Chess Pieces: The Very Best of Chess Records

Although Chess Records is generally regarded as a blues label, the imprint, owned and run by brothers Leonard and Phil Chess, actually released a fair amount of R&B, early soul, gospel, nascent rock & roll, and the occasional jazz title, and as this powerful two-disc set shows, the range of classic music that came out of the label's Chicago studios in the 1950s and 1960s is pretty eye-opening. Included here are Elmore James' seminal "Dust My Broom," Clarence "Frogman" Henry's "Ain't Got No Home," the Jaynetts' eerie and delightful "Sally Go 'Round the Roses," Fontella Bass' "Rescue Me," Chuck Berry's "Maybellene" and "No Particular Place to Go," Bo Diddley's "Bo Diddley," and Dale Hawkins' "Susie-Q," and these tracks are just the tip of the iceberg. The brothers sold the label in 1969 to GRT, which promptly moved operations to New York City, effectively ending Chess Records' run as an important label. But a ton of great music was set down before that happened, and not all of it was blues. This is simply a great set, and revelatory as well. ~ Steve Leggett

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