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What It Takes: The Chess Years

Koko Taylor

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Album Review

This single disc neatly collects everything of importance that Chicago blues belter Koko Taylor released through Chess and its subsidiary Checker label, presenting a thoroughly enjoyable, collection as historically important for Taylor's sizzling performances as it is for Willie Dixon's sublime compositions and sympathetic production. Those who know these formative years from Taylor's immortal "Wang Dang Doodle" will thrill to realize that the classic isn't even the best entry here. It's a toss-up as to which others challenge it, but "What Came First the Egg or the Hen," with Dixon joining in on vocals, is in the running, as is the absolutely chilling "Insane Asylum," where Dixon interestingly kicks off the song before Taylor appears over a minute later. The producer/bassist/songwriter/singer pens all but one of the 18 songs. Of those, Taylor takes sole songwriting credit on 1964's "What Kind of Man is That?" and covers J.B. Lenoir's "Good Advice." The latter is an unusually pop-oriented moment that she still roughs up with her usual dynamic vocal attack. Taylor tackles politically charged territory in "Bill, Bills and More Bills," one of the few times that the material leans in that direction. While her later Alligator years might have exposed her talents to the world and helped crown her Queen of the Blues, this is where it all started. It shows how Taylor developed, with assistance from Willie Dixon over this fertile, seven-year stretch, to her well-earned legendary status.

Customer Reviews

Montreux not Montreaux Jazz Festival

Label should be the Swiss city in which the festival is held.

Biography

Born: September 28, 1928 in Memphis, TN

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Accurately dubbed "the Queen of Chicago blues" (and sometimes just the blues in general), Koko Taylor helped keep the tradition of big-voiced, brassy female blues belters alive, recasting the spirits of early legends like Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Big Mama Thornton, and Memphis Minnie for the modern age. Taylor's rough, raw vocals were perfect for the swaggering new electrified era of the blues, and her massive hit "Wang Dang Doodle" served notice that male dominance in the blues wasn't as exclusive...
Full Bio