John Hammond's latest album marks a major departure in one respect – for the first time in anyone's memory, he sings, but plays nothing on one of his records, while Little Charlie & the Nightcats, led by guitarist Charlie Baty, handle the guitars and everything else. The difference is very subtle, the playing maybe a little less flashy than Hammond's already restrained work – think of how good Muddy Waters sounded on the early-'60s records where he sang and didn't play. And that comparison is an apt one – even more than 35 years after he started, Hammond inevitably ends up sounding like its 1961 and he's working at Chess studios in Chicago, cutting songs between Muddy Waters sessions. Harpist Rick Estrin also contributes a smooth and eminently enjoyable original amid a brace of covers of blues standards. There is not a weak number here, and this band is a kick to listen to, sounding more naturally authentic than anybody in the 1990's has a right to (Baty's quiet pyrotechnics on "Lookin' for Trouble" would make this record worth owning, even if Hammond's singing and the rest of the songs weren't as good as they are).
In 1972, at the height of David Bowie's newly ignited fame, former label Pye unlocked the vault and produced an EP, the aptly subtitled "For the Collector – Early David Bowie," reprising four of the six songs Bowie recorded during 1965-1966. Since that time, those four (plus their two companions) have established themselves among the most frequently revisited songs in his entire catalog, reissued so frequently, and in so many different formats, that there truly cannot be a single Bowie fan left out there who doesn't own them at least three times over.
It may have been relatively late in Jimmy Rushing's career when he recorded two albums for ABC/BluesWay (Every Day I Have the Blues and Livin' the Blues, both of which are reissued in full on this single CD), but he was still in prime singing voice. Joined by such friends as trombonist Dickie Wells, trumpeter Clark Terry, and tenor saxophonist Buddy Tate, Rushing shows that he was still relevant on such blues-based songs as "Berkeley Campus Blues," "Blues in the Dark," "I Left My Baby," "Sent for You Yesterday," and "We Remember Prez." Even with Oliver Nelson's arrangements on the first half and an electric rhythm section on the second, both Rushing and the musicians play off each other well, resulting in a swinging set.