Matchbox Bluesmaster Series Set 7: Songsters & Saints
Volume 7 of the CD release of the iconic Matchbox Bluesmaster LP series from the 1980s with extensive notes from world authority on the blues, Paul Oliver.
The 42 LP albums that make up the iconic Matchbox Bluesmaster Series were released by Saydisc Records between Nov 1982 and June 1988. Most of the albums were subtitled “Complete Recordings in Chronological Order” with a few under the subtitle “The Remaining Titles” or “New to LP”. The originating 78 rpm records (many of them extremely rare) were provided by several collectors under the editorship of well known Austrian collector, Johnny Parth and were re-mastered by Hans Klement of Austrophon Studios in Vienna. Johnny Parth had already created his extensive Roots Records label which Saydisc distributed in the UK and the Matchbox Bluesmaster Series was a carefully sculpted edition of black blues roots music giving a broad spectrum of the genre. Saydisc has in its vaults many more pre-Bluesmaster blues albums which may be issued on CD in due course.
"So once again let's celebrate this excellent project and act on our belief in what Saydisc is doing. Put your money where your misty eyes are and buy this latest collection." Jazz Rag, Stuart Maxwell
“This… peerless Matchbox Bluesmaster Series, features blues expert Paul Oliver’s selection of tracks sacred and secular (four CDs) alongside a single-artist album of songs and a CD of humorous ‘hokum’ music …Fleshed out with more preaching and cautionary tales… Matchbox’s exemplary reissue series, provides a useful complement to the secular blues that constitute the bulk of the material on the previous six sets” London Jazz News, Chris Parker
“Following previous reviews of this groundbreaking series I am running out of superlatives to use… There are some wonderful and memorable tracks… I have said it many times, but Matchbox/Nimbus do deserve our praise for their work in keeping this music alive. They also deserve our support, and I would wholeheartedly recommend that you go out and buy one or more sets from this groundbreaking Bluesmaster Series.” Ian Lomax, Jazz Journal
"There they are on the shelf, these CDs, and they absolutely should be there…Partly because some of the recordings are still powerful and have a real kick… these performers deserve their immortality at least as much as our modern-day pop stars…So once again let's celebrate this excellent project and act on our belief in what Saydisc is doing." Henry’s Blueshouse, Stuart Maxwell
"During the 1980's, Saydisc Records released 42 vinyl albums, bringing the early days of blues, hokum and gospel to a wider audience between 1926 and 1934. The source of these fascinating recordings were mostly extremely rare, often only a few copies existed, sometimes even worn out 78 shellac records, which die-hard collectors made available to the production team led by Johnny Parth and Gef Lucena . This explains why today's sound quality could not always be achieved despite the latest technology. Now these albums, which have been out of print for years and are not only relevant to music history, are available again in stores. The final six-CD collection, entitled "Songsters & Saints - Vocal Traditions On Race Records", includes a variety of recordings by pioneering guitarist Lonnie Johnson, as well as exciting, singular recordings by Georgia Tom, who later hailed him as the father of gospel music became. He is accompanied on many numbers by Big Bill Broonzy, who was one of the first to bring the blues to Europe in the 1950s. But the names Memphis Sheiks, Charlie Patton, Pink Anderson and Peg Leg Howell also appear. Tracks by Papa Charlie Jackson, the Cannon's Jug Stampers, Bo Chatman, Ham-bone Willie Newbern, the Beale Street Sheiks, Arthur Blind Blake and Henry "Ragtime Texas" Thomas come from the Medicine Show and Songsters corner. Almost half of the recordings were intended for the huge gospel market. Arizona Dranes, Blind Willie Johnson, the Memphis Sanctified Singers, Reverend John M. Gates and many more reveal the remarkable breadth of the pre-war race record business, which included not only songs but also sermons published on disc. Adopted for the new edition of the Matchbox Blues Masters Series is the original text that accompanied the original publication. In his interesting search for clues, Paul Oliver, one of the first and most important blues researchers and authors, explains connections and history, treats the songs and the artists and presents the race record business of the time in more detail. Essential!" Marco Piazzalonga, Jazz'n'More
“The seventh and final instalment in the Matchbox Bluesmaster Series, which brought to CD and the digital realm 42 LPs of prewar blues and related material first issued in the 1980s on the English Matchbox label, is among the most interesting, if potentially controversial, of the lot. ….. It’s a strong closing movement for Oliver's opus to traditions that preceded the blues to which he had devoted a lifetime of research. Nearly 40 years since his book and its complementary albums and over 90 years since these recordings were made, revelations may yet be found here.” Mark Humphrey, Living Blues, USA
“All in all, great sets, which give a nice insight into early blues… the opportunity to get a peephole into a magical time” Jefferson Blues Magazine, Sweden
“This, the seventh (and final) six-CD set in the peerless Matchbox Bluesmaster Series, features blues expert Paul Oliver’s selection of tracks sacred and secular (four CDs) alongside a single-artist album of songs and a CD of humorous ‘hokum’ music… As Paul Oliver says, in his summary at the end of his characteristically learned notes: ‘We should no longer let our absorption with blues and gospel deflect our attention from the richness and variety of those idioms of an early era; not only because the roots of contemporary music are embedded in them, but also for their intrinsic worth…’ Amen to that.” Chris Parker, London Jazz News
It is quite rewarding that the entire Matchbox catalog is now available on CD. Paul Oliver’s original definitive liner notes are also included and are a major bonus to this highly recommended series. Scott Yanow, Los Angeles Jazz Scene
"One marvels at the incredible gospel and blues tunes included… I highly recommend this and the entire series…All of America’s popular music came from these early blues and gospel music and hearing it gives us a great look into how that all happened." Steve Jones, President of the Crossroads Blues Society, USA
“…Set 7 of the stunning Matchbox Bluesmaster Series… British writer Paul Oliver wrote several highly regarded books on the history and roots of the blues, including in 1984, Songsters & Saints, but until now the recordings that went with the book have not seen the light of day on CD. Here they are at last and the wait has been more than worthwhile… You could write pages on these wonderful recordings… each bring you music you will never forget. Long overdue for release, grab yourselves copies while these remain available. This is the blues as good as it will ever get.” Pete Clack, Blues in Britain
"Lonnie Johnson is featured on the single-artist CD. Generally thought of as something of a sophisticate among blues singers (he collaborated with the likes of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael and Eddie Lang, had his own radio show, and fronted the pit orchestra at the Stanton Theatre in Philadelphia), he worked for Okeh between 1927 and 1932, producing both solo recordings and the odd duet with Victoria Spivey or Jimmy Foster. His guitar playing throughout these sessions is characteristically neat, forceful and imaginative, his voice strong and sure with admirably clear diction, so material such as ‘Death Valley is Just Half Way to My Home’ (based on the ‘Lonesome Road’ theme) and ‘Don’t Drive Me from Your Door’ (on which he plays steady-rolling piano) is highly affecting. His is a fine body of work, professional as well as consistently entertaining, although (as all too often with the classic blues of this period), a number of his songs are, inexcusably, violently misogynistic (‘I’ll take my fist and knock you down’ is the shocking climax to one song). Moving swiftly on to less controversial territory: The Fabulous Hokum Boys (Georgia Tom and Big Bill Broonzy plus various collaborators such as Hannah May, Jane Lucas and Kansas City Kitty), produce pure entertainment, rags, struts and dance-worthy novelty items. Oliver points out that the Hokum Boys ‘brought a new lightness and sophistication to the idiom, contrasting with the heavy emotion and seriousness of much Southern blues’, and this selection raises spirits with such lines as ‘my [heart] got so hot, burned a hole in my undershirt’ and ‘when she starts to do her stuff, make a bulldog break his chain’. Light-hearted verses and harmonised choruses enliven such subjects as the efficacy of corn liquor and the difficulties experienced by cheating spouses in concealing evidence of infidelity, and the tracks featuring heavy-handed but largely inoffensive sexual innuendo are handled with great aplomb by sweet-voiced but sparky female foils. Both Broonzy and Georgia Tom are, moreover, skilled and deft instrumentalists, making this a wholly enjoyable CD… As Paul Oliver says, in his summary at the end of his characteristically learned notes: ‘We should no longer let our absorption with blues and gospel deflect our attention from the richness and variety of those idioms of an early era; not only because the roots of contemporary music are embedded in them, but also for their intrinsic worth…’ Amen to that. " Full review here- Chris Parker, London Jazz News