Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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T-Bone Walker

  • Very Rare [Reprise, 1973] B-
  • The Best of the Black & White and Imperial Years [Metro Blue, 2005]

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Very Rare [Reprise, 1973]
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller put so much loving labor into this double-LP that it came out too tricky--the big band and the small band and the famous sidepeople and the new songs are all quite tasty, but they distract from what ought to be the business at hand. Of course, since T-Bone is singing more with his brain than his larynx these days, that may have been the idea. But I'd trade all the solos here except maybe Dizzy Gillespie's on "Evening"--and there are lots of good ones--to hear T-Bone play guitar on every cut. B-

The Best of the Black & White and Imperial Years [Metro Blue, 2005]
Basically, Walker invented electric blues guitar. Everybody from B.B. King on down gives him props. But because he came first, he was also transitional--his single-note solos have less brute color and sustain than those of jazz-hip King or rocking Elmore James, and he croons rather than shouts, perhaps a little too subtly. Or perhaps not. The seminal-by-acclamation Black & White sides are seriously outnumbered here by the Imperials, which feature sax sections. But his warm sound is so consistent that only the specialist audience will care. [Recyclables]

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