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The Very Best of Charles Brown

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Album Review

The title The Very Best of Charles Brown is a definite exaggeration. This reissue, which Stardust put out in 2000, does contain some of the best and most famous songs associated with the late blues/jazz vocalist, including "Merry Christmas, Baby," "Trouble Blues," "Driftin' Blues," and "Black Night." However, it doesn't offer the definitive versions of those gems, which Brown originally recorded for Aladdin back in the 1940s and 1950s; instead, it contains remakes that he provided for Johnny Otis' Blues Spectrum label in the early '70s (possibly in 1973). Produced by Johnny Otis in Brown's adopted home of Los Angeles, these recordings find the singer/pianist joined by Otis on drums and son Shuggie Otis on guitar and bass. On "Getting to Be Evening," the late Leonard Feather — who was the world's most famous jazz critic — is heard on piano. Brown's accompaniment is solid, and his performances are pleasing, if less than essential. Were this a collection of his essential Aladdin output, the title The Very Best of Charles Brown would have been justified; but this disc should have had a more accurate and modest title like The Blues Spectrum Sessions. However, it isn't a bad CD, far from it. Although not recommended to casual listeners — who would be better off searching for a collection of Brown's classic Aladdin work — this is a reissue that collectors and hardcore Brown fans will enjoy.


Born: 13 September 1922 in Texas City, TX

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

How many blues artists remained at the absolute top of their game after more than a half-century of performing? One immediately leaps to mind: Charles Brown. His incredible piano skills and laid-back vocal delivery remained every bit as mesmerizing at the end of his life as they were way back in 1945, when his groundbreaking waxing of "Drifting Blues" with guitarist Johnny Moore's Three Blazers invented an entirely new blues genre for sophisticated postwar revelers: an ultra-mellow, jazz-inflected...
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