Mr. Luck: Complete Vee-Jay Singles

by: Jimmy Reed

Jimmy Reed signed with Chicago's Vee-Jay Records in 1953 and he stayed with the label for nearly a dozen years, during a decade where blues had its last great run as a hit singles medium. Reed was partially responsible for the golden age of blues hits on the R&B charts in the '50s, racking up nine Billboard R&B Top 10 singles between 1955 and 1961. All the hits, along with their flipsides -- and, sometimes, the spoken introduction not released on a 45 -- are here on this magnificent triple-disc set from Craft Recordings. Reed may have had a limited palette -- it was all shuffles, boogies, and laconic 12-bar jams, almost all in the same couple of keys -- but the music sounds infinite, largely due to how Reed clicked with guitarist Eddie Taylor. Together, the two locked into a raw, funky groove that proved enduring and malleable. Within it, the pair could get the house rocking or they could lay back in a smoky groove, and their interplay is one of those recordings that retains their visceral kick all these years later; even the instrumental B-sides seem alive. The bigger revelation of Mr. Luck is how deep Reed's songbook is. Many of his biggest hits are 20th century standards covered by bluesmen, rockers, and country singers -- "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby," "Baby What You Want Me to Do," "Big Boss Man," and "Bright Lights Big City," along with "Take Out Some Insurance," which is the only one of these songs not to chart -- but Mr. Luck shows that he had strong songs tucked away in deeper recesses of his catalog, and that's why this is such an essential set. Other comps and albums get the essence of Jimmy Reed, but this shows how rich his music is. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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