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The Collection

Bessie Smith

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Album Review

While there's no denying the importance and quality of Columbia/Legacy's Complete Recordings series, nine discs may seem a bit intimidating to the newcomer. Collection, a mid-priced, 16-track collection which spans most of Smith's career, ultimately does a better service to the casual listener with a limited budget. This is probably the best introduction — undoubtedly many will seek out the more comprehensive packages afterward.

Biography

Born: 15 April 1894 in Chattanooga, TN

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '20s, '30s

The first major blues and jazz singer on record and one of the most powerful of all time, Bessie Smith rightly earned the title of "The Empress of the Blues." Even on her first records in 1923, her passionate voice overcame the primitive recording quality of the day and still communicates easily to today's listeners (which is not true of any other singer from that early period). At a time when the blues...
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