Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Jimmy Reed

  • I Ain't from Chicago [Bluesway, 1973] C+
  • Bright Lights, Big City [Chameleon, 1988]  
  • Blues Masters: The Very Best of Jimmy Reed [Rhino, 2000] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

I Ain't from Chicago [Bluesway, 1973]
At his best--on Vee-Jay in the '50s--Reed sang with the languid self-assurance of a man who never ran for the bus because he wanted to spend the fare on a glass of wine, and the unindustrious shuffle rhythms of the Vee-Jay band ambled right along behind. Great stuff. Evidence: The Ultimate Jimmy Reed, a new Bluesway collection of his best Vee-Jay performances that sounds crisper than the competitive Buddah pressing of several years ago. This more recent material, however, is busied up with Motown bass lines and soul drumming obviously provided by upstarts who believed they could do better than back this codger. A few cuts avoid the problem, but the material is spotty anyway. C+

Bright Lights, Big City [Chameleon, 1988]
[CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]  

Blues Masters: The Very Best of Jimmy Reed [Rhino, 2000]
He was a paragon of mush-mouthed warmth and congenial ineptitude, the crudest hitmaker in pop history and one of the bestselling bluesmen ever. People pretend to understand how he happened, but they don't. Sure the boogie shuffle Eddie Taylor got out of his guitar was new and inviting, but was it novel, or compelling? And Fats Domino, a plausible analogy, was infinitely cleaner and slicker. Rhino's selection includes the prized "Odds and Ends," in which a violinist on shore leave from the Chicago Symphony goes crazy and can't figure out how to get back. Seems like a parable, only what exactly is the point? The point is that with Jimmy Reed, you never know. A