The Best of Chess: Original Versions of Songs in Cadillac Records

This compilation issued by Universal is a well-designed -- and deserving -- cash-in of the film and soundtrack to Cadillac Records, a Hollywood adaptation of the Chess Records label and story, its artists, and founder Leonard Chess. It contains 16 cuts, all of which are the original versions of songs re-recorded for the film by contemporary artists. If only this could have been the bonus disc to the soundtrack instead of what was issued on the deluxe edition of it -- which was, basically, more of the same (yawn). Here, Etta James' "At Last" proves its superiority to the Beyoncé Knowles version; and Chuck Berry's "Maybellene" and "Nadine" get the full, propulsive rhythmic guitar and controlled feedback attack atop some heated dramatic vocals. Little Walter's original of "Last Night" is here (a re-recorded version appears in the film), and he is one of two Chess artist who made the soundtrack's final cuts (Buddy Guy made the two-disc deluxe version). Muddy Waters' original versions of "(I'm Your) Hoochie Koochie Man," with its slightly menacing sexual bravado, as well as Howlin' Wolf's "Smokestack Lightnin," and Bo Diddley's "I'm a Man" are all here, offering a stark and profound contrast to the all but sterile music that appeared in the film. It's actually easy to see why this set didn't become the actual second disc in the deluxe edition. These versions are so superior to what was re-recorded -- with the exception of Jeffrey Wright's takes on Waters -- and placed in the film, it would have made the soundtrack sound utterly limp and anemic. For those who crave to know more of the story, this is the real score to a movie which could never really be made. This is joyous, emotionally charged, and even dangerously subversive music, making the Best of Chess Records, Rovi

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