Liner Note Author: Bill Dahl.
Illustrators: R.A. Andreas; Detlev Hoegen; Victor Pearlin.
Photographers: R.A. Andreas; Detlev Hoegen; Victor Pearlin.
In some ways, the fourth installment of Bear Family's four-volume Plug It In! Turn It Up! Electric Blues - The Definitive Collection is the most important -- not because this was the most innovative period for electric blues but rather the years of 1970-2005 are generally considered to be when the genre was rather dormant. Certain acts had hits now and then, but the blues weren't ruling the R&B charts and rock & roll starts to shed its blues influence during the '70s, so its presence doesn't seem as immediate. Nevertheless, this fourth volume proves that electric blues not only has a rich legacy but that it is one that continues into the modern era, both by old hands (Buddy Guy pops up with his 1991 "Damn Right, I've Got the Blues") and new (Robert Cray's "Smoking Gun," which actually crossed over into the Top 40). Most of the major names of soul-blues and mainstream blues are here -- B.B. King, Al Green, Z.Z. Hill, O.V. Wright, Bobby Rush, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Albert King -- and this also traces the rise of Alligator Records (Hound Dog Taylor's "Give Me Back My Wig" still sounds nasty all these years later), grapples with such rock bands as the J. Geils Band and ZZ Top, and makes a case for the influence of Stevie Ray Vaughan and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. While it doesn't necessarily make a case for the next generation -- some of the newer tracks toward the end of the set are by old guys like R.L. Burnside -- this fourth volume does prove that electric blues remained vital well into the new millennium. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine