert a few new fans.
- “The Complete Recordings” by Robert Johnson. A collection of the original Blues man’s tunes, this album is most notable for its historical value. The forerunner of all blues musicians, the stylings of Johnson set the tone for generations to come. Even though the recordings have been remastered many are from the 1920’s so patience is required.
- “Blues” by Jimi Hendrix. This compilation of Jimi’s blues numbers is downright bad. Like his cover of the Albert King titled “Born Under a Bad Sign,” Jimi lets loose in a way that is often unheard in his rock performances. For those that want to see where the magic really came from, here is the one to listen to.
- “Stone Crazy” by Buddy Guy. This album from Chicago blues god, Buddy Guy is a classic example of hard strumming and soulful singing. Guy talks more with his guitar than his voice while singing about the women in his life and the domestic issues a man has to deal with.
- “Texas Flood” by Stevie Ray Vaughn. The debut from Vaughn vaulted him to prominence in the 80’s. A burly white kid from Texas, he was single-handedly credited with restoring blues music to popularity. This amazing axeman could play with the best of them and displays his prowess on every single track.
- “Live in Chicago: An Audience With the Queen” by Koko Taylor. This sassy, big-voiced, singer has been dubbed the “Queen of Chicago Blues.” She released this album after winning Grammy awards in the preceding years for her appearances on compilation albums. The subsequent praise allows her to perform on this album with a confidence worthy of her enormous talent.
- “Live at the Regal” by B.B. King. This is a “real” blues record from one of the best and most famous singer/guitarists of the genre. Recorded in a Chicago theater in 1965, King demonstrates the talent that had made him a legend for decades.
- “Crossroads” by Eric Clapton. Considered one of, if not, the best rock guitarists of his generation, Clapton body of work spans several decades. That being said, this album is a compilation of most of his best works. For those already familiar with his particular brand of brilliance it is a good one-stop location.
- “Thursday Night in San Francisco” by Albert King. This album is a recording of one of his final shows before his untimely death in 1992. This left-handed guitar player has influenced many of blues and rock musicians. Without knowing whom you were listening to you could easily mistake the vocals for Stevie Ray Vaughn. In fact, the two even recorded an album together, the fiery, “In Session,” in 1983.
- “Howlin Wolf” by Howlin Wolf. Generally considered one of the best blues albums of all time, this self-titled effort features a laundry list of guest performers, including Buddy Guy. Various singles have been covered from the album and song lyrics have even been lifted into other artists’ material. A true feat of musicality the album is most noted for its guitar work.
- “Hoodoo Man Blues” by Junior Wells. This debut album is a great example of traditional blues, complete with harmonica and sad lyrics. Guitar work is courtesy of the legendary Buddy Guy. Showing Chicago Blues in its purest form, many in the music world consider this the greatest blues album ever.
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