Fittingly enough for a set profiling the songwriter in Chicago blues, this not only features Willie performing some of his best-known tunes, but also has the performances by the artists-Bo Diddley ( Pretty Thing ); Muddy Waters ( Hoochie Coochie Man ) and Howlin' Wolf ( Spoonful )-that make them famous! 36 songs, 8 unavailable in the U.S., with booklet.
Best known for his work as a songwriter, producer, and talent scout, singer-bassist Willie Dixon essentially built Chicago's Cobra and Chess labels with his sweat. Although this double-disc set does include five performances by the man from Vicksburg, Mississippi, himself, it's really a testament to his songwriting prowess, packed with recordings that made his tunes classics of blues and early rock & roll. There's Howlin' Wolf tearing through "Spoonful," "Little Red Rooster," "Evil," and "Back Door Man." There's Muddy Waters belting "You Shook Me," "Hoochie Coochie Man," and "I'm Ready." There's Bo Diddley delivering "You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover" and Koko Taylor launching her career with "Wang Dang Doodle." The set features excellent liner notes, and its only disappointment is that its label-centricity excludes Dixon's work for Cobra with then-youngsters Otis Rush and Buddy Guy. --Ted Drozdowski