Blues originated from African-American communities in the Deep South from their spirituals, work songs, and narrative ballads, and here are the 5 best blues albums of all time. The earlier blues albums reflect more of the true blues style than later genres which formed in conjunction with jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll. Notes that make up the blues are flattened or slightly bent when they are played or sung.
- “Lady Sings the Blues” (1956), by Billie Holiday. Because of all the difficulties Billie Holiday faced in her life, when she sang the blues they always gave the impression she had lived her songs. Some of her own compositions were included in her album “Lady Sings the Blues” which was released in 1956. It was later made into a movie starring Diana Ross which chronicled Billie’s life of poverty, addiction, and abuse. She was well known for her unique phrasing, harmony and rhythm. This blues album features sixteen songs, including “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Lady Sings the Blues,” “Good Morning Heartache,” and “God Bless the Child.”
- “Today” (1966), by Skip James. Skip James had a haunting style of singing the blues. He was one of the songwriters that created the most original music with his complex finger picking and personal style. After becoming a preacher in his early thirties, he was rediscovered at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964. This album features his falsetto voice singing with minor chords about the oppression that occurred in the south. This blues album features twelve songs which includes “Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues,” “Special Rider Blues,” “Drunken Spree,” “Look Down the Road,” and “All Night Long.”
- “Born Under a Bad Sign” (1967), by Albert King. Albert King was a left-handed guitar player who played the guitar upside down instead of restringing his guitar, which added an original tone to his playing. He also used “string bending” for emotional effect and played a lot of string solos. This album was his first for Stax records which brought together the title song with his other singles. He created and resolved tension with his songs by attacking with his guitar, then backing off, then attacking over again. His sound was always original and fresh. This blues album features four classic songs: “Born Under a Bad Sign,” “Oh Pretty Woman,” “The Hunger,” and “Crosscut Saw.”
- “Live at the Regal” (1965), by B.B. King. Known as the “King of Blues”, B.B. King’s career spanned five decades and led him to some of the greatest concert halls throughout the world. Although his roots are in Delta blues, he has been influenced by jazz, gospel and pop. He was very influential in getting blues to the mainstream population. This blues album was performed live at the Regal Theater in Chicago in 1964 where he played his “royal” guitar and sang accompanied by his band. This blues album is inspirational just like his 1966 concert album called “Blues is King.” His “Live at the Regal” blues album includes:“Every Day I Have the Blues,” “Sweet Little Angel,” “You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now,” and “Please Love Me.”
- “Two Steps from the Blues” (1961) by Bobby Blue Bland. Bobby Bland earned his superstardom status with only his beautiful, powerful voice and his charisma. In his younger days he was still pretty rough around the edges, but Don Robey became his mentor and taught him phrasing, working with him patiently. He incorporated soul, blues and R&B and by the early 1960’s was a superstar. In the 1970’s he teamed with B.B. King for some albums. This blues album features Bobby Bland singing both tough and tender songs including:“Two Steps from the Blues,” “Cry Cry Cry,” “I Pity the Fool,” and “St. James Infirmary.”