Junior Wells – Blues Legend
Cleopatra Blues 2022
33 tracks; 88 minutes
What could there be not to like about any compilation of Junior Wells’ music? The amazing harmonica player, (whose real name was Amos Wells Blakemore), had an incredible voice, and his talent was recognized by many of the blues greats, who often collaborated with him. With songs like “Hoodoo Man”, “Little by Little”, and “Messin’ with the Kid,” any collection of his work would be a winner.
However, this latest release by Cleopatra Blues appears to go above and beyond, starting with the excellent sound quality. In addition, it does an exceptional job of selecting songs that not only celebrate his work, but also acknowledge the strength of his collaboration with other musicians. The collection includes tracks he recorded while playing with Otis Spann, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Syl Johnson, Willie Dixon and Earl Hooker. And the bonus track is a rarely heard live recording of “What’d I Say” from 1966, which features Otis Rush on guitar.
Another bonus is the great liner notes which offer a summary of the major events in Wells’ life, (written by music critic/historian Dave Thompson) including the spectacular story of the judge who was so impressed with Wells that he dismissed his theft charge and paid the money Wells didn’t have when he stole the harmonica. Liner notes also include a listing of all personnel on each track and writing credits.
Only two tiny flaws could be found in this collection. One is that tracks 8 and 16 on Disc 1 are mislabeled in the liner notes. The second is that the wonderful song, “In the Wee Hours,” was missing. Wells’ masterful performance of that song arguably deserves a place in any collection of his work.
Despite those minor flaws, Blues Legend could be an exceptional introduction to give to those unfamiliar with his talent. And fans of his work who already own the songs on their original albums will still likely want to purchase this superb collection.