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Old School

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Audio CD, April 3, 2007
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“Deep soul, raw vocal power, blustery swagger...the great female blues singer of her generation” –Rolling Stone

“Blues is my life,” says Grammy Award-winning blues singer Koko Taylor, Chicago’s—and the world’s—undisputed QUEEN OF THE BLUES. “It’s a true feeling that comes from the heart, not just something that comes out ... Read more in Amazon's Koko Taylor Store

Visit Amazon's Koko Taylor Store
for 37 albums, 6 photos, and 20 full streaming songs.

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 3, 2007)
  • Original Release Date: 2007
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Alligator Records
  • ASIN: B000NA2744
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,708 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Piece Of Man
2. Gonna Buy Me A Mule
3. Black Rat
4. Money Is The Name Of The Game
5. You Ain't Worth A Good Woman
6. Better Watch Your Step
7. Bad Avenue
8. Bad Rooster
9. Don't Go No Further
10. All Your Love
11. Hard Pill To Swallow
12. Young Fashioned Ways

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

OLD SCHOOL takes listeners back to the rough and tumble blues of Koko Taylor's early Chicago days, as she teams up with an all-star band of the city's finest players. Koko conjures deep blues spirit from back in the day with five new originals and revitalized classics by Willie Dixon, Magic Sam, Memphis Minnie and more. It's gritty, unvarnished 'old school' blues and proud of it, as Koko infuses every track with ageless energy and passion.


Go ahead and call it a comeback. Despite her advancing years and frail health following a 2003 hospitalization, Old School shows that the Queen of Chicago Blues has no intentions of abdicating her throne just yet. Koko Taylor isn't terribly prolific--this is only her third album in 14 years--but she's also never released a lackluster effort, and this is no exception. As the title suggests, you should be prepared for tough, rugged Chicago blues sung by one of the masters of the genre, regardless of gender. Taylor's legendary booming voice does show some wear, but her husky pipes, wang-dang-doodle attitude, and sheer enthusiasm will convince any skeptics that the singer is far from phoning in her performance. The disc is split evenly between originals and covers of Willie Dixon, Magic Sam, and others, all powered by a gritty yet professional no-nonsense band featuring guitarists Steady Rollin' Bob Margolin and Criss Johnson, along with the harmonica great Billy Branch. Musically, there aren't many surprises, but at this stage Taylor isn't pushing boundaries with her meat-and-potatoes diet of grinding shuffles mixed with the occasional slow blues. Knocking off a tune or two from the hour-long program might have made this a more concise, compact statement, however. Yet with songs as frisky as "Bad Rooster"--possibly an answer to the classic "Little Red Rooster"--and a strutting version of Dixon's "Don't Go No Further," there's no doubt that Taylor remains as passionate and intense as when she was first claiming her crown, nearly four decades ago. --Hal Horowitz

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 25 customer reviews
He adds stylish eloquence to much of the material.
Kindle Customer
This album proves once and again that Koko Taylor was, is, and always will be the original "Queen of the Blues!"
J. Walters
All blues lovers and Koko fans will find this cd awesome.
Steven J. Skolnick

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on May 17, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Old School is the new release from blues diva Koko Taylor, and just as the CD title declares, it's all about music that's the real deal. The atmosphere takes the listener right back to a simpler yet arduous era in time. As the vocal legend states on the CD liner, "This album is hardcore blues, down in the basement, far as you go. This album is the kind of blues I was listening to down south and when I first came to Chicago." She's talking about 1951. Seated at the back of a Greyhound bus, Koko arrived with no money and nothing but a box of Ritz Crackers. She left behind an existence of hard times and hard labor in the southern cotton fields and farms, only to find herself in a new life that wasn't much easier. However, the Chicago clubs on Saturday nights spurred excitement with the live shows of Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Otis Spann and others. Frequenting those clubs was her shining light.

An interesting thing about a new release from a seasoned blues veteran such as Koko Taylor, other than Koko herself, is that you know there's going to be some brilliant players on it. Musicians new and old makeup the three bands used to record this collection of old school music. To say there are a few fine guitarists on the CD is an understatement for sure. Brookline, Massachusetts' own Steady Rollin' Bob Margolin, of Muddy Waters and Johnny Winter fame, plays guitar and slide, while longtime Koko Taylor guitarist Criss Johnson, known also for his stints with Roy Buchanan and Otis Clay, plays guitar and shares the Producer role alongside Alligator President Bruce Iglauer and Koko. Vino Louden is on the record as well, Koko's lead guitarist and bandleader for the past ten years, as is Japanese born and bred Shun Kikuta, a well-known player in the Chicago area.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Willy on April 8, 2007
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Koko has never sounded better.This is the best cd since Queen of the blues.Five orginials,a couple of Willie Dixon's and a great cover of Magic Sam's All your love.

Her band is great and with Billy Branch on harp and a few with Steady Rollin' Bob Margolin on slide guitar they really cook.This is the best Chicago blues cd so far this year.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By R. Weinstock VINE VOICE on April 16, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Its been several years since Koko Taylor has had a new album. This is remedied by the new Alligator release, "The Old School." As the title suggests, the recording is directed to hard-hitting, old-school Chicago blues and includes five interpretations (most definitely not copies) of older songs along with some originals that Chicago's Blues Queen handles in her own hold-nothing back style. One track is by The Blues Machine, and the other eleven tracks have a studio band led by Criss Johnson and drummer Willie `The Touch' Sutton and guest appearances from Bob Margolin, Billy Branch an Kaz Kazanoff. Most of the new tunes are from Koko and 'Gonna Buy Me a Mule' is a striking song as she tells her man she's gonna take the place of him and the jaunty warning 'You Better Watch Your Step,' with Billy Branch (excellent through) playing some Jimmy Reed inspired harp. Bob Margolin adds slide guitar to Memphis Minnie's 'Black Rat,' and Lefty Dizz's 'Bad Avenue.' The arrangements of both tunes are a bit cluttered and the performances come off as too hectic. Criss Johnson who did the arrangements on this album, would have done well to have listened to Koko's first Alligator album, "I Got What It Takes," and have allowed more spaces in the backing, and not have come across overbearing like so much recent Chicago styled blues of the past few decades. I have no fault with Koko's performances as she sings really well here sounding so at home with the material. Its also nicely programmed with very nice covers of a couple songs associated with Muddy Waters, "Don't Go No Further," and "Young fashioned Ways." Just wish the attempt at being `old school' by the band had a bit more of a lighter swinging groove than they play with here. If I was giving this stars, 4 1/2 to Koko and 3 for the backing, or overall 4 stars.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Docendo Discimus on July 31, 2007
Format: Audio CD
And Koko Taylor continues: "...This album is the kind of blues I was listening to down South and when I first came to Chicago".
This is real blues, in other words. Gritty, greasy Chicago blues a la Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. Biting drums, clanging R&B piano, and about half of these twelve tracks are graced by the presence of harpist Billy Branch as well.

Koko Taylor has penned five of these twelve numbers herself; the rest include two songs by Willie Dixon and one by Magic Sam. Fidelity is uniformly excellent, as are the arrangements, and the band is just about as good as it gets. Taylor's long-time guitarist Criss Johnson, "Brother" John Kattke at the piano, and several appearances by the aforementioned Mr Billy Branch and by Muddy Waters' former guitarist Bob Margolin, who plays howling slide guitar on a powerful cover of Memphis Minnie's "Black Rat". This is one of five or six tracks to feature both Margolin and Branch, and the combination is deadly!

There aren't any great surprises here, just hard and heavy, no-frills electric blues. Not every song is equally distinctive, sure, but when everything is so well arranged and played with such gusto, even a basically generic blues can come off sounding fresh and vibrant. And Taylor's voice is still strong, full of grit and character.
Highlights include the tough, swaggering "Piece of Man", the swinging piano-boogie of "You Ain't Worth a Good Woman" and "Better Watch Your Step", and Willie Dixon's irresistable, boasting "Don't Go No Further". But there are really no "lowlights" to be found; everything, from the slow grind of "Bad Avenue" to the harp-driven "Hard Pill to Swallow" is worth a listen. Many listens.
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