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What It Takes: The Chess Years (Expanded Edition)
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Hip-O Select B0013186-02 is a reissue of a deleted 18-track 1991 CD compilation - now with 6 bonus tracks added on. It has the same front artwork, but a live photo spreads itself across the 3 flaps of the tri-gatefold on the inside, while the booklet is expanded to 16-pages. It's embossed on the rear of the card sleeve in gold - "limited edition". More importantly, it has truly stunning 2009 remastering by ace tape expert ERICK LABSON (has over 850 credits to his name - including most of the entire Chess catalogue).

Released November 2009 in the USA, February 2010 in the UK, "What It Takes - The Chess Years [Expanded Edition]" breaks down as follows (73:06 minutes):

1. I Got What It Takes (1964 USA 7" single on Checker 1092, A - see also 19)
2. Don't Mess With The Messer (1969 USA LP "Koko Taylor" on Chess LP 1532)
3. Whatever I Am, You Made Me (as per 2)
4. I'm A Little Mixed Up (as per 2)
5. Wang Dang Doodle (1966 USA 7" single on Checker 1135, A)
6. (I Got) All You Need (1966 USA 7" single on Checker 1174, A)
7. (Just) Love Me (1967 USA 7" single on Checker 1166, A)
8. What Came First The Egg Or The Hen [B-side of 7, duet vocals with Willie Dixon)
9. Insane Asylum (as per 2 - duet vocals with Willie Dixon)
10. Fire (as per 2 - duet vocals with Willie Dixon)
11. I Don't Care Who Knows (1968 USA 7" single on Checker 1210, A)
12. Twenty Nine Ways (To My Baby's Door) (as per 2)
13. Blue Prelude [Previously Unreleased, Recorded November 1971]
14. I Need More And More (1972 USA LP "Basic Soul" on Chess LP 50018)
15. Um Huh My Baby (as per 14)
16. Bills, Bills & More Bills (as per 14)
17. Let Me Love You Baby (as per 14)
18. I Got What It Takes [Live Duet With MUDDY WATERS] (1972 USA LP "Blues Rock Avalanche - The Montreaux Festival" on Chess LP 60015)

BONUS TRACKS:
19. What Kind Of A Man Is That? (B-side of 1 - a Koko Taylor original)
20. Blues Heaven (1966 USA 7" single on Checker 1135, A - Willie Dixon co-write with Dick LaPalm)
21. Tell Me The Truth (1966 USA 7" single on Checker 1148, A - a Johnnie May Dunson song)
22. Good Advice (B-side of 21 - a J.B. Lenoir cover)
23. Separate Or Integrate (1967 USA 7" single on Checker 1210, A)
24. Tease Your Man (1972 USA 7" single on Chess 2132, A)

Tracks 1 to 3, 5 to 12, 14 to 18 and 23 to 24 are all written by WILLIE DIXON
Track 20 is co-written by WILLIE DIXON and DICK LaPALM
Other track credits listed above

With a powerhouse voice that could level tall buildings from ten paces, Koko Taylor truly met her soul mate in Chess' principal songwriter - the mighty Willie Dixon. He wrote 18 of the tracks on here and co-wrote one other - his presence is everywhere. With the house-band containing the cream of the Blues crop (Lafayette Leake on Piano, Buddy Guy and Johnny "Twist" Williams on Guitars and a host of others - including Willie Dixon on Bass), it's no wonder that these slices of Sixties Blues and R'n'B boogie along so brilliantly.

But the real revelation is the SOUND - I've raved about Erick Labson's work before, but the lad's excelled himself here - beautiful clarity and depth - in your face for all the right reasons. Fans will thrill to the care given - infused no doubt with the same affection that exudes from ANDY McKAIE's typically excellent liner notes. It's a shame though that they didn't picture either of her albums "Koko Taylor" (a ragbag of tracks from '65, '67 and '69 finally issued in 1969) and the "Basic Soul" LP from 1972 - but that's offset against a colour photo of her debut Checker 45 "I Got What It Takes" on 1092 - what a lovely sight. Its fab B-side "Blues Heaven" is also here (lyrics above). The previously unreleased and exclusive-to-this-set "Blue Prelude" is a slow blues Joe Bishop/Gordon Jenkins song and it's excellent.

Koko has been poorly served by Chess reissues across the last two decades - until now. With her passing in June 2009 at the age of 80, Memphis' Cora Taylor is finally done proud by this lovely and wonderful reissue. Top marks to all involved - and another goodie from Hip-O Select.

Recommended.

For info purposes - a Checker Records (Chess) Discography - USA 7" singles:

1. I Got What It Takes b/w What Kind Of A Man Is This (1964, Checker 1092)
2. Don't Mess With The Messer b/w Whatever I Am, You Made Me (1965, Checker 1106)
3. Good Advice b/w When I Think Of My Baby (1965, Checker 1140)
4. Good Advice b/w Tell The Truth (1965, Checker 1148)
5. What Came First The Egg Or The Hen b/w (Just) Love Me (1967, Checker 1166)
6. (I Got) All You Need b/w All Money Spent (1967, Checker 1174)
7. Fire b/w Insane Asylum (1968, Checker 1191)
8. Separate Or Integrate b/w I Don't Care Who Knows (1968, Checker 1210)
9. Tease Your Man b/w That's The Way Love Is (1972, Chess 2132)
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
The music of Koko Taylor and her writer-producer Willie Dixon, together with Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, forms much of the basis for Chicago blues. The four recorded for Chess, the most important Chicago blues label. You surely know the chainsaw roar of Koko's voice and the rumbling of Willie's bass from their immortal duet "Wang Dang Doodle," but if that's all you've heard, you need to delve much deeper. Taylor recorded for Alligator Records from 1975 until 2007, just two years before her death at the age of 80, and she toured the country tirelessly. This 24-track compilation focuses on her earliest and most important work on Chess, from 1964 to 1972, and it's a fitting tribute. All but five of the songs were written by Dixon, and one was by Taylor herself. Muddy does a live duet with Koko, and guitar great Buddy Guy performs on about half of the tracks. Crisp sound and a loving mini-bio round out the package. Essential.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2009
I know Koko Taylor primarily from many of her fine efforts for Alligator Records and many are as gritty as any Chicago Blues I have ever heard. What you have here is her earliest recordings produced by Willie Dixon on Checker/Chess records. The gritty Chicago Blues is in full effect even at this early stage. The Willie Dixon factor ups the ante somewhat much like it did on Muddy's and Wolf's best efforts for the label. It's hard to put my finger on the common "Chess" denominator but there is a certain authenticity that was later replaced by a somewhat slicker production on the Alligator releases. The remastering of these sides is nothing short of a sonic miracle. A worthy eulogy for this Blues titan. Hip-O Select is to be commended.
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on March 13, 2014
KOKO TAYLOR-WHAT IT TAKES/THE CHESS YEARS: CHESS RECORDS is known for two Queens of the Blues, the saucy ETTA JAMES and her leather lunged soul sister KOKO TAYLOR. The latter was discovered by WILLIE DIXON, who not only scouted talent for the label, he was also one of their top session men and songwriters, penning and producing virtually all of TAYLOR's material. WHAT IT TAKES basically replicates her dynamic debut (which no true blues fan should be without), including her signature party stomper WANG DANG DOODLE, the greasy escape clause TWENTY-NINE WAYS (TO MY BABY'S DOOR) and INSANE ASYLUM, a dazzling, downright disturbing duet with DIXON. TAYLOR's commanding, throaty bellow and gutsy personality...coupled with a who's who of players from BUDDY GUY, LAFAYETTE LEAKE and FRED BELEW to MATT "GUITAR MURPHY, BIG WALTER HORTON and MUDDY WATERS...make this a tour de force collection. She continued to forge a career on the ALLIGATOR imprint, but WHAT IT TAKES/THE CHESS YEARS is all the proof you'll need; they didn't call her "The Blues Wailer" for nothin'.

RATING: FIVE SHOUT OUTS
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2013
Koko tears it up on this album. It's rough, raw, and as exciting an album can be! An amazing purchase, highly recommend it!
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on February 29, 2012
Koko shouts it out there and with such zeal she'll plaster you against the wall. The recording is good and worth having. I think it could sound better though so I'm holding back a star for the mastering.
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on February 23, 2013
I bought this as a gift for my daughter who is just getting into classic blues. It's a must for anyone putting together a blues collection.
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on January 23, 2015
Good experience
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on July 31, 2014
Wonderful!
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