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Essential Bessie Smith


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Audio CD, September 23, 1997
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$13.99 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details Only 10 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Now that Sony's reissued Bessie's complete recordings, they've gone back and pulled out three dozen of her most notable sides for this 2-CD set! Includes St. Louis Blues; Baby Won't You Please Come Home; Alexander's Ragtime Band; A Good Man Is Hard to Find; Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out , and more digitally remastered classics from the Empress of the Blues.

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Bessie Smith was crowned the Empress of the Blues, and, while this moniker was well deserved, she was much more. A prolific recording artist, Smith was quite an eclectic performer. In fact, she may have been one of the first true crossover artists. This neat two-disc set gives the listener a good sampling of her wide repertoire. Smith is backed up by some of the best jazz musicians of her era. Her rendition of "St Louis Blues" for example, features the horn work of a young Louis Armstrong. Smith was not above doing such suggestive material as "Kitchen Man" or "Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl" and could breath new life into a pop chestnut like "Alexander's Ragtime Band." And when Smith sang "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," she knew what she was talking about. The title of this album says it all. --Lars Gandil

Disc: 1
1. Aggravatin' Papa
2. Baby Won't You Please Come Home
3. 'Taint Nobody's Bizness If I Do
4. Jail-House Blues
5. Graveyard Dream Blues
6. Ticket Agent, Ease Your Window Down
7. Boweavil Blues
8. Weeping Willow Blues
9. Dying Gambler's Blues
10. St. Louis Blues
See all 18 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. Alexander's Ragtime Band
2. There'll Be A Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight
3. Trombone Cholly
4. Send Me To The 'Lectric Chair
5. A Good Man Is Hard To Find
6. Dyin' By The Hour
7. Me And My Gin
8. Kitchen Man
9. Nobody Knows When You're Down And Out
10. On Revival Day (A Rythmic Spiritual)
See all 18 tracks on this disc

Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 23, 1997)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Sony
  • ASIN: B000002ADO
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,721 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Sasha VINE VOICE on November 21, 1999
Format: Audio CD
Whoever decided to make this compilation, for some reason has left some of the most important Bessie Smith songs out!How can this be essential without her first hit "Downhearted blues" and such a gems as "Empty Bed Blues" or "My Sweetie Went Away"? Sound strange, but single CD titled "Colection" offers much better overview of her career than this double, 36 track collection! If you still want to purchase this, what remained in this CD are beautiful and moving songs recorded between 1923 and 1933, all of them glowing with Bessie Smith passion.The liner notes are written by her biographer Chris Albertson who find interesting comparation between her and todays rappers (mentality, not music wise!).To understand her art, its neccesary to listen great Ma Rainey who started singing the blues first and even teach young Bessie some tricks.While Ma Rainey style was more country blues (she had a raugh voice, highly emotional but not pretty as Bessie), Bessie was more concentrated on city audience and if death didnt stop her in a car crash, she would probably continued to work in swing era.Her passion is very similar to one of Mahalia Jackson and Im sure that Im not the only one who feels that blues and gospel are very close not only in music but in emotional involment as well - to feel both types of music listener has to feel something inside.There are two great albums recorded as tribute to Bessie Smith, by Dinah Washington and LaVern Baker, both highly reccomended - I heard them first and then wanted to hear the originals, but you may try the other way around!
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By J. Brady on October 9, 2004
Format: Audio CD
The title says it all. If you have only one Bessie Smith cd in your collection ( and we all need AT LEAST one - she is THAT influential, THAT soulful, THAT powerful a performer ) then this is it. It covers all sorts of songs, from interpretations of standards , to racy ( for their time ) innuendo-filled blues numbers, to love songs. A warning - these songs were recorded in the twenties and thirties, and all have that far-away, tinny sound to them, as if Smith were singing down a cardboard tube directly onto record. Even though the sound is admittedly dated, the power of the performances is undeniable.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Shane on January 6, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Bessie Smith had one of the most powerfull, expressive and recognizable voices of the 20th Century. Her talent as a vocalist in the studio, as well as her stage performance made her a star that changed the way of music forever. This collection of 36 Bessie's classic recordings is simply one of the best, and most comprehensive collections of her work. It is, as other reviewers said, surely missing a handful of records that could also be considered Essential, but this collection never-the-less, hits the spot for any casucal fan or even the most avid devourer of Bessie Smith's music. The 2 Disc set is Essential Bessie, and also, Essential - period.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Stroud on May 27, 2004
Format: Audio CD
This album is a good foundation for anyone who is falling under the "Bessie Smith" spell. All of the songs display a different aspect of her true style. From spiritual, to coy, to soulfull... Bessie is a true Diva!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Big Sistah Patty on April 4, 2008
Format: Audio CD
I have heard of Mama Bessie for years. But I wasn't really familiar with her music. Sometimes you have to grow older and mature in order to appreciate such music. What I have read about her was she was a volatile and commanding personality. It saddens me that she probably died unnecessarily.

She had issue with her siblings too. I guess it is difficult when you come from poverty and all of a sudden you are making money, but your family is still there. She was their savior. She obviously experienced much stress from the financial demands of family.

My favorite songs are as follows:

Good Ole Wagon
Gimme A Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer
Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair
Taint Nobody's Business
Moan you Moaners
A Good Man is Hard to Find
Nobody Knows You

I especially love Gimme A Pigfoot because it speaks about pretentiousness with a comical twist. Folks have various faces and sometimes it hard to determine when the real person surfaces. Liquor or corn liquor(fermented corn) has a way of making one lose their inhibitions and the real person emerges.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Charlie D's Lawnmower & Welding Services on December 15, 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
If you love vintage jazz, you must have this collection. Recording quality is great, authentic sounding. Bessie Smith lived hard and sang like it too. You can feel her sadness and joy in every song. She was the real deal in women trying to make a life for herself among a world that thought a woman's place was behind her man.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By deluxglamourgrl on February 26, 2013
Format: MP3 Music Verified Purchase
This collection makes me feel like I'm in a 1920's speakeasy. Sound quality isn't fantastic, but considering the age and production quality at the time, it's not an issue for me that it wasn't "remastered" to sound perfect.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jr Green on August 18, 2004
Format: Audio CD
I was watching tv one late night and stumbled across the short 1929 Movie St. Louis Blues starring Bessie Smith now im a 24 year old guy who is into all the lastest music but this lady sung a song called st. Louis Blues and i was watching the screen going who is this she her voice full of passion and pain and then i found how she died in a tragic car accident i was hurt bessie smith was she was really doing the da%mn back in the 1920's so if you wanna know where the r&b of today got its drama filled lyrics check out the empress of the blues she will not leave you disapointed
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Essential Bessie Smith
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